Google Raises Authorship Standards

In the past year, Google has unveiled a number changes to its search engine algorithm. These changes include the Hummingbird revamp as well as several minor changes, but all of these revisions coincide with Google’s declaration to improve the quality of content on the internet. One of the most startling of these changes is to the standards regarding authorship.

Authorship is, of course, related to the production of web page content. Google has heightened the rewards for outstanding content production, but has also shrunk the cut off for this elite group of authors. This change is manifested in the shrinking number of search engine results with rich snippets. Rich snippets are the additional information in search results which can include author photos, subcategories, user reviews, and local information which often enhance the appeal of a site. These rich snippets strongly contribute to the popularity of a website and are eagerly sought out by webmasters. It has been reported that an author photo can increase click through rates by 12 percent in the first six results.

Authorship is rewarded by Google in three ways. The first includes a full author profile which includes a photo, byline and an estimate of Google Plus followers. The second is a partial author profile, which includes a byline and number of Google Plus followers, but no photo. The least tier does not include a byline or Google Plus followers.

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To the dismay of the webmaster community, Google announced in October of 2013 that it would cut by 15 percent the number of sites which would receive rich snippets. The logic behind this move was to enhance the prestige of the remaining sites. Matt Cutts, the head of the spam team at Google, explained that a 15 percent cut in the premier authors would dramatically improve the quality of the remaining top sites.

This move has obviously roiled the SEO industry, as a sizable portion of previously premier sites were cut out. In response to Google’s new emphasis on high quality authorship, the SEO profession has renewed its interest in what qualifies as first rate content production.

Industry experts have compiled a number of qualifications including:
The author should publish regularly within their field of expertise
The published content should generate positive commendations, e.g. Facebook likes, Google+ +1’s
The author should demonstrate topical expertise by producing original, high quality content
Contributions of high quality should be made to authoritative sites
Publishers should only publish content that is of unsurpassed quality
Engage on Google’s social media site, including publishing unique content
Participate in online communities with other established authors

While the SEO community is up in arms about these changes, these authorship changes are a boon for internet users. As Google predicted, culling the bottom 15 percent from the authorship ranks has allowed users to identify the highest quality content. This enhances the user experience which is the ultimate goal of Google in its relentless march towards an outstanding World Wide Web.

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