Author authority sounds redundant. It’s not. Authors can garner authority in various ways.

On Google, this simply means tagging yourself as an author using the rel=”author” tag. At least that’s what it used to be in the early days.

You would get a picture next to your link and a byline. Around 2013, this began to disappear. Google eventually quit using authorship altogether.

Recently, however, there have been hints that Google might bring back authorship. This time it might not be so easy to spot. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s new treatment of authorship in their SERPs.

Search Quality Rater Guidelines and Authorship

While Google is often silent on upgrades to their algorithm, they are generous in giving webmasters lists and guides. The Search Quality Rater Guidelines is a 164-page search document every SEO expert should check out.

Google updates the document every so often and they’ve recently added a new section. Guess what the section entails? The reputation of the creator of the content.

It tells quality raters how to spot websites that toot their own horn with no credibility. “When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the websites says, trust the external sources.”

It’s not unlike how we rate and canonize historical literature. We don’t merely trust what a book says about itself, but we compare it to outside sources. Sometimes those sources counter claims within the book.

What Does This Mean for Us?

Google has been employing machine learning and A.I. in their algos. And using human raters dampens any attempt at scaling.

Some in the SEO community believe Google is heading into a new era. Soon we won’t have updates as the search engine will be able to adapt as it goes. The inclusion of authorship in the rater guidelines is an indication that perhaps Google will be teaching its AI to monitor and verify authorship.

Even then, Google may attempt once more to incorporate Authorship into their normal algorithm.

This is good news for authors, but not so good news for newer businesses with little reputation outside their own website.

Here’s what Google might look for if they do include Authorship as a metric:

  • Clearly identified content creator (no more Admin bylines)
  • A well-written bio on the author
  • Creators who have links online to other content with authority

What Are Some Practical Things to do to Prepare

Content creators are going to have a much harder time getting their content a website. They will need to have expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. And as a webmaster, you should already be vetting your content contributors carefully.

One great thing for writers is the fact websites will need to start giving more bylines if they want to gain authority. They will have to link out to social media accounts and other authorial sources.

But, if you’re a content creator and you haven’t diversified your portfolio, you might again have a hard time doing so after any algorithm change involving authorship.

Continue to expand your portfolio if you’re a content creator. If you’re a webmaster, start vetting your authors ASAP.


By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.