Google is a black box. As such, nobody can tell you whether something is definitely in their algorithm or how much it impacts the final results. That said, we have a growing amount of evidence supporting author authority as a ranking signal. Let’s go that evidence and how to improve your author authority.
Evidence Authorship is a Ranking Signal.
Here is the most concrete evidence we have that Google uses your post’s author as a ranking factor.
- Google filed an agent rank patent in 2009 and an author vectors patent in 2018.
- In 2011, Google started showing Author Pictures in the SERP via authorship schema (Showing the author’s picture in the SERP died in 2014, but Google built a lot of infrastructure to identify authors around this time).
- Matt Cutts (Google’s Mouthpiece in the early 2010s) talked quite openly about using authors to help rank (here(2010), here (2011), here(2011), and here(2014))
- In 2018 the Google quality rater guidelines called out author credibility (about pages, reviews, Wikipedia articles) as something manual rankers should look for.
- John Mueller (Google’s latest mouthpiece) has also mentioned authors here(2018).
Authorship schema is largely considered dead (and one could argue that Quotes from Matt Cutts in 2011 are no longer relevant). That said, the 2018 author vectors patent, the quality raters guidelines, and Mueller/Cutts’ comments lead us to believe it is a ranking factor.
How Much Weight Does Author Authority Have?
To me, this is the more interesting question. And since Google is a black box, it’s impossible to give a definitive answer. That said, I think we can generally infer that Google doesn’t give a lot of weight to authorship. Unless you’re in one of the following situations.
- The post has an incredibly famous author.
- The post’s topic is YMYL, and the author has serious credentials to speak on the subject.
It makes sense that George RR Martin’s blog posts should get a boost in the SERP. Particularly if people are Googling Game of Thrones related queries.
It also makes a ton of sense that Mommy bloggers shouldn’t be giving us advice on “toxins.” No offense to Mom blogs, but unless they’re on maternity leave from being a Dr., they really shouldn’t be showing up in the SERP for that.
What Can You Do To Improve Your Author Authority with Google?
You landed on this blog post so you’re probably looking for actionable advice as far as how to improve your authorship authority in Google.
1) Author and Their Credentials Should Be Easily Identifiable on Blog Post
Google calls out quickly identifying the author of a blog post on their quality raters guidelines. I suggest you prominently display the author’s name, picture, credentials, links to socials, and link to their about page on every post.
And really, that’s as far as I think most blogs need to go when it comes to authorship. The following items probably aren’t worth the amount of time they’d take to accomplish.
2) Gain Publicly Available Credentials in Your Field
This one is really freaking hard. Because what signals is Google using to determine if you’re an expert in your field? Is it any or all of the following?
- What do other people say about you online?
- Whether you have won any awards or written books on the subject?
- The education and degrees you have?
- Simply having authored a bunch of well-regarded content on the subject in the past?
It would not surprise me to learn that Google attempts to assign credibility to authors in YMYL spaces. That said, if I were trying to write in a YMYL niche, I’d simply follow this guide. Don’t try to do something crazy (like getting a new degree or faking positive reviews).
3) Gain a Huge Following
I don’t think you need to gain an enormous YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook following to start a blog. In no way am I telling you to do that (unless you want to, YouTube has advantages over blogging).
That said, do I think an author like Johnny Harris (2M+ YouTube subs, a Wikipedia page, and was a Senior Producer for Vox) would get a boost in the SERP? Yes, I absolutely do, and it’s solely because he has a massive following.
Part of his advantage is that he can drive traffic to a blog post from his giant YouTube channel (This will force Google to notice the content). That said, I think Google will also boost him because of his follower count, Wikipedia page, positive comments around name, credentials, etc.
Will Bad Author’s Be Penalized in The SERP?
I surmise that there is no author penalty. Only boosts if you have credentials on a YMYL topic or an enormous following. I believe the post’s author is unlikely to be a factor if both authors are relatively unknown in a non-YMYL space.
The question of if “bad” authors could be penalized was posed to John Mueller during office hours. Mueller clearly states that sites don’t get punished site-wide for having a “bad” author. Or for authors with no reputation who have written on questionable websites in the past.
Authorship is probably a ranking factor. But, unless you’re doing YMYL content or are a major celebrity, it’s unlikely to move the needle very much for you in either direction.
Just make sure you can easily identify your author’s name, picture, and credentials on your blog post. Also remember to link to their socials and about page.