SEO Examples of Authorship Done Wrong

Authorship isn't new in SEO. Some of you will remember the rel="author" tag that did the rounds a few years ago. This linked the author of a page to their Google+ page. This led to profile pictures to appear in search results and SEOs were quick to jump on the bandwagon before Google pulled the plug on this feature (and Google+ completely a couple of years later).

Why is authorship important?

Many websites contain used to focus on creating author bios on the page to establish trust, but this isn't enough anymore. As Marie Haynes says:

"Author bios can be great for users, but only in so much as they can demonstrate the expertise or authority of the creator of the content.

It is the E-A-T of the content creator that matters." (Source: Search Engine Land)

The author of your article is not just a name on a page. It is an entity that is assigned to the article that allows Google to make decisions about the quality of the content. With recent algorithm updates focusing on E-A-T, optimising how authors are handled on a website is more important than ever.

E-A-T stands for Experience, Authoritativenes and Trust. It is not a single algorithm, but a series of best practices that Google's algorithm attempts to align with to measure the quality of content. Whilst there are many factors that feed into this concept, authorship is an important aspect and should not be overlooked as Google's John Mueller suggests below:

So what does this mean? Well basically, Google doesn't just look at the words on the page to determine if it is quality. They also look at the person who wrote it and ask themselves "does this person know what they're talking about?". If the author is well known in the niche, cited across a number of sites and has verifiable qualifications then the answer is "yes".

However, if Google is unable to get the author information they need from the page then they don't know if it is written by an expert and will have to rely on other factors to evaluate the content. Whilst E-A-T primarily targets "your money, your life" site, such as those in the medical niche, I've had success with fixing authorship on sites which you wouldn't think would benefit from it, such as beauty articles. 

No authorship

This is either done through platform limitations or through laziness. Basically, if there is no author on the page then Google has no information on who the content is written by and will treat it as such. It could be an article about Google written by Danny Sullivan, but without the author information it will be treated the same as an article from a writer for hire charging by the word (eugh!).

Providing information about the author will help Google to join up the dots and establish if the article was written by someone who knows what they're talking about.

Solution:

  • Include name of the author on the page
  • Link to the author profile page from their name
  • Include short bio, highlighting the author's experience and qualifications
  • Include links to social profiles
  • (Optional) Include links to articles which the author has written.

Using an alias

Yeah, we get it. You don't always want your name plastered all over the internet. It can garner some unwanted attention or give you the cringe when you find old articles you wrote years later.

Here's the uncomfortable truth though - that's not Google's problem!

If you're not using your correct name, Google has no way of attributing all of your experience and authoritativeness. If your alias is an unknown, Google will treat the article as being written by an unknown.

There are 2 solutions to this issue:

Solution 1 - just use your own name, its as simple as that.

Solution 2:

  • Create full persona for alias
  • Create social media profiles which regularly talk about that niche
  • Get featured on other websites whilst talking about that niche
  • You could even create a website for the fake persona, showcasing all of their fake qualifications and experience

Don't get me wrong, this method isn't without its merit. I've seen fake doctors review medical content on blogs and you can bet that they're not doing it for free. There is an industry built around this. But unless you're willing to go all in (and risk the wrath of Google) you're better off just using your own name.

Noindexing author pages

So you've gone to the effort of adding the author information and you've created a kick-ass bio that says "wow, this person knows what they're talking about". Then you tell Google that the page is not important and to not even bother storing it? Yeah that's a weird one.

Yet, I've seen this mistake being made countless times on websites. I also reguarly see prominent "SEO influencers" recommend doing this. Why? I have absolutely no idea.

Whilst there are other ways to tell Google about who wrote the piece of content (we'll speak of that next), an author page is such a simple way to provide information about the writer.

Solution - allow Google to index the author pages. That's it.

Lack of structured data

Structured data is one of the most underused aspects of authorship. Schema is the most common implementation of structured data for SEO and can help give search engines extra information about the content and also contribute towards getting rich snippets in search results. Yet some SEOs actively dismiss its importance. However, properly implemented it has been shown to have a positive impact on the performance of your content.

The best way to implement schema is via a snippet of JSON which gets inserted into the source code. Here is a basic example of how it would appear:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "https://schema.org/",
"@type": "Person",
"name": "David Gossage",
"url": "https://seogreetings.com",
"sameAs": [
  "https://www.facebook.com/SEOGreetings",
  "https://twitter.com/dgossage1983",
  "https://twitter.com/seogreetings"
]
}
</script>

One of the most important, but most overlooked, aspects of author schema is the sameAs field. This helps search engines to connect the dots between the author that is mentioned on the page and where the author is mentioned elsewhere on the internet. For example, I share my name with a Canadian jazz flute player (seriously, Google it!). If I sign my name on this article, how does Google know that it is written by an experienced SEO expert(!) or a master of woodwind? See below for a visual representation of how sameAs schema can link author information from across the web.

Without sameAs schema:

without sameAs schema

With sameAs schema:

With sameAs schema

So basically, this can help search engines to treat all these authors as a single entity and any expertise that the author has can be consolidated from all these sources. Without sameAs schema, it is much more difficult for search engines to make this link.

A study by InLinks found that sameAs schema can not only have an indirect impact on rankings but also increase the amount of featured snippets that an article can qualify for. This is becasue the author can become more trusted so Google feels more secure with including this information at the top of their search results.

Be careful though, this is a way to tell Google that the author is an expert. If the author is definitely not an expert, such as a doctor who has gained a lot of publicity for being struck off, then it could have a negative effect.

Solution:

  • Ensure that your authors are recognised experts in their field
  • There are many plugins for many CMS's which can automate author schema
  • Manually creating JSON example above and adding it to the source code of an article will also work
  • Include sameAs schema for social profiles, personal websites and bio pages on other sites

So there it is, some basic mistakes to avoid with authorship on websites. Follow our advice and it will have a positive impact on how your content can perform.

NOTE: Yes I am aware that authorship has not been implemented well on this article. I'm working on it, but its an issue with the Shopify platform and I'm too tight to buy an app to fix it for me.