The search engine giant has long been connecting content published online with its ‘author’, but much of this is unseen to Google users for now.
However, in a digital world where Google has more competition than ever (more than 40% of Americans use TikTok as a search engine), and generative AI tools are progressing at pace, being able to attribute specific pieces of online content to individual real people can have real value now.
In this article, we look at why authorship matters for to SEO strategy and how businesses and organisations can leverage it to help achieve their wider SEO and marketing objectives.
What is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship is essentially a Google initiative that is now defunct in terms of its original meaning. It was designed to be a solution to the problem of users being able to measure whether an online information source was trustworthy and legitimate, and there was a time when it was thought of as an important ranking signal by many within the SEO community.
It was a public experiment during 2011- 2014, connected to the now discontinued Google+ social network, where the names and thumbnail images of authors of the content actually appeared in some search results, using schema and pairing respective authors with their Google+ profile. This experiment included ‘Author Rank’, which was essentially a way for Google to attribute certain content to its author and evaluate the authenticity and reputation of that author. It essentially provided a way for authors to position themselves in a certain manner, through leveraging their Google+ account, to potentially be ranked more favourably by Google for their content.
However, Google Authorship was phased out in SERPs from 2013, officially discontinued in 2014, and many people thought that was the end of authorship and author rank as a ‘thing’.
Despite Google Authorship essentially being ‘sunsetted’ around a decade ago, the search engine is still able to recognise content authors and all the pieces they have published, especially when their articles all link back to a central location, which is often a bio page on a website.
So, while Google Authorship itself is no longer a ‘thing’, establishing and implementing content authorship can have an SEO impact and is very much still alive and well.
Why content authorship matters to searchers
For users, knowing the person that wrote something you are reading online is a real person, has expertise in that particular field and is therefore more likely to be credible and trustworthy, is becoming increasingly more valuable – especially with the rise of AI use in the online experience.
Authorship of a specific piece of content indicates that the writer has authority on the subject matter and, especially for content that has elements of thought leadership and opinion, being able to judge that the writer actually knows what they are talking about, is really important for online audiences.
Is authorship a ranking signal in SEO?
Google don’t make their full list of ranking signals publicly available, of course. But, back in March 2023, Google Analyst, Gary Illyes, confirmed that the search engine doesn’t currently give ranking weight to the specific author of content.
In January 2024, Google’s Public Liaison for Search, Danny Sullivan, clarified that while things like author bios on pages are not a direct ranking signal, they are for the benefit of users and so we can surmise that they DO have potential SEO benefit. He does say that websites using author bylines “…may exhibit the type of other characteristics our ranking systems find align with useful content.”
Author bylines aren’t something you do for Google, and they don’t help you rank better. They’re something you do for your readers — and publications doing them may exhibit the type of other characteristics our ranking systems find align with useful content. That’s something I’ve… pic.twitter.com/vjYTTDW0kK
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 8, 2024
Reading between the lines, this leads us to the conclusion that Google isn’t saying that including author information on websites and attributing specific pieces of content to authors directly results in better SERP rankings. However, it’s useful for readers making decisions on which content is trustworthy and helpful and could also potentially correlate with more organic visibility for the content because publishers and websites that utilise authorship are fairly likely to be producing content of good quality that meets Google’s criteria for useful content.
Why is authorship important in SEO?
Implementing authorship on a brand or organisation’s website feeds into Google’s E-E-A-T, which is one way the search engine evaluates whether content published online is providing relevant and helpful information. That being the case, content should demonstrate:
Meeting these guidelines will help a piece of content stand the best chance of ranking well for relevant search terms. None of them are ranking factors in their own right, but when taken together, they can be common characteristics of content that Google wants to show to searchers.
In addition to this, content that falls under Google’s ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) framework (which means anything that could potentially have an impact on the audience’s future health, happiness, financial stability or safety) is subject to extra scrutiny under Google’s search quality rater guidelines. So, it’s even more important that this kind of content takes all appropriate steps to show it is trustworthy, authoritative and high-quality.
Implementing authorship for SEO benefit
It should always be taken into account that Google doesn’t want websites to be doing things specifically for SEO benefit. With an audience-first approach to your SEO strategy, ensuring that you prioritise your user’s needs, problems and questions, will automatically help you to meet Google’s guidelines as you build trust with E-E-A-T content.
There are some steps that you can take on your website to make content authorship clear to both users and search engines, which benefits both, and is one part of a wider user-centric approach to SEO.
Implement author bios on blog, news and thought leadership content pages
An author bio is a short snippet of information about the author of a specific piece of content, usually around paragraph in length, which sums up who the author is, their relevant credentials/experience and any other important info.
It will also include a link to the author’s dedicated page (more on that below), where all of the other pieces authored by this individual can be found. The author bio will usually appear either below the blog content or sometimes in the side bar, depending on your personal preference, or may be influenced by your current webpage template and layout.
Using my author bio on the No Brainer website as an example:
My name is linked to my author page, and the short bio sums up my specialisms, experience and namechecks some of the brands I’ve worked alongside.
Tips for creating effective author bios for authorship
- Keep them concise (around 50-100 words)
- State areas of expertise
- Include a photo
- Ensure what is in the bio checks out in real life i.e. if someone were to visit that individual’s LinkedIn profile, it would contain the same kind of details
Create author pages for the experts and specialists within your business
Along with an author bio that appears on any content the individual has written, there ideally needs to be a dedicated URL on your website for each contributing author, known as the author page. This page goes into more detail on the author and provides a hub where visitors can see, at a glance, all of the content the individual has contributed to the website, then click through to view any of the other articles if they choose to.
For example, Alex’s author page on the No Brainer site provides her information, then provides links to all of her content.
Tips for creating optimised author pages
- Ensure that article schema identifying the appropriate author’s name and page URL is used in the individual pieces of content. You can also include their social media profile URLs here, providing more evidence that they are a real person.
- If any external links are included in the author page, such as to a LinkedIn profile, ensure that these external links are “nofollow”.
- Don’t no-index author pages.
Examples of authorship for SEO
There are many websites across various industries making use of authorship on blog posts, articles and opinion pieces, alongside producing author pages that provide useful information for users and search engines. Some examples of the different ways that authorship is being implemented include:
The Independent Pharmacy
A straightforward author snippet on individual articles leads to an author page with much more depth and context. So, The Independent Pharmacy, which very much falls under YMYL, has combined professional registrations and years of industry experience with content about the individual author and their life. This blend helps to reinforce to the audience that this is a real person, as well as a specialist in the area they write on.
Source: The Independent Pharmacy
Another online pharmacy that has implemented authorship effectively on their blog articles is Chemist4U. As many businesses and organisations do, they utilise writers within their marketing team that may not have the same depth of knowledge and experience on certain subject matters that others within the business do. To ensure that their blog articles are factually correct and offer useful information, they therefore provide the details of the expert that has checked/reviewed the piece, as well as the individual that wrote it.
They also have an in-depth content policy that explains who writes their content and how they ensure it is accurate, providing more evidence that the content they publish is trustworthy.
An example of doing the bare minimum in terms of authorship, The Telegraph does have a linked author name on articles published on their website, which leads through to an author page. However, the author page merely includes the author’s name and job title, then lists their live articles, as can be seen by visiting their Politics Live blog editor’s author page. It certainly provides the audience with a hub to find all content published from this author, from which some assumptions about their expertise and trustworthiness etc can be made. However, it doesn’t go as far as many sites in outlining their specific qualifications, accreditations or experience.
The go-to consumer finances and money-saving advice website for millions in the UK has a responsibility to ensure that the information they publish is accurate and trustworthy. They have dedicated author pages for those who write their guides and featured content which offer a good balance of professional and personal information.
Including a quote from each author, alongside their professional information and a little about their life and interests, provides a good measure of the human touch, while also ensuring the page communicates that the author really knows their stuff.
Final thoughts on authorship
While implementing authorship on your website might need a little time and effort to set up initially, taking this step can provide multiple positive signals to both the people that see your content and the search engines that assess it. In a digital world seeing a huge increase in the amount of content being published every day, ensuring that your articles have clear authorship is one way to help you stand out.
If you would like any further authorship, SEO services or digital marketing advice, we’d love to hear from you. Use the form below to contact us.