Does Author Authority Affect Rankings?
Online businesses and site owners spend lots of time and effort on SEO content development, especially when writing articles that could impact people’s health, finances, and life in general. With a considerable number of websites publishing SEO content containing crucial advice, readers should always double-check facts, especially the authors of the content they read.
For instance, an article providing medical advice should be written by an expert with a medical background instead of a fresh journalism graduate without the right experience. Not everything published on the Internet is beneficial, and plenty of online content could very well be false. Although some authors do not have malicious intentions, their work could still be harmful to readers who might regard the content as the truth when it isn’t.
This is where the author’s authority affects one’s content. However, there are also certain myths surrounding author authority, such as its status as a ranking factor.
Author Authority As A Ranking Factor
Many people believe that Google values author authority as a ranking factor, especially after the search engine company launched their E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) guidelines. While there is no official evidence supporting this claim, there is a growing interest in the topic.
Although author authority is not explicitly stated as a ranking factor, the number of Google patents that help the search engine identify authors for page content says otherwise. For instance, Google filed a patent for Agent Rank in August 2005. This patent allows the search engine to use “digital signatures” to rank articles based on reputation scores.
Later in June 2011, Google confirmed that they supported authorship markup or the “rel=”author:”. An expert conducted a study on authorship adoption in 2014, pointing out that authorship adoption by authors was slow. The study shows that 70 per cent of the authors did not connect their authorship with content. Google later removed the authorship markup that same year.
In 2016, Google’s Gary Illyes stated that Google is not using authorship, but they have systems in place that recognise who the author of a piece of content is. According to a discussion in a Google SEO office-hours hangout in April, the search engine company considers several factors like structured data, links to profile pages, and other visible information on the page as part of a process called “reconciliation”.
Furthermore, Google’s John Mueller stated in August 2018 that the search engine does not use author reputation as a ranking factor.
But what about E-A-T? Reputation differs from “expertise” and “authoritativeness”; it refers to how others view the author. Meanwhile, Google uses expertise and authoritativeness as characteristics to evaluate the author.
However, recent patents prove that authorship is evolving. In March 2020, Google filed the Author Vectors patent to distinguish authors through Internet-based writing styles.
An SEO expert evaluated the patent to learn how its process works. According to their findings, various authors have different writing styles. Their levels of expertise and interests in various topics are also different. With the Author Vectors patent, Google can identify the authors of unlabelled content.
The SEO community knows that Google is improving its systems to determine the authors of content on the Internet. However, no one knows why or how the search engine company uses this to support their ranking factors.
There aren’t any official statements to support that author authority is a ranking factor. Moreover, Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines related to E-A-T has resulted in a bit of a grey area on the matter.
Although author authority may not directly affect a website’s organic search rankings, one should still follow Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines to improve their content performance.
Adding Author URL In Article Schema
Although it is unlikely that author authority can directly impact one’s search rankings, Google has reasons to identify authors of published SEO content. They recommend putting an author’s URL to the article schema to help identify the correct author when several publishers with the same names exist.
Google does not specify the URL type that the markup should redirect to, whether it’s the author’s social media link or their home page. But it would be better if the writer puts a link redirecting to their bio page on the same domain where they published the content in question.
Quality Raters always look for information about authors when they manually evaluate sites. If there is insufficient information about the author who wrote the article, they will most likely rate the content as either “low” or “lowest” quality.
According to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, they expect clear information about the main content’s author, whether they are a company, foundation, business, or individual – unless there is a good reason for the anonymity. The guidelines do not explicitly say that one should create an author bio page, but it is still wise to tell Google’s Quality Raters who the author is. Moreover, the more author information one provides, the likelier it is that Google will deem their content as high quality.
Mueller recommends that publishers and site owners link to a common place where they gather all author information. For instance, it could be a social network profile page, which they could use across different author pages when writing. When Google’s systems find the article and see an author page associated with the content, they can recognise the same author who wrote the page.
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