The concept of Author Authority has been around for years and as part of SEO is nothing new. In fact, Google has continued to roll out various initiatives and features aimed at identifying and surfacing information about the authors of online content. Besides, this concept has continued to be a focal point for marketers looking to improve their E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust).
As a result, SEO experts and digital marketers have been left speculating about whether the presence of author names or including author biographies are ranking factors in and of themselves. Google has replied to this by indicating that there is no technical requirement for listing authors as a direct ranking factor.
The existence of an author name should instead be considered an element of the page that can help enhance user trust and user experience. Therefore, authorship in SEO is more qualitative in nature and not something that can be easily measured in terms of its direct impact on organic search performance.
That is a good question! When users or prospects are searching for information on a certain topic, they prefer authoritative sources. This ties into the hot topic of Topical Authority. For example, if a well-known SEO and a relatively unknown SEO both write about the latest digital trends, which piece will you trust more? In most cases, the one that is written by a renowned SEO because he is an authority in the SEO world. That said, let's now apply this to SEO.
Google will try to catch this train of thought in an algorithm and use it to web search, and that is how the Author Authority comes in. Author Authority is simply the level of authority an author has gained for a certain topic. Any author who publishes on trustworthy platforms grows his authority, which is then applied when he publishes on other platforms. Bonus! Currently, Author Authority is helping decrease the amount of fake news reaching big audiences.
SEO experts have not once debated the extent to which Google can identify the authors on your site, mostly if they are not well-known. Even with Google's past attempts at rel=author markup retired several years ago, it is still unclear what precisely took its place. While we still have scanty info on whether Google uses or no longer uses author data, there is one place we still bet on to see if Google considers an author to be a recognized entity within its database.
That is, it's Knowledge Graph that lately stores 500 billion facts about 5 billion entities. These entities include renowned professionals in their fields, such as chefs, coders, doctors, lawyers, nutritionists, etc. Basically, Google's Knowledge Graph offers a certain way to know whether your authors or skilled contributors are officially recognized entities by Google. You can do the following to look up your authors in Google's Knowledge Graph:
- Use Carl Hendy Knowledge Graph Search tool
- Look up entities directly from Google Developers
- Design a custom tool using Google Sheets to pull in Knowledge Graph data using the Knowledge Graph API
Google doesn't know everything and everyone on the internet
Despite all these entities, Google's Knowledge Graph is still limited in knowing everything and everyone on the internet. So don't be surprised to find out Google doesn't know who many authors you have. You may even discover none has a footprint in the Knowledge Graph. But does this mean you are at a disadvantage for SEO? Actually no. Your content can still rank normally without authors being listed in the Knowledge Graph.
However, if preferring to go the extra mile to confirm to Google that your collaborators and authors are professionals in their fields, trying to become a renowned entity within the Knowledge Graph is a great idea to consider from the start. Here are additional benefits why you should consider being included in the Knowledge Graph:
- Your authors can be invited to programs like Google Cameos, which is invite-only for listed experts within the Knowledge Graph.
- They can claim your Knowledge Panel and help control the information that is displayed about them.
- They can appear as a related search suggestion when searchers look for another pro closely related to them.
- When a user searches for an author's name, the presence of a Knowledge Panel is a great way to instill trust and confidence in that author's expertise.
Consider researching your authors' reputation if you'd like to be more subjective and "human," and you should do this. We enjoin you to streamline the entire evaluation process by consulting Google's own Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Google offers specific instructions for its raters to obtain reputation information about organizations as well as content contributors.
Further, it provides context about how much author reputation matters, based on the topics that authors cover in their content. Implement the same methods as Google's quality raters to evaluate content and author reputation when analyzing your own content.
Structured data offers a robust way of transmitting reliable information about your authors to search engines. You can leverage Schema.org markup to enhance your E-A-T by marking up info about your authors and your organization. While many website owners already use Author, Organization, or Person schema, many only mark up the elementary details.
There are noteworthy opportunities to expand upon this strategy by using Schema's recommended attributes for these properties. For example, here is some information you can add to your author biography pages and mark it up accordingly with Person structured data:
Author schema also accepts organization as one of the expected values. If considering writing content on behalf of the organization instead of an individual author, then this can be supported through structured data. The "sameAs" attribute is vital for linking your authors and experts to the other places they are mentioned online. Consider also linking to their individual social media pages or websites, on author biography pages, and leveraging this Schema attribute to solidify those connections.
Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research. When it comes to demonstrating good E-A-T, it is crucial to have your author's articles appear in Google Scholar's index. In fact, if your authors appear in Google Scholar, it becomes easier for them to claim their profiles.
Google Scholar allows users with claimed profiles to monitor how their work is cited. Also, it allows them to allow their profiles to be searchable within Google's organic results. Further, it allows these users to list their websites. This is something good for authors to create a connection in the form of a link between Google's organic search results and Google Scholar.
The methods mentioned above can be used to illuminate underperforming content, reputation issues, or a lack of author credibility or expertise in categories where those things are required. That said, it's important to remember that Google has confirmed none of the listed above as ways to impact organic search rankings directly.
However, they are all methods that can be used to evaluate your authors' content quality and performance. These evaluations are not only vital for SEO performance, but they also allow for a better experience for your users, which should be the ultimate goal.