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It would not be a big surprise if Google was using information from Google author profiles to influence how pages rank in searches., but as yet there is no evidence to show a correlation between author profiles and better ranking URLs.

Google’s authorship markup feature allows news, other online publications and blogs to use the rel="author" tag to connect their authors’ online articles to official author profiles on Google+.

The profiles include a profile photo, biography, information about their activity and followers on Google+ as well as  links to other articles by the author.

The author thumbnail image and links from the profile show up in search results whenever the author’s content appears, helping it stand out and generating higher click-throughs. And the additional information appearing alongside results makes it easier for searchers to identify the relevant content they're looking for on the page.

By connecting online content to a verified author, authorship integration is trying to bring about 'the end of the faceless web'.

As it becomes more widely adopted, it has the potential to provide a great deal of assistance in Google's mission to categorise the vast amount of information available on the internet, and ultimately in the Google search index, as well as becoming a very important instrument in the fight against webspam.  

By having authors identify themselves through their author profile, Google can immediately draw conclusions about their popularity and relevance for specific search queries. 

The author profiles give Google information such as connections to other users, activity rate, recognition, status, etc. They also provide insights into the profile owners’ relations with other publications, their most frequent topics and the popularity of their content including user signals from the networks and click behaviour from SERPs.  

On this basis, you would expect the factor 'URL has authorship integration' to correlate well with good search rankings.

But, this is not the case, at least not to a measurable extent. Our in-depth studies on the effect of author integration on rankings have so far not delivered any truly positive or negative results.  

This ties in with results from Econsultancy's UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2013, which found most agencies didn't belive Google+ was having an impact on search campaigns.

What impact is Google+ having on your/your clients’ search campaigns?

 

We recently looked at author integration in a study of those factors that correlate with good rankings in Google UK search results based on an analysis of 10,000 keywords and 300,000 websites (analysing the top 30 positions within the SERPS).

The chart below from this study shows the distribution of URLs with author integration in the search results.

The y-axis shows the percentage of the analysed URLs with authorship integration that rank at the positions indicated on the x-axis. From this study we arrive at an insignificant correlation coefficient of of -0.013, from which you cannot make any strong assumptions.

 author integrations and Google rankings

However, even if there is no direct proof for the positive influence of authorship on the performance of search engines (among the top thirty rankings) we cannot say for sure that those pages we found ranking in the UK SERPs featuring authorship, would rank if they did not feature authorship.

There may already be some sort of impact. At the very least, you can see there are some peaks visible in the graph, indicating slight accumulations of URLs with authorship for some specific positions.

It seems sensible to assume that Google's authorship integration will likely become a very relevant factor in the categorisation and evaluation of content, especially in specialist areas and niche subjects where the author can add additional credibility.

When people stand by their content with their name and their reputation, which they may have built over a long period of time, it represents one of the most trusted factors for content verification by search engines. And it is very difficult to manipulate.

Marcus Tober

Published 4 September, 2013 by Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober is CTO at Searchmetrics GmbH and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

14 more posts from this author

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David Quaid

I think when you look at competitive searches and you see only a couple of pages with an Author link actually ranking, and in no order of the volume affecting who's first you realise actually no.

But its a great question. I suggest the answer lies deep inside how Google views the world and that always tends to underscore the future of these

I question the agency question of doing this by opinion poll. Firstly I appreciate the democracy of it but lets face it, yesterdays poll showed 49% believe in "Social Causation" following a determined and thorough albeit polite debunking by the Search Lord himself.

There are too many people with a belief looking for evidence rather than people with evidence looking for a reasonable explanation in this. Its like the tribe who believe that a site with 0 html errors will outrank a site with 10 html errors, which is just bizarre (see HTML Quality Influence on SEO).

Then, there are people who think Google enjoys reading their blog posts, and will decide on some human level, which should rank.

I've had people tell me without joking, that its about how many videos you have.

Yadda, Yadda.

over 2 years ago

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Brian O'Grady

This is a good read - thanks for 'authoring' it.

There may be no *causal* connection between authorship tags and organic search ranks. But there should be a correlation via clickthrough rates (CTR).

In addition to the CTR boost SERP results enjoy from the power of social proof (e.g. My buddy Ned's face is there? I want to read it! Click...), the article acknowledges there will be a CTR boost just from the increased real estate/visibility that a human face provides.

The same effect is measurable with both organic site links and paid ad site links - that's why they exist.

That being the case, the CTR boost alone should be sufficient to increase the SERP ranks for listings that appear with a human face, or for that matter, a hamster or bunny (but human faces will probably give the biggest boost unless hamsters or bunnies are surfing the Web).

CTR is one of the better signals Google has at its disposal for adjudicating between better and worse SERP listings. If CTR increases, it's reasonable to assume Google rewards that SERP listing with better ranks over its less clickable peers.

An interesting follow up question might be: if Google knows your demographic info and gender preference from social data, will it opt to show you a SERP result accompanied by a face attractive to you *instead* of another SERP result with equally good information accompanied by a face that's likely less attractive to you?

I guess that comes down to whether or not SERPs will show results relevant to your query, or relevant to you.

over 2 years ago

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Jim

I completely agree with you that authorship doesn't affect search engine rankings at least for now.

However, if you website is already ranking high you will see higher click-through rates because of the image next to the search result.

over 2 years ago

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Laura Brown

Are we looking at this from the wrong perspective when we're taking measurements? Instead of asking brand managers about the impact should we be focusing on audience recognition and response? Google + is increasingly becoming part of my discussions with clients when it comes to social because it fits in with personalisation. Isn't it that and it's the audience side that's important rather than how we think it's going?

In terms of authorship as a writer it's great for my personal profile. How it will impact on rankings will wait until how I figure out how to measure it.

over 2 years ago

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Robert Moore

You can over analyze anything! It is obvious that it does have "some" or "will" have some affect as otherwise Google would not have adopted it! Also bear in mind the importance of the value of seeing a face against just a boring listing. People tend to recognize faces better than URLs so it will help with "presence", Branding etc

over 2 years ago

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Shilpi Agarwal

There definitely is value to Google's Authorship. With time, we'll find out how much.

over 2 years ago

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Joseph Lowe, Personal at Personal

I believe Google Authorship has value. Back in May, we did a major overhaul to our SEO plan and included setting up Google Authorship for our blogs, after a week, results showed that there were significant increase in rankings.

over 2 years ago

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Ewan S.

I've looked at some of the data surrounding authorship markup and it's affect on rankings before.

I came to the conclusion that any correlation between authorship and enhanced rankings is only born out of the increased propensity for authorship to be implemented by sites with the pre-existing ability to rank highly.

Analogy:- the advanced driving course, it might not reduce your chances of being involved in an accident, but its likely that the applicants are already of an increased standard, which is what makes them more open and willing to take the advanced driving test.

over 2 years ago

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san jose locksmith

You can over analyze anything! It is obvious that it does have "some" or "will" have some affect as otherwise Google would not have adopted it! Also bear in mind the importance of the value of seeing a face against just a boring listing. People tend to recognize faces better than URLs so it will help with "presence", Branding etc

over 2 years ago

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Craig Loynes

I agree with San Jose. I am more likely to click on a link with an Author image.

over 2 years ago

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Denise Beckmann, WW DIgital Marketing Leader at IBM

If we build it they will come! Here is my opinion.

Many business people did not start out using gmail. The root of Google+ is having the Gmail account and setting up your profile to allow your photo and recommendations to be surfaced in the SERP.
a) The growth of Google+ and profile security is only beginning

Many businesses have the "company owned" blogs where, Like Joseph @Personal, the author tags have to be deployed. That is a big deal the larger your web presence reaches.
b) Use of rel=author is in it's infancy

I am not sure everyone wants their company to usurp their personal brand from their personal blog. (Where my opinions are my own.)
c)It is not very clear how much further google will go to mix my personal with my professional. I have separate id's to keep them separate, Google+ wants me to link them all for their good.
c) I need to understand and control my security and separate circles as I want them separated

Many will be happy to understand these impacts before we jump off the deep end.

over 2 years ago

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