Especially in the fight against “fake news”, Google now seems to look even more than before at the reputation of content authors. It will therefore not only be more important for websites in the future to pay attention to high-quality content. You also need authors who already have a good reputation and proven expertise in the topic.
The reputation of content has long played a role in the search results of Google & Co. If, for example, the content was created several years ago and has collected more and more incoming links over the years, it is viewed more highly and receives a (small) bonus for it. If he has a clearly defined topic and presents it comprehensively, he can even rise to authority. Keeping content up to date and expanding it is also seen as a positive signal.
This evaluation makes a lot of sense from the perspective of a search engine: Experience has shown that a page recommendation will usually be correct if the content has been revised and recommended again for a long time.
Incoming links from other highly regarded sites count as an important signal. And those who are linked and recommended by authorities increase their reputation even more.
Google and SEOs competing
In all of this, Google pursues an important goal: its automatics (algorithms) should ideally judge content as a person would. They are always trying to get closer to this ideal.
Of course, they are competing with search engine optimizers: They react to what the search engine particularly appreciates and what elements it uses to evaluate a website. This procedure is, of course, more than legitimate for well-made content. However, spam always ends up in the top spots. After all these years of progress, machines can still be tricked.
In addition, there is the “fake news” problem these days: content that is fictitious or exaggerated can collect a lot of links and likes if it strikes a nerve among readers. This in turn can lead to Google recommending content from questionable sources or simply giving wrong answers.
Pages that buy content cheaply or that can be created by machines fall into the same category. They can also land at the front. After all, they are often better optimized for what Google likes right now than the contributions of specialist authors, who sometimes don’t care so much about SEO.
The reputation of the authors is becoming more important
Now there are signs that Google wants to increasingly include the reputation of content creators. For example, it plays a much more important role in the “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines” that has just been updated. These guidelines are intended for human helpers who manually evaluate Google’s search results.
These employees do not directly influence the ranking of websites. Rather, they provide Google’s algorithm experts with valuable information on where the automatic system already works well and where it still fails. You will thus find out where Google’s machines are still too far away from the idea of being able to judge content like people.
Google is of course aware that its “guidelines” are also read by website owners. In this respect, they point out, for example, that ratings on corresponding portals do not give too much faith. Because they often come from the webmasters themselves. Instead, the document recommends looking for opinions and statements about the company and website from an independent source. Above all, contradictions between the self-portrayal of the company and its external warning are mentioned as an important warning signal.
The document mentions news articles, Wikipedia entries, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and evaluations by independent organizations as possible credible sources.
Interestingly, customer reviews are only cited with a good deal of skepticism as a source. The guidelines refer to the fact that fake reviews can be bought and that this is the norm. It also says that you should pay more attention to the text of the reviews and not so much to the overall rating.
When it comes to assessing the quality of a page, Google lists the following factors:
- Purpose of the site. If sites do not aim to provide help and even spread hatred or misinformation, they automatically get the lowest rating without further research.
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT). So this is about how trustworthy and recognized the site or its creators are.
- Quality and scope of the content.
- Information about the person or institution responsible for the content.
- The reputation of the person or institution responsible for the content.
In the further explanations of the guidelines, reference is repeatedly made to the author of the content and his reputation, expertise, and trustworthiness – even before the actual content or the website itself has been assessed.
And when it comes to the content, the helpers should not only assess the pure facts but also, for example, whether it is well researched and written.
An AI like Google’s Rank Brain should do the trick
Mark Traphagen sees a trend in the guideline changes in his article for the Search Engine Journal. He refers to an experiment that Google had a few years ago: Websites should particularly label the links to their author pages. In return, Google had shown the author’s name directly in the search results. This element no longer exists today, but Mark Traphagen assumes that the basic idea remains very lively. And he sees a strong sign of this in the latest changes to the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
He points to a point in the guidelines that is particularly important from his point of view: Even if a website already has a good reputation on a topic, each content is still assessed individually according to the reputation of the author. In other words, there is no general bonus. Each content must prove its credibility and expertise again. And the author plays a crucial role in this. It is therefore also rated as negative if the content does not have a recognizable, explicitly named author.
Despite all of this, he emphasizes that there is currently no indication that the author’s reputation is already being used as a signal for the ranking of websites. However, he considers it very likely that Google will go in exactly this direction and, for example, train its artificially intelligent systems on it. Google Rank Brain is certainly the most prominent example of such projects. Google will try to determine whether the content is assigned to an author and what information is available about that person.
At the moment, Google sees this topic as particularly urgent for all sites that offer information on life support topics such as finance or health. After all, wrong or untrustworthy advice is particularly dangerous here. At the same time, it can be expected that Google will ultimately extend this to other subject areas. Because at the end of the day, the search engine wants to recommend the best content.
It seems logical and understandable that Google also wants to use the creators of content to assess its quality. We humans often do the same thing. We know who is familiar with a topic and who has shown in the past that the facts are correct or that the opinion expressed was valuable.
At the same time, this means for companies that they must already have the next step in mind: It is no longer just a matter of attracting positive attention with well-researched and done content. Now they also need well-known specialist authors to assert themselves against the competition. As a user and customer, you can only welcome such a development.