During his keynote speech at Pubcon in Las Vegas, Matt Cutts talked about many things that Google is focusing its attention towards for the future of search. Of those things, he mentioned that social authorship will have an influence on search ranking. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn about authorship, what it is, and what it can do for you.


Hello, and welcome to the Daily Brown Bag. I’m Chad Hill and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer. Today we wanted to talk about Matt Cutts’ recent keynote speech at PubCon. Adam, what happened there?

Hey, good morning, Chad. Yeah, when Matt Cutts comes out and makes these speeches, it’s a lot like the fed talking about the financial markets. Matt Cutts is, of course, the distinguished engineer of the webspam team at Google. He was talking about a lot of things related to search and the future for Google and how they’re evolving the algorithm. One of the topics that dominated his speech was the Hummingbird algorithm which was released fairly recently, because it’s a pretty core change in how they’re trying to improve search.

With Hummingbird, Google is trying to derive meaning from the search phrases and the search string and answer that question as strongly as they can, as opposed to doing what they described in their old methodology as more of a word-to-word match. So, that’s a fairly esoteric description and I don’t think a lot of people really know what that means. What Matt Cutts himself pointed out was that it was out for a month--it was released in the last week of August, we now know-- but it wasn’t really announced until late in September, and not a whole lot of people noticed. Now, since it’s been discussed, there have been a lot of scathing reports about how search has declined in quality, but Matt Cutts and Google have been fairly dismissive of that because no one noticed before they started talking about it, which is a fair point.

One of the other big things that happened at PubCon where Matt Cutts was discussing changes and the future was really this whole idea of authorship, getting into social identity and authenticity, and talking about authorship as a signal that you are an authority in a certain topic. He didn’t say this was in the algorithm strongly today, but he did mention it several times, and we’ve heard before that it may be a future signal that people in the internet marketing community need to start paying attention to. So, Chad, let’s dive into it. What is authorship and why should people care about this?

Authorship is something Google released when they rolled out Google Plus, their answer to Facebook and Twitter, their social network. What it does is allow you to link your profile, essentially your picture, to content that you publish on other websites. Oftentimes, this might be content that you write on your own website, so for example, here at Semify we write a blog post and when someone searches on that topic in Google, we want to have a picture of whoever the author was show up next to that search result.

Studies have shown that that improves the click-through rate to the website. Basically the way that you set this up is that first you have to have a Google Plus profile, and then you go to plus.google.com/authorship and there’s a way for you to link your Google Plus profile to a website to say, “I’m an author on this website. It’s a little complicated, and believe me, we’ve been on many phone calls trying to get things set up right, but the second part is that you also have to try to link your website to that specific profile. So, your website has to actually link back and say, “This is an identified, real author who is on our website.” Once you do that, you’ll get that linkage and it’s essentially going to show in the Google search results.

Google’s not saying that anonymous content can’t exist on the web, or even that they won’t show it and it won’t be indexed or past PageRanked. But, they are saying that they want to give preference to content that is verified. Here is an interesting quotation from Eric Schmidt, who said, “Within the search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification.” So they’re definitely saying, or at least signalling, that this is a future signal to come, so that sounds like it’s going to have an impact on rankings, Chad.

Yeah, and I think that really, today, as you said, Adam, authorship is not necessarily [a major factor]. I’ve seen plenty of results where the top ranking item does not necessarily have someone’s identity, and something down the page does. The trick on this really is that there’s been a lot of confusion about when you’re supposed to say you’re the author of a page, and when are you not? There’s some information here in Google’s guidelines that says that you shouldn’t do this for product pages and things that are really not authored by a person.

But, there’s always some grey area around the home page. A lot of peoples’ home pages rank on a lot of the terms. That’s not really a blog post that’s authored by a person. Typically, it’s a marketing team that put together that content, but should you have authorship on a home page? A lot of people say “Of course, because that’s the page that shows up most often in the search results, and I want my name attached to that page.” But other people say, “You know, you’re not really supposed to do that.” There are still some questions about how this roll out is going to work and ultimately where this is going to go, given some of the comments that you just mentioned.

Excellent, Chad. I think a cautionary note there is wise, because Google does not swing wildly into these things. They tend to test, and then as they do see verification from their engineers, they've got a lot of PhDs working on this, the mathematics are pretty heavy, they tend to slowly ease into things. So, again, we offer the same caution. Don’t go running into this [thinking], “I’ve got to put authorship on every page! That’s going to fix everything!” No, this is going to be a slow migration, probably with a few bumps. We’ll continue to cover it.

The one last note, I would say, from PubCon that was of interest to me was that Matt Cutts said that perhaps Google had overdone it with Panda, and there’s a potential that they will be rolling back some of the Panda-related filters which caused some websites to lose rankings, so in this specific case, if it was a Panda problem you had, you should actually expect some rankings to be restored. So, again, Google is not perfect with these changes. They test things, and if they don’t think they’re headed in the right direction, they roll them back. We’d definitely like to hear your comments and reactions to what Matt Cutts said at PubCon, rather it’s related to Hummingbird, authorship, or a Panda problem. Put it in the comments, and we hope to see you back here if you subscribe to our YouTube channel.