Google Says These Are Not Good Signals

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Gary Illyes from Google provided insights during a recent interview at a search conference in May 2024 regarding Google’s trust in signals controlled directly by site owners and SEOs. His comments shed light on what site owners and SEOs should prioritize when optimizing websites. Despite the interview receiving little attention, it contains valuable information about digital marketing and Google’s methods for ranking web pages.

Authorship Signals

Someone inquired about the potential return of authorship signals by Google. Authorship has been a focal point for some SEOs, stemming from Google’s suggestion that they consult the Search Quality Raters Guidelines to understand Google’s ranking objectives. Unfortunately, some SEOs took this advice too literally and began scrutinizing the guidelines for ranking signals.

Digital marketers started viewing EEAT (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as actual criteria that Google’s algorithms prioritize, leading to the belief that authorship signals could impact rankings.

The concept of authorship signals isn’t unreasonable; Google once provided a method for site owners and SEOs to convey metadata about webpage authorship. However, Google eventually abandoned this initiative.

SEO-Controlled Markup Is Untrustworthy

During an interview, Gary Illyes of Google addressed the query regarding authorship signals, quickly noting within the same breath that Google has found SEO-controlled data on web pages (markup) often tends to become spammy, implying its lack of trustworthiness.

The interviewer’s question was as follows:

“Will Google be reintroducing authorship in the near future, something reminiscent of the old authorship?”

Gary Illyes responded:

“Um… I’m not aware of any such plans, and honestly, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about anything along those lines, especially not something resembling what we had from 2011 to 2013. Almost any markup that SEOs and site owners can manipulate tends to turn into some form of spam.”

To elaborate further, Gary explained why SEO and author-controlled markup are not considered reliable signals by Google:

“And generally they are not good signals. That’s why rel-canonical, for example, is not a directive but a hint. And that’s why Meta description is not a directive, but something that we might consider and so on.

Introducing a similar approach for authorship, I believe, would be a mistake.”

Understanding the inadequacy of SEO-manipulated data as signals is crucial because many in the search marketing community attempt to influence Google by falsifying authorship signals through counterfeit author profiles, fabricated reviews purporting to be firsthand experiences, and meticulously crafted metadata (such as titles and meta descriptions) designed solely to optimize for specific keywords.

What About Algorithmically Determined Authorship?

Gary then addressed the notion of algorithmically determined authorship signals, surprising some by describing these signals as lacking value. This statement may disappoint SEOs and site owners who have invested significant effort in enhancing their web pages with updated authorship data.

The idea of the importance of “authorship signals” for ranking is a concept that some SEOs developed independently, not one promoted by Google. In fact, figures like John Mueller and SearchLiaison from Google have consistently played down the importance of author profiles over the years.

Gary elaborated on algorithmically determined authorship signals:

“Implementing something similar for authorship, I believe, would be a mistake. While algorithmic determination could potentially improve accuracy, I personally don’t see significant value in it.”

The interviewer noted instances where rel-canonicals were often unreliable:

“I’ve personally encountered many instances where canonical tags were implemented poorly, so I appreciate knowing that it’s more of a suggestion than a strict rule.”

Gary’s response to concerns about unreliable canonical tags was intriguing because he didn’t diminish the importance of “suggestions.” Instead, he hinted that while some suggestions carry more weight, they still fall short of being directives—obligations that Google must adhere to, such as a noindex meta tag.

Gary clarified the strength of rel-canonical tags as a suggestion:

“I mean, it’s a strong suggestion, but still, it’s a suggestion.”

Gary emphasized that although rel=canonical is a strong suggestion, it indicates varying degrees of trust in the inputs provided by publishers. Google’s preference for rel-canonical reflects the recognition that publishers have a vested interest in getting it right. In contrast, data like authorship could be susceptible to manipulation or false information, making it less reliable in Google’s assessment.

What Does It All Mean?

Gary’s remarks provide a basis for understanding the proper approach to web page optimization. He, along with other Google representatives, has consistently stated that authorship is not a priority for Google. This notion was conceived by SEOs themselves rather than endorsed by Google.

Furthermore, this guidance underscores the importance of not overestimating the significance of metadata controlled by site owners or SEOs.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal