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Does SEO Authorship Matter?

With a hyperfocus on E-E-A-T and helpful content, authorship is back in the spotlight. Does it matter whose byline is on a post? Here’s what we dug up on the topic.

Apr 26, 2024

5 m read

Google Authorship began as a way to add more credibility to the internet and make it easier for Google to determine who wrote content across multiple websites. While the search engine has since discarded most components of this system, including the Google+ profiles that were central to how it worked, authorship is still relevant to search engine optimization (SEO). That’s because it’s one of the many ways you can build authority and trust in your audience’s eyes.

What Is SEO Authorship?

One of the things Google looks for when evaluating the quality of content is the experience of the person who wrote it. For example, imagine a cardiologist contributing to a health and wellness website, providing tips on heart disease prevention and the benefits of specific diets.

The writer’s unique qualifications position them as an expert in this field, so highlighting this knowledge and experience to readers and search engines makes a lot of sense. You can do this through any combination of metadata, bylines, author profiles, and bios. This is SEO authorship — the attribution of content to specific authors — and it’s one of several ways to increase your site’s topical authority.

A Timeline of Google Authorship

Google has approached authorship differently over the years, including through a more formal and structured method called Google Authorship. Understanding how author attribution has changed can provide insight into how search engines still use it today. Here’s an overview:

  • 2007: Google’s Agent Rank patent marked the rise of authorship, detailing a method the search engine could use to apply a digital signature across content. This signature would link content to an author, at which point Google planned to assign a ranking modifier based on the content creator’s entire pool of work. Producing quality content would raise an author’s authority. By extension, authors with high authority would also provide a boost to websites.
  • 2011: Google began to support rel=”author” markup, which was one part of the puzzle of writer attribution. Using this markup, you could now link to a user profile and tell search engines this was the author of the content. When Google launched Google+ at the end of June, this was the final piece of the puzzle for formally verifying authors. The search engine called this system Google Authorship.
  • 2012: As Google committed to its authorship system, it began introducing rich search features such as author profiles into SERPs. These snippets made results stand out more, so many websites that were slower to adopt authorship began to see real value in making the change.
  • 2013: At the Google I/O conference in May, Google discussed improvements it wanted to make to its authorship system. However, the search engine’s goals seemingly changed in December when it announced a reduction in the number of authorship results it would show in the SERPs.
  • 2014: By the second half of 2014, Google had removed all author photos and most other authorship details from the SERPs. In August, it stopped using author markup entirely, marking the end of Google Authorship.
  • 2019: Google continued to move away from formal authorship attribution, ending public access to Google+.
  • 2020: Google’s Author Vectors patent reveals a complete shift in how the search engine intended to determine authorship in the future. The patent details a method of attributing an author to content through predictive analysis and machine learning. Basically, Google now had the technology to tell authors apart based on writing styles. It now uses this technology alongside other more concrete author signals to determine authorship without the need for markup or writer profiles.

Is Website Authorship a Ranking Factor?

Initially, Google wanted to incorporate website authorship as a ranking factor, spurred on by their new algorithm, which allowed them to score specific authors on quality. However, authorship never quite made it into search.

Instead, authorship has held a more subjective position in search rankings, both then and today. While Google states it doesn’t use authorship within the algorithm itself, the search engine instructs its human quality raters to consider it when determining whether content shows experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness — Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines.

So, why does Google use both algorithmic ranking and human raters? Quality raters work to ensure the algorithm delivers reliable and valuable results to Google’s users. While their feedback doesn’t affect individual rankings, it does shape how the algorithm works in the future.

This feedback loop means that the things that authorship brings to your content when used correctly — like demonstrable expertise and professional knowledge — become things the algorithm checks indirectly.

How Authorship Still Matters for SEO

Even though authorship isn’t technically a ranking factor, you should still incorporate it into your SEO efforts. That’s because it provides many benefits for your readers, translating to a boost in social shares, backlinks, and engagement — all of which are known ranking signals.

Here are some benefits of incorporating authorship into your content:

  • Showcasing Authority: Your website needs demonstrable authority within its niche to rank high on Google. One way to achieve this is to give your readers insight into who created the content they’re reading. Highlight the author’s skills, qualifications, and experience to give reasons to trust this information over a competitor’s.
  • Encouraging Expert Contributions: Subject matter experts prefer to contribute to sites with prominent authors. Authorship also lets you appropriately attribute your content, building trust that prompts further collaboration.
  • Building Loyalty: Although SEO aims to bring in as much traffic as possible through organic search, what you do with that traffic also matters. Authorship allows you to build loyalty through specific content creators, prompting readers to return to your site through other channels in the future.
  • Increasing Engagement: Readers are more likely to read content from start to finish when it offers value. Highlighting the author’s experience can achieve this. It also shows visitors the real person behind the content, encouraging more interaction through social  media shares

E-E-A-T

If there’s one thing SEO authorship is central to, it’s Google’s E-E-A-T quality rating guidelines. While quality raters look for several things when evaluating content, they focus specifically on experience, expertise, authority, and trust — all things authorship allows you to demonstrate. Google even instructs its quality raters to research content creators to verify their qualifications.

Like authorship, E-E-A-T isn’t an explicit ranking factor. However, it generally aligns with what Google expects and wants from high-ranking content, so following E-E-A-T principles impacts your SEO organically.

Here are the main benefits of following the guidelines:

  • Improved User Satisfaction: Google wants its users to click on a search result, find the exact information they want, and leave satisfied. Focusing on E-E-A-T principles and incorporating authorship into your content helps achieve this. Of course, you also need to consider user intent, too.
  • Enhanced Trust: Google won’t rank sites in Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) niches such as health and finance without high authority and demonstrable expertise.
  • Increased Growth: People prefer to link to and share content that demonstrates authority. By highlighting your authors’ experience, you’ll boost your website’s future growth potential, as you’ll attract more backlinks and social signals.
  • Reduced Risk of Algorithmic Penalties: Creating authoritative content future-proofs your website because it’s something Google has always wanted and will always want from sites.

Helpful Content Update

Google’s Helpful Content system, which is now part of the core algorithm,  functions as another layer to its regular algorithm. You can think of it as a modifier that affects the weighting of your site’s rankings, shifting them up or down based on how helpful content is.

So, what makes content helpful, and how does authorship factor into all of this? Again, it’s a matter of experience and trust. Helpful content incorporates the author’s personal experience. For example, on a cooking site, if a chef explains how to make the perfect omelet using techniques they’ve mastered over a 20-year career, this is more helpful than basic instructions.

Another thing Google considers helpful in content is unique insights. For instance, an economist could predict the future of the job market based on their years of experience and insider knowledge. Google tends to see this type of analysis as much more helpful than content that just rehashes widely reported statistics.

Authorship plays a crucial role in writing for and recovering from Google’s Helpful Content System. Of course, you should also consider content audits and other strategies to add more value to your pages.

Increase Your Authority on Google

Ready to boost your authority and grow your search presence? Authorship is one way to achieve this, but many things factor into a perfect SEO strategy. Book a free consultation with our agency, and we’ll help you devise a well-rounded plan that meets your needs.

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