John Mueller Discusses How Authority Works, Whether Authorship Matters as a Metric
During a Google Webmaster hangout on June 11, 2019, webmaster trends analyst John Mueller answered a few questions about authority and authorship and whether Google uses either as a ranking metric. The short answer? No, Google doesn’t directly measure site authority. According to Mueller, Google doesn’t have any kind of authority metric, saying: “In general, Google doesn’t evaluate a site’s authority. So it’s not something where we would give you a score on authority and say this is the general score for authority on your website. That’s not something we would be applying here.” Mueller was speaking to a webmaster who saw site traffic drop significantly following the June 2019 Core Update. This webmaster concluded that their site authoritativeness must have dropped by 50 percent as an explanation for this loss in traffic. In general, it seems as though there’s widespread misunderstanding of what, exactly, authority means for a site. Part of this stems from some understandable confusion about Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, which Google frequently points to as a starting point for improving pages and sites following an algorithm update. The Quality Rater Guidelines discuss authoritativeness and how to evaluate it in detail, but it should be noted that these guidelines are for actual, physical personnel: Google’s Quality Raters. Quality Raters don’t rate individual websites, though their feedback is used to refine Google’s search algorithm. “They do not review individual websites,” commented Mueller. “So it’s not something where you need to optimize your websites for access by quality raters.” Basically, Google’s Quality Raters don’t actually evaluate individual websites and assign a “score” for authoritativeness. According to Mueller, the only people who should be evaluating your site should be your users; he recommends getting feedback with regards to how they perceive your site.
Authoritativeness and Authorship are UX-Focused
Mueller also commented on authorship and the notion that one of the best ways to demonstrate authority to Google is via author bio pages. Mueller’s response seemed to downplay how necessary these factors are, at least as a technical issue, which sheds more light on how Google approaches the concept of site authority. “With regards to author pages and expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, that’s something where I’d recommend checking that out with your users and doing maybe a short user study, specifically for your set up, for the different setups that you have, trying to figure out how you can best show that the people who are creating content for your website, they’re really great people, they’re people who know what they’re talking about, they have credentials or whatever is relevant within your field.” Mueller advised that author bios are not necessarily a technical requirement, describing them more “as a quality thing, as a user experience thing.” Determining how authoritative a piece of information or author is can be a very subjective exercise. It’s easy to point to credentials, describe someone as an expert in their field, and make similar claims, but it really depends on how that information is backed up with regards to user experience. Mueller’s comments seem to indirectly confirm that authoritativeness, let alone an author bio, is a ranking signal, but rather a factor for better user experience.