Mid 2011, Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team, announced the introduction of a new Google feature, which allows assigning content to its authors. The so-called “author tag“ was first introduced in the USA and was then extended to all the country-specific Google pages.
The “authorship” distinction, which connects editorial content with an author, helps users to find relevant and trustworthy information on the internet. Content is tagged with the attribute “rel=author”; making it clear to search engines who is responsible for the content.
Who can use Google Authorship?
A prerequisite is a Google Plus account. To connect an article with an author, the text needs to be linked from the author’s Google Plus account. At the same time, there needs to be a reference to the Google Plus profile in the content.
What are the benefits for the display of the search results?
The appearance of the search results is directly influenced by the authorship distinction since a photo of the text's author will appear in the snippets (i.e. in the ads of the organic search results). This change leads to a higher click rate and a better perception of the content’s worth. During tests in the USA, an increase in click rates of up to 30% was found after the authorship markup was used.
Varying between different industries, Google Authorship is already being used by a number of advertisers. The photo lends itself to drawing the users' attention to the snippets and to thereby generating more clicks. For instance, this can be done by using certain colours and designs for the ads.
What effect does the authorship distinction have on the SEO results?
Google’s goal is to present users with trustworthy and relevant information using the authorship tool, therefore providing them with easier access to high-quality content. In the SEO scene, it is still controversial whether the distinction already has a direct effect on the ranking in the organic search results. In various studies that were carried out last year, no direct influence could be measured, but it can be assumed that in the future not just the “what” (content) but also the “who” (author) will be responsible to an increasing extent for the success or failure of articles.
A blog post from Search Engine Land from August 2013 highlights the significance of Google Authorship with regards to duplicate content. In the case described, the rankings of a website deteriorated dramatically even though it was considered to be virtually an authority in its field and had high-quality backlinks. At first a Google quality update was suspected to be the reason for ranking losses until it was discovered that articles on the website were plagiarised but had better rankings than the original ones. The articles were copied and published by another website, using Google Authorship.
In the end, the website operators contacted the plagiarist and managed to have the copied articles deleted. After a short period of time the rankings and the traffic of the original articles began to rise again. This situation shows that Google apparently places more importance on the authorship distinction, as evidence of authorship, rather than on the article’s date of release.
Researching authors made easy
If authorship is becoming increasingly important, then this also means that individuals are moving more into focus within Google. In many areas, such as in link building, it is important to identify relevant authors in order to be able to approach them with collaborations. While today high-quality content is of high importance, with the authorship tool the individual who writes content will become more and more important: it will matter whether it is a relevant author or whether the text is from a source that has no technical authority.
In April 2013 OnPage.org launched the author research tool “Author-Rank.org“, which can be used to determine website authors. At http://acc.onpage.org/authors/ you can find the program available for free download; alternatively it’s possible to use it as part of the paid analysis tool from OnPage.org with some additional details.
The authorship distinction is virtually a “must” for maintaining a successful online presence and generating significantly higher click-through rates due to eye-catching snippets. In addition, with Google Authorship you can avoid duplicate content as a result of online content plagiarism. Apart from that, we can expect to see that authorship distinction will have a positive effect on organic search rankings in future.