11 Tips for Creating Authoritative Content in a Post-Authorship World
Well, it's official - Google Authorship is done and gone. First they removed author photos, and now all author info will be dropped from the SERPs completely. According to Google, the "rel=author" markups signifying authorship will not incur penalties - they'll just be ignored.
In a blog post shared last week, Google's John Mueller explained that authorship information simply has not been as useful to Google users as was hoped. In fact, it was sometimes even viewed as a distraction. Google maintains that site traffic won't decrease as a result of authorship removal.
Never Underestimate Authoritative Content
So why did Google implement authorship anyway? While there are probably a number of answers to that question, it's likely that the main goal with authorship was to establish authority. In theory, recognizing an article's author and examining their body of work could help Google return search results that were written by verifiable experts in whatever field is related to a user's query. While it didn't exactly work out this way, we can learn at least one lesson from the rise and fall of authorship: authoritative content will always be important to Google. It's important to remember, however, that authoritative content is only important to Google because it's important to everyone. When people want a question answered, they use Google to find detailed, excellent information as quickly as possible. It's your job to create it - it's Google's job to display it for the right people.
Some authors may have set up Google Authorship thinking it would put them on the fast track towards being labeled as an expert. This didn't exactly happen, however. While the Internet often appears to have many overnight success stories, it's actually extremely difficult to establish yourself as an expert in a very short period of time.
How to Be Authoritative
Creating authoritative content requires time and effort, but it doesn't have to be difficult. Keep the following in mind:
- Research - This is perhaps the most important element of authoritative content. If you don't know what you're writing about, you have no authority. Period. Take the time to thoroughly research your topic in order to provide your users with some depth. Also, never forget that plenty of non-Internet sources exist as well. So many people only research online - offline sources could give you a unique perspective or additional information that makes your article stand out.
- Interviews - What easier way to get authoritative content on your site than to interview a known authority about a given subject? Prepare your interview and proposal thoroughly and you might be surprised who will agree to be interviewed.
- Numbers - Citable facts, figures, numbers and real data go a long way towards establishing authority. Also, numbers go hand in hand with...
- Images & Video - Charts, graphs, infographics and other relevant images/video are a staple of authoritative content. It's important for getting readers to pay attention also, as many people only look at photos and videos before deciding to click away.
- Tone - This comes with experience and may change over time. Currently, the tone of your writing should not be so dry as to evoke a textbook. That simply is not how it's done on the Internet. At the same time, an overly conversational tone can undermine any authority you may have. Finding a happy medium is key. If in doubt, always defer to professional-sounding copy.
- Grammar & Spelling - This is a given. You simply cannot have authoritative content if it's filled with grammar errors, misspellings and other simple mistakes. If you're worried at all about your copy, get an editor to review it for you.
- Be Succinct - Don't use filler content to meet word count goals or artificially try to "beef up" your writing. Clearly articulate your point without any wasted words or paragraphs. Always aim for clarity.
- Revise, Revise, Revise - As mentioned before, an editor's help can be invaluable. Don't simply write your content and immediately publish it. Make sure it's exactly what it needs to be before it goes live.
- Be Relevant - Is your content filling a needed information gap? Does it have an audience? If nobody needs or wants your information, your content could be dead before you even begin writing.
- Perspective - Authoritative content needs to come from an expert who can synthesize and evaluate information rather than just simply regurgitating it. Insight can never be underestimated.
- Solve the Problem - Provide users with information and perspective that will answer their questions and solve their problems. If your content doesn't do this, they wont be coming back - and you won't be thought of as an expert.
So much goes into creating authoritative content. I'd love to hear from other publishers, bloggers and freelance writers: what rules do you follow for ensuring your content is authoritative? Will the end of Google Authorship have any effect on your efforts?