Does author authority matter for your SEO?
Authorship in Google is not a new concept and the concept has evolved over the years.
When it comes to talking about E-A-T, we’d assume that the authority of the author has a part to play in this as a field expert is a more authoritative source than a random blogger.
This is how we operate on a human level, we watch informative television shows as we value and place a weight in the expertise being passed on from experts.
Similarly, we would watch a sports highlights show, with panellists made up of former sports professionals and journalists on the assumption they have greater insight than a layperson.
A brief history of Google and authorship
Google’s first mentions of using a content creator’s authority and reputation as a field expert go back to the Agent Rank patent; granted in July 2009.
In 2011, Google began to support authorship markup, allowing authors to create a digital signature for authors using Schema.org’s rel=”author” and rel=”me” structured data markup attributes.
While there was no immediate benefits outlined for using the rel=”author” markup, Google teased in its announcement post with the line:
We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.
So naturally, we all adopted it, and 22 days after the authorship mark-up was announced, we got Google+.
Google+ was many things, but for me, it served two purposes:
- A rival to Facebook and a place for Google to collect data and UGC to better understand user behaviour, for both organic and paid search purposes
- A way to be able to identify and database individuals on the web in order for authorship to work
Arguably, the requirement to create a Google+ profile to access most Google services served both of those purposes.
Being able to understand and pigeon hole users led to better data for ad targeting, and also to identify whether or not John Smith is a real human author.
However, in 2014, Authorship was abandoned by Google for a number of reasons, including:
- Uneven adoption by authors, publishing websites, and a lack of internal linking. It’s estimated only a third adopted the mark-up, meaning if it was applied broadly to search it would heavily skew SERPs in favour of those who had extra linking.
- Data suggested that Google didn’t believe searchers were getting value from the additional content.
- The movement towards mobile-first, and how the bulky authorship special content result blocks would fit on a mobile device.
There is no data, or literature, to suggest that Agent Rank and Authorship were connected.
It’s also worth noting that there is equally no suggestion that Google+ was pivotal to the equation either, given that too has now been deprecated.
Does this mean it doesn’t matter anymore?
While it may have deprecated rel=”author” and Google+, there are newer documents and outputs from Google that indicate they still do care about content authorship.
At the end of the day, if you’re Googling medical symptoms, you want content from a trained medical professional and not a blogger who watched all eight seasons of House.
Search Quality Rater Guidelines (SQRGs)
In 2018, the SQRGs were updated to include references to “content creators” as part the guidelines wider aims of “evaluating search engine quality”.
So, as far as these raters are concerned, the reputation and expertise of an author (content creator) factors into the overall E-A-T rating of the content piece.
However, the other side of the coin is that John Mueller has tweeted that:
I wouldn’t look at the Quality Rater Guidelines as something our algorithms are looking at explicitly and checking out the reputation of all authors and then using that to rank your websites.
The operative word here, being “all”.
With this in mind, content authorship isn’t necessarily a ranking factor, but if two pieces of content are similar and make the same points, the one with higher authorship (E-A-T) scores may come out on top.
Machine-Readable Entity IDs, or MREIDs, are unique codes that identify particular entities anywhere on the web.
For example, the MREID for SALT.agency is: /g/11b6gm34n0
MREIDs are necessary for search because language is complicated, and words can be ambiguous and have multiple meanings.
It is likely already using MREIDs for many search features, including Google Trends, Google Lens, and Google Reverse Image Search.
There is no definitive proof that having field experts publish content on your site, or having authors establish themselves as field experts have a direct impact on your rankings.
But the broader question, is why would you not want known expert authors publishing content on your site?
From a human perspective, it makes your content more credible and offers wider audience and marketing opportunities.