If there is one keyword that has got everyone in the SEO industry intrigued, it is ‘authority’. Authority has become a key ranking measurement. But what exactly is it? And how do search engines measure it?

Search engines use different signals to determine a site’s authority on a particular subject. It is complicated to understand it all.

Over the last couple of years, several established and arguably authoritative sites had their rankings drop due to back-to-back Panda updates. For a webmaster, nothing can be more frustrating than this. Many webmasters who were hit by the previous Panda updates had authoritative sites. It was their ‘authority’ that encouraged other webmasters to steal their content and use it as their own. Unfortunately, because of the duplication of their content, they lost their rankings for no fault of theirs.

Webmasters who steal copyrighted content perhaps do not understand what they are doing. They may be ignorant about the piracy laws, but problems begin when they try to apply authorship to the stolen content. This can result in major traffic loss for the site that published the original content.

Google released another major Panda algorithmic update in May 2014 and many sites that had lost their rankings because of duplicate content started showing signs of recovery. A total recovery will probably not happen until they get all copied content removed.

This is a clear sign that Google has rectified many problems with Panda. While it still considers ‘authority’, it now uses different factors to measure it. Also, Google has finally begun to understand the implications of authorship. Yes, it is a ranking factor, but just like other ranking criteria, it can be manipulated. If Google can’t understand who authored the original content, authorship cannot be an important factor for authority.

If you are an authority site and you got hit by a Panda update, you should check whether your content has been duplicated. Protecting your content is your responsibility. Google should also learn to distinguish original content from the copied text.

The original Panda update punished many authoritative sites. The latest update has been kind to some of them. It has addressed many problems that plagued the previous algorithm change. Google has certainly become better at measuring authority, but it still has a long way to go.