Does Author Authority Still Matter For SEO? (More Insights From the Google Leak)

Within 24 hours of publishing my key takeaways on the Google leak, I received three separate questions about author authority and its relevance in modern-day SEO. 

Does author authority still matter? How is Google treating authorship? Is authority marketing still worth it?

Let’s dive a bit deeper into this subject—starting with what we learned from the Google leak and the best ways to move forward as you’re building authority in your industry. 

The Google Leak Contradicts What We Thought About E-E-A-T

Honestly, this was one of the most frustrating parts of the Google leak. Google has been beating E-A-T and E-E-A-T down our throats for over five years. 

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trust

First introduced in 2018 and then modified in 2022 (adding another “E”), the “authoritativeness” aspect never changed—which told me and SEOs everywhere that author authority is a huge component of how Google evaluates and ranks content. 

However, I’ve read dozens of articles from top SEO news sites (prior to the leak) stating that Google actually doesn’t care about author authority and that it’s not a ranking single. This always struck me as odd because I thought author authority was such a major part of SEO. So I took those opinions with a grain of salt—and figured that authority marketing, at minimum, helped search optimization indirectly. 

But the leak tells us that every part of E-E-A-T is more about the website than the author. 

It’s a bit frustrating, considering the fact that Google’s latest search quality guidelines continuously mention “content creator” throughout its recommendations. 

If you read this closely, you can see that Google does not use the terms “content creator” and “website” interchangeably. They consistently say “content creator or website,” implying that they can each establish experience, expertise, and authority. 

Obviously, I wouldn’t expect a brand new website to rank instantly even if it had the #1 most authoritative figure in that niche producing the content. However, I would expect that person’s content to rank elsewhere on established websites.

But leaked documents tell me that the content creator alone won’t be enough to move the needle—the website itself is much more important. 

The Publisher is More Important Than the Author Byline

One major takeaway from the leak is that Google can identify website owners and content creators—but the author bylines aren’t very important. 

Dixon Jones published a searchable table of all entries from the Google leak. It’s the easiest way to search for specific information, quickly, and it’s fun to play around with if you’re interested in learning more. 

In doing so, I found that the isPublisher seems to hold much more weight than isAuthor and byline. For starters, the vast majority of the byline information is related to the date of an article. 

But if we look a bit deeper and search for the isAuthor, we can see that Google mainly developed this for news articles.

So unless we’re referring to content on a trusted news website, the isAuthor field doesn’t seem to hold significant weight. 

We also learned that Google uses boolean logic to determine whether it understands who the publisher of a page—aka the website owner. This seems to be what Google cares about the most. 

Without going down a technical rabbit hole, the way to build authority here is by making sure that Google recognizes the publisher and author—but the byline is not the way to do that. 

In many ways, this makes sense. 

Anyone can put in a byline that they’ve been an “expert in the field for 20 years” even if that’s not true. Instead, bylines can be used to help improve the reader experience and they’re a requirement for news articles. 

How to Optimize Your Site Accordingly Using This New Information

Now what? This appears to be another instance where Google has been telling us one thing, but is really doing another (similar to how they told us previously that they don’t have a sitewide authority score, but the leak proves they do). 

In terms of author authority, your byline alone won’t get the job done. Here’s what you need to do:

Don’t Abandon Your Traditional SEO Approach

I’m still a firm believer that content marketing is one of the best, if not the best, way to build sustainable long-term traffic and authority over time. Nothing in the leak has told me to abandon traditional SEO approaches.

  • Keep creating great content
  • Create different types of content (blogs, podcasts, videos, etc.)
  • Publish your content on a regular basis
  • Nail the technical components of SEO
  • Continue building quality backlinks

All of this stuff is still important, and it will help send signals to Google not just about you—but about your website (and that’s one of the most important things we’ve learned). 

Recognize How Google Differentiates “Website Owner” From “Content Creator”

Remember, Google is treating authors and publishers as two separate entities. So to be effective here, you need to optimize each of these with a different approach.

But you need to optimize for the publisher first, otherwise Google likely won’t recognize the author. 

That’s because the website owner guarantees the content. So Google needs to trust that entity before they consider the author of a particular article. 

Make Sure Google Fully Understands Who You Are and What You Do

Due to the boolean logic used by Google, you need to make sure that Google clearly understands who you are and what you do. This is crucial for the entity who publishes the content (the website owner).

Google will prioritize entities in the search results when they are confident in exactly what that entity does, what they do, and what audiences they serve. They do this through things like:

  • Making sure all information on the home page is accurate and consistent everywhere
  • You have a wide range of company profiles on other platforms to corroborate this
  • There are mentions and inbound links of your entity on other websites, including implicit and explicit mentions

Overlooking this step could be detrimental, as your other optimization efforts won’t matter if this stuff isn’t clear. 

Establish Credibility

You and your website need to be credible and trustworthy in the eyes of Google.

  • Google will think you’re credible if your website is cited by leading resources (especially major media companies and news sites)
  • Your entity has a positive sentiment from users, clients, and other people in your target market across multiple sources on the web
  • It’s clear that you are transparent, accurate, and provide up-to-date information that resonates with your audience
  • Other authoritative websites link to your entity home
  • You have recent and relevant relationships with other market leaders in your industry

This is why it’s so important for you to really educate Google’s algorithms from multiple angles. 

What Else Can You Do To Build Authority?

Most of what we’ve discussed so far highlights new information that we learned from the leak. But practically speaking, there are two actionable steps you can take right now to ensure you’re actually building authority. 

Diversify Your Approach

You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, you need to look at other avenues that send the appropriate signals to Google. 

Blogging, social media marketing, video content, podcasting, PR—you need all of this.

Maybe you conduct some proprietary research or new study on highly topical matter in your niche, then trusted publishers cite that study in their content. Or maybe you work hard on getting positive publicity to appear on major news publications. Google recognizes this stuff and will reward you accordingly. 

Jump on the Talk Marketing Train

Starting a podcast will open up more doors then you can possibly imagine. 

Podcasting one of the best ways to expose your brand to new audiences and create content using a different format. I also encourage you to be a guest on other podcasts, as it’s another way to build credibility. 

For many people, podcasting is actually much easier than writing and producing blog content. Putting your ideas and knowledge in writing is extremely difficult for those who don’t have a writing background. Plus, writing is time-consuming and audiences are limited with when they can consume written content. 

But with a podcast, you’re just speaking into a microphone. It’s easier to convey your thoughts and your audience can listen to your episodes hands-free in any place or time that’s convenient for them. 

So, Does Author Authority Still Matter or Not?

Yes, author authority still matters. But establishing authority isn’t as simple as just creating a byline—Google may be ignoring this altogether. 

Instead, you need to build authority through other avenues. 

Optimizing your website is crucial, as this is one of the first things Google will consider. If Google doesn’t know who owns your site and whose reputation is on the line, your chances of success dramatically decrease.

I think it’s equally important to explore other avenues to establish yourself and your brand as an authoritative source. Podcasting and talk marketing are two approaches that can really move the needle the most. It’s a win-win scenario, as you can reach people organically through another medium while simultaneously building authority with Google.

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