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Is Google Authorship just an elaborate spam-detection tool?

If you’re reading this blog then you’re probably familiar with the world of SEO and link building. You probably also like to keep up on the most recent SEO and link building news; and by keeping up on the latest SEO news I imagine that you have come across an article or two about Google+ and Google Authorship. The topic of Google Authorship has been beaten like a dead horse within the SEO community (in fact you may have rolled your eyes when you saw those two words in the title of this article) and for the most part it has been widely championed. However, a recent theory about Authorship being nothing more than an elaborate spam-detection tool has interested me greatly and I would like to examine this idea more closely.

Skepticism and Hesitation Regarding Authorship

As mentioned before, many people within the SEO community have endorsed Google Authorship but it seems that there are still some who are hesitant to claim it. Some skepticism over Authorship remains as seen by articles like this that claim Authorship actually decreased traffic.

Although the claims in this article appear to be inaccurate as even Google’s own Matt Cutts came out and explained that the recent Penguin update was the reason for the drop. However, I find this mistrust of Authorship very interesting. A much more plausible reason for the skepticism surrounding Authorship is in regards to SEOs and the potential for Google to utilize Authorship as an anti-spam tool.

Possibility of Google Authorship as a Spam-Detection Tool

This is the actual idea that intrigued me and inspired me to write this article. The reason that this notion piqued my interest is that it is much more plausible. It may not be the case at all, but with the way Authorship is set up there is certainly potential for Google to use it in this manner.

The way that Authorship works is by connecting your content on the web to your G+ profile. This is done through a rel=author tag in your content and a “Contributor to” list on your G+ profile. The contributor list is where this concept of Authorship as an anti-spam tool was derived. It could be possible for Google to track which websites you are contributing to and devalue your links if they appear to be unnatural.

For instance, an author who writes on many different topics in many different niches may seem suspicious to Google. Those who are hesitant to claim Authorship believe that they will be penalized for contributing to various different blogs (for which there is yet to be any proof). Also, there is fear that if you are an employee writing on behalf of a company that your links will be diminished as well because Google can see that you work for said company (again, no proof yet).

Potential Effects on SEO

Mind you, this is very hypothetical; but if Authorship turned out to be nothing more than an elaborate spam-detection tool, it would have an effect on some SEOs. Namely, it would have an effect on black-hat SEOs. Remember, this would be a tool that fights against SPAM! The type of potential penalties that would be imposed shouldn’t affect any type of white-hat SEO practices.

As mentioned before, Google could possibly keep tabs on an author’s contributor list but as long as that author was contributing quality content, in the eyes of Google, I see no reason as to why they would be penalized. This is why it is so important to determine what constitutes quality content in the eyes of Google and as an SEO you should be producing content that falls under these criteria.

A few different factors come into play when Google is determining what is valuable and quality content. One thing that Google uses to determine quality is audience interaction such as comments, social shares, etc. This makes sense, as a high quality article that provides value to its audience would inspire engagement and interaction. Google is always looking to improve the user experience and when they see high levels of interaction they know that the content sparking the engagement must provide some value to users. Google rewards content that provides value to its audience and Google uses audience interaction as an indication of this.

Another thing to consider when trying to produce content that would be viewed as valuable in the eyes of Google is the caliber of site you are publishing your content on. This is where Google could potentially penalize authors through the “Contributor To” list as those that contribute to low-quality; spammy sites would surely be punished. You want to place your content on a trusted and high quality site that has a high level of audience engagement. A good way to determine the quality of the site is by checking its domain authority, which can be found by using a tool like the MozBar.

It makes sense that Google would view content on these sites as more valuable since sites with a higher domain authority (DA) tend to be more difficult to publish on and have higher standards than lower DA sites. Relevancy is also something to keep in mind, as the content you produce should be relevant to the site it is on and the audience it is written for. After all, there won’t be much audience interaction if the content isn’t relevant and as I mentioned before that is a bad thing.

As for the argument of Google discrediting links from authors who list their employers, I see no negative effects for white-hat SEOs here either. As long as the person is producing content that Google would view as high quality and valuable, Google has no reason to diminish the value of these links as this content would still provide value to the audience, regardless of who the author works for.

If Google were by chance to eventually implement any of the ideas mentioned here, it would certainly have an effect on SEO. However, I fell this would be a good effect as it would deter spammers and black-hat SEOs from tarnishing and abusing the platform of guest posting. Regardless of Google’s future intentions with Authorship; producing high quality content that engages readers on high caliber sites will not only keep you in the good graces of Google but also improve the overall landscape of the internet as a whole.

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