Five months ago, I gave a presentation at a conference about content marketing. Part of the presentation was about Google Authorship. Afterwards, Grant Crowell approached me and told me he was planning to interview Sagar Kamdar, the Google engineer on the Authorship program. He asked if Id like to offer some questions. Of course, I said yes!
On July 7th, Sagar responded to the questions we submitted and before long, Grant posted the story on Search Engine Journal. But not all of the interview was used.
For the first time, you can read the full text. Here it is…
What is the official name of Google's Author program? (Is it author rank, or something else? Does it go by multiple names?)
What is the purpose of having the Author program?
Answer: People all over the world are creating great content on the web, and we work hard to make that content discoverable on Google. But for users to get the best answers to their questions, its also important to be able to connect them with the people who are behind the amazing content on the web.
To light up the people behind the webpages, we wanted to start highlighting the people creating this content in Google.com search results. People discovering information on the web often want to learn more about who created it, see other content by them, and even interact with them. By seeing the person associated with the content instead of just a link, users can have an easier time engaging with the person behind the content, while at the same time more easily identifying high-quality content of interest to them.
When was this program first started? How has it been rolled out to the public?
We started a little over a year ago, June 28th 2011 to be exact. We started our program with just a few authors and now have hundreds of thousands of authors. Were still in pilot phase as were learning a lot from authors and our users, and we continue to improve.
What type of factors go into weighting an Authors influence?
Answer: Authorship is not currently used as a ranking signal. As an author, if you continue to create high quality content that your readers love, you're on the right track. [Ed.: AJ Kohn made some interesting observations about other benefits of authorship]
Remedy – One blogger over at SEOMoz commented ,in his article How Authorship (and Google+) Will Change Link Building, that he believes the Authorship program is meant to remedy the situation of SEO manipulation of linking strategies, and improve trust issues with relevancy of results. Do you have any comment on that?
Answer: We use over 200 signals to determine search ranking, and although authorship is not currently one of those signals, we hope to experiment with using information about authorship as a signal in ranking in the future. We hope it will improve the search experience over time as we believe that often times content associated with real identity is of higher quality than content published anonymously.
Is there a way for someone to check out their Author rank score like they can in Klout or other influence measurement programs?
Answer: Not at this point in time.
Does Google Authorship markup help Google identify duplicate content?
Answer: Its one of many potential signals we could use in identifying duplicate content.
Reason why I ask is I followed a guest post by Andy Crestodina, Nice Blogs Finished Last. It was a guest post on another bloggers site. But when you search for this title, you find many other sites that posted an excerpt, many of which have the rel="author" markup on the page, as if each of them is also claiming authorship. Here's a screenshot of the search results…
How does Authorship help address "non-authored" content such as computer generated content (Narrative Science), off-shore $.40 per article ghost writers (Journatic) or computer based article "spinning" (rewriting programs with synonym replacement algorithms)
Answer: This is really the whole point of authorship. Its pretty clear readers really want to know who is creating the great content they are reading and have a way to learn more about them. When there's a real person behind the content and they've set themselves up to participate in our authorship program, people will see their identity alongside the content in search results. More importantly users can quickly see who else likes an author (# of circles an author is in), interact with the author on Google+ and see other articles by that author.
Is Author Rank currently factoring into search rankings? Also, do publisher sites that have bloggers with high Author Rank programs contribute articles to their site (and with their author tag embedded) stand to benefit more in terms of search visibility and SEO?
Answer: Not at this time. We hope to experiment with using information about authorship as a signal in ranking in the future. We hope it will improve the search experience over time as we believe that often times content associated with real identity is of higher quality than content published anonymously.
Is Author Rank based on social activity outside of Google+?
Answer: Yes. Were working on a number of signals to identify high quality authors.
The More By link – Often times the "More by [name]" link doesn't show all of the articles by that author. Is there any partitioning of articles of any kind, or is goal for that link to show an author's total body of work?
Answer: We show all the articles we have crawled and indexed that have been set up for authorship. Often times when an article is missing its because authorship wasn't set up correctly on the content or we haven't recrawled/indexed it since it was set up.
How long does it typically take for Google to make the connection?
Answer: After an author is set up correctly, it just depends on when we recrawl/index the content.
Do you have any advice for journalists who have already written hundreds of articles? (Re: How they can get their past articles on both their own website and websites they are guest contributors for, to show up with their author identification in Google search results?)
Answer: We have two options:
a) if you have an e-mail address on the domain you write for, its best to verify the e-mail address and well attempt to link all the content on that domain with your Google+ identity,
b) on most content management systems there's a common footer/header on each article. If people can configure the footer or header to set up authorship correctly its a relatively painless task to get set up. You can see some examples below:
The most important thing is to make sure on any new content you write you've set up authorship correctly.
Are there any posted resources you recommend I check out for further information?
Answer: Please check out our simplified sign-up tool available at https://plus.google.com/authorship.
We have made many changes to our help article to make things simpler to understand on how to get set up: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1408986
Our rich snippets testing tool will give you immediate feedback on whether you've set up things correctly or not: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets
We hope you enjoyed reading this. Its always a pleasure to get direct answers on an important topic from a Google engineer. Maybe well have another chance to interview Sagar. I'd like to ask him about Author Stats and see how Author Rank is coming along.
What would you like to ask Sagar Kamdar?
If you liked this interview, you might also enjoy Ruud Questions Mike Grehan
Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He's also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing