Is Author an Authority Signal for Google?

Search marketers are familiar with signals. One of the truisms is the logic: if no one links to your site, it can’t be considered important, therefore why should it appear in the search results? The more quality links referencing your website or web pages, the better.

A lot of signals or factors behind links can affect the quality, relevance, and value of these citations. Perhaps there’s another signal to consider: Author.

On July 27, the USPTO published patent # 7,765,209, which has a filing date of September 13, 2005. The patent is assigned to Google Inc. The patent itself deals with indexing and retrieval of blogs.

The patent’s title and obvious focus is around combining a blog post with the information referenced by the blog, and using the resulting information to determine the relevance of the original entry to a search query. Appears pretty vanilla on the surface of it. But, patents relating to software processes don’t often spell out the details on the myriad of ways in which the resulting data could be used.

Having authored multiple patents and patents-pending, I know that software process patents that will detail everything you could do with the output of a process are rare. Trade secrets would cover off other possibilities. In Google’s case, trade secrets are key to their ability to maintain the market defining proprietary algorithms that anyone dealing with search marketing in any form is constantly trying to dissect to some degree.

Reading through this patent, there are a few references that beg the question: do authors have an authority score, and could it be that authors are a weighting factor to consider in the value of links? Let’s consider, at a very high level, how it could work.

Tina writes a blog post every other day, and the topic always relates to scuba diving. From within the content of the articles she cites relevant diving resources, and related articles. People from other diving sites link in; we all know that her blog is gaining authority on the subject of scuba diving. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Claim 1 in the patent in question states:

“second information, associated with the blog, from a source different than the posts included in the blog; creating, by one or more processors associated with the one or more server devices, a hybrid document by combining the first information and the second information; and using, by one or more processors associated with the one or more server devices, the hybrid document to determine a relevance of the post to a search query.”

Separately, Claims 3 & 4 are claiming the process where:

“3. The method of claim 1 where the extracting the second information includes: extracting, from a feed, at least one of a title of the blog, an author of the blog, or a profile of the author of the blog.

4. The method of claim 3 where the extracting the second information further includes: extracting, from the blog, at least one of a profile of the author of the blog or a blogroll.”

Continuing to read through the claims, we see defined the creation of a hybrid document that combines association markers and information about the author stored in a searchable index for use in determining the relevance of a post to a query.

So now, we have not just an index of documents that are relevant to both a query, but also a database of terms/subject to an author. That’s correct, this patent could indicate that the author’s consistent association to a topic builds their score, and not just the blog’s, as an authority on a topic.

Take it the next step, Tina then submits a guest post about diving on a blog about rock climbing. It’s related, but not close to same subject matter. She brings her authority score with her, so the post has a credibility factor with the search engines.

The blog she’s posted on may or may not be popular, or have the same authority score in its domain as the author. However, by association the blog benefits from having a highly relevant authority contributor, and the author benefits from being viewed as slightly more relevant to more sports than just diving.

This could mean that having guest posts on your site, and submitting guest posts is more valuable than previously thought, but in different ways. It also could mean that the diversity of topics about which an author writes should be a consideration for analysis.

Would Tina prefer a PR 5 link from a site about sea kayaking, or from a guest post about diving by an authority on the space posted on a PR 4 automobile site? Could the author’s singular focus on diving create an association wherein these vehicles were somehow useful for divers? User behavior/intent is always a signal. Is this a layer we haven’t really gone deep enough into previously?

At a more simple level, do different authors on the same blog carry different authority scores dependant on topic, followers, readership, and the like? There really is no limit to the number of associations or information points used in the hybrid document discussed in this patent.

We all know certain authors are more popular than others, but perhaps their long-tail effect is different than surmised?

So what do you think? Could “Author Authority” be a signal for Google?

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