The Failings of Google Authorship

October 29, 2014

A couple years ago, Google began pushing its Authorship markup program—its plan to verify the authorship of items in its search results and to supply author photos alongside verified entries. The idea, of course, was to convey trust in articles’ sources. Now, though, the initiative seems to be dead, and blogger David Leonhardt gives us “Google Authorship- the 3 Reasons Why It Failed.” Apparently, the average searcher was not persuaded to trust a source because of its writer’s smiling visage. In fact, says Leonhardt, those photos seemed to deter some searchers. He writes:

“Hindsight is 20/20 vision, so let’s put on our hindsight goggles and review the three reasons.

1. Trust and authority differ for different types of searches.

2. People trust institutions more than strangers.

3. People select between news and opinion.”

The post elaborates on each point. For example, Leonhardt identifies the three types of searching: for a purchase, for entertainment, and for information; each of these suggests different criteria for “authority.” He also observes that people looking for opinion seem to be swayed by seeing a trusted journalist’s face, but those looking for hard facts tend to click on entries sporting a news organization’s logo. See the write-up for more on these reasons behind Authorship’s downfall.

Could the authorship concept be saved, or revived? The post speculates:

“If Google can harness this understanding of what ‘authority’ means for various searches and flag individual author expertise and institutional expertise accordingly, it might still be able to help people find the most trusted authorities for a given search. Or here’s a novel idea: Google could do what it is already doing: trying to float the most trustworthy authoritative pages to the top of its results, where people tend to click through the most anyway. The face, or the logo, would not give the entry authority – it’s ranking would (and does).”

So, problem solved—there is no problem.

Cynthia Murrell, October 29, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Google Big Gun Discusses Authorship Program

August 1, 2012

Have you noticed the little author profile pictures that have begun popping up in Google results pages over the past year or so? If you are curious, you may want to see Search Engine Journal’s “Google Authorship: An Interview with Google’s Sagar Kamdar.” One of many Googley efforts at social search, Authorship is an program for verifying Web page authors. Writer Grant Crowell reports:

“Kamdar explained to me that the Authorship program was based on the premise that content associated with a real identity is often of higher quality than content published anonymously. . . .

“Of course, one of the important reasons that Google implemented the Authorship program is to help them identify duplicate content. Some authors have had problems with others ranking higher than them in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for their own original content. Authorship is supposed to push the original author to the top of the rankings when someone does a search for their article.”

That’s great! But wait just a moment– Google’s method is to have authors point their pages to their Google+ profiles. One could be excused for viewing this as yet another way to push Google+ onto the world. Google would stand to gain if every author without a Google+ account took on a patina if inauthenticity. Not so good for a writer like me, who is too stubborn to bow to the Google+ takeover (so far, at least.)

From the interview, we learn that Authorship does not, as of yet, directly factor into the search ranking algorithm. Instead, it is one of several “social signals” that are used to weight search results. The write up notes that the inclusion of an author photo can be a valuable tool; people like to click on pictures. Such are the observations of an SEO pro.

Cynthia Murrell, August 1, 2012

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Google Steers SEO Pros Toward User Experience

January 21, 2015

Curious to learn where Google is driving the search-engine optimization field these days? Search Engine Watch tells us, “6 Major Changes Reveal the Future of SEO.” Writer Eric Enge declares, “Google is doing a brilliant job of pushing people away from tactical SEO behavior and toward a more strategic approach.” Um, okay. As long as that means more relevant information for users.

The article lists Eng’s six observations and what each means for SEO approaches. For example, Google has stopped handing users’ keyword data to websites, requiring them to use other methods to monitor keyword performance. Then there’s the Hummingbird algorithm, which Enge says is really a major platform change. The write-up also considers the current influence of Google+ and Google’s Authorship program. Finally, Enge cites the In-Depth Article feature Google introduced last August, which points users to more comprehensive sources of information. See the article for more on each of these points. Enge concludes:

“All of these new pieces play a role in getting people to focus on their authority, semantic relevance, and the user experience. Again, this is what Google wants.

“For clarity, I’m not saying that Google designed these initiatives specifically to stop people from being tactical and make them strategic. I don’t really know that. It may simply be the case that Google operates from a frame of reference that they want to find and reward outstanding sites, pages, and authors that offer outstanding answers to user’s search queries. But the practical impact is the same.

“The focus now is on understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility, and providing a great experience for the users of your site.”

Well, this does sound like a good shift for users. Will SEO workers used to focusing on PageRank data and keywords learn to adapt?

Cynthia Murrell, January 21, 2015

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Google: Authors Not Helping Traffic

August 30, 2014

First, Google removed operators for Boolean queries. Then, Google started suggesting what I wanted. Now, Google does away with authors. These steps improve user experience. In John  Mueller’s Google Plus post I learned:

(If you’re curious — in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)

No, I am not curious. I know several things. Precision and recall are less and less useful to Google.

What is important is ad revenue. Google wants a way to sell ads to fund projects like Loon, Glass, and drones. Oh, pesky authors anyway.

Stephen E Arnold, August 30, 2014

Google+ Benefits Debated

November 16, 2011

Everyone who performs a Google search, and honestly we all fall into that category, has noticed the +1 that appears next to certain Web sites. Despite the fact that over 40 million people have signed up for Google+ many people, myself included, remain suspicious of the role it will play in our daily lives.

While there has been some debate concerning the impact that Google+has on our personal lives, few would argue that it impacts our businesses. The Web Pro News article “Google+ Pages A Must For Businesses, But Come Off As Rushed”  states:

Social and authorship are two big elements in ranking success these days, and Google+ plays to both of these. The +1 button, which we know influences rankings, is obviously a big part of the Google+ feature set. This is a signal that helps Google determine how good people think a piece of content or a Web site is, and now, perhaps even a business in general. Now, with the launch of Google+ Pages, businesses get to tie the +1’s on their Pages to the +1’s on their site (though this doesn’t seem to be working fully just yet), which should send a stronger signal of brand reputation to Google search.

While Google+ certainly has benefits for businesses, it’s far from a fool proof system. Google relies on fast-cycle product innovations. The idea that services for commercial organizations can be characterized as not “working fully” may be disturbing to some organizations looking to Google for industrial-strength services.

Jasmine Ashton, November 16, 2011

Sponsored by

Quote to Note: Dr. Phil Would Be Proud of Google and Its Sensitivity

June 7, 2011

Yep, tucked in one of Google’s crunchy blog posts was a keeper. Navigate to “Google Discontinues Its First Specialized Search Engines.” Ignore the baloney about Uncle Sam because the GOOG continues to be aced out of that juicy GSA plum pudding. Here’s the quote I noted:

We understand that some users were surprised by this change, so we apologize for not communicating more clearly in advance of redirecting these services to

Why tell non-Googlers anything? Oh, I think I know. I think I know. (Wave hand like a Type A fifth grader.) The answer? “Everyone is busy criticizing China for being—well—China.

Rel=Stephen E Arnold, June 8, 2011

Just joking, coders. Just joking. Sponsored by, the resource for enterprise search information and current news about data fusion

Google as Content Tsar

February 21, 2009

The Valley Wag Web log ran an interesting article here. The write up was “The Height of Google Hubris”, and I think that hubris means “a term used in modern English to indicate overweening pride, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution.” Wow. I thought it meant trophy generation confident. Anyway, for me, the most interesting comment was this one attributed to a high ranking Googler named Jonathan Rosenberg.

We need to make it easier for the experts, journalists, and editors that we actually trust to publish their work under an authorship model that is authenticated and extensible, and then to monetize in a meaningful way. We need to make it easier for a user who sees one piece by an expert he likes to search through that expert’s entire body of work. Then our users will be able to benefit from the best of both worlds: thoughtful and spontaneous, long form and short, of the ages and in the moment.

Valley Wag then adds this bit of biographical insight into the Googler who allegedly made the statement I just quoted:

The likes of Rosenberg, whose career before Google was marked by the baroque failures of @Home, a broadband service which ended in bankruptcy in 2001, and eWorld, an Apple-owned Internet service provider which shut down in 1996?

Double wow.

Stephen Arnold, February 21, 2009

Search and Retrieval: A Sub Sub Assembly

January 2, 2023

What’s happening with search and retrieval? Google’s results irritate some; others are happy with Google’s shaping of information. Web competitors exist; for example, and Both are subscription services. Others provide search results “for free”; examples include and You can find metasearch systems (minimal original spidering, just recycling results from other services like; for instance, (formerly and Then there are open source search options. The flagship or flagships are Solr and Lucene. Proprietary systems exist too. These include the ageing and the even age-ier Coveo system. Remnants of long-gone systems are kicking around too; to wit, BRS and Fulcrum from OpenText, Fast Search now a Microsoft property, and Endeca, owned by Oracle. But let’s look at search as it appears to a younger person today.


A decayed foundation created via smart software on the system. A flawed search and retrieval system can make the structure built on the foundation crumble like Southwest Airlines’ reservation system.

First, the primary means of access is via a mobile device. Surprisingly, the source of information for many is video content delivered by the China-linked TikTok or the advertising remora In some parts of the world, the go-to information system is Telegram, developed by Russian brothers. This is a centralized service, not a New Wave Web 3 confection. One can use the service and obtain information via a query or a group. If one is “special,” an invitation to a private group allows access to individuals providing information about open source intelligence methods or the Russian special operation, including allegedly accurate video snips of real-life war or disinformation.

The challenge is that search is everywhere. Yet in the real world, finding certain types of information is extremely difficult. Obtaining that information may be impossible without informed contacts, programming expertise, or money to pay what would have been called “special librarian research professionals” in the 1980s. (Today, it seems, everyone is a search expert.)

Here’s an example of the type of information which is difficult if not impossible to obtain:

  • The ownership of a domain
  • The ownership of a Tor-accessible domain
  • The date at which a content object was created, the date the content object was indexed, and the date or dates referenced in the content object
  • Certain government documents; for example, unsealed court documents, US government contracts for third-party enforcement services, authorship information for a specific Congressional bill draft, etc.
  • A copy of a presentation made by a corporate executive at a public conference.

I can provide other examples, but I wanted to highlight the flaws in today’s findability.

Read more

Does It Matter Who Writes an Article? Probably Not

June 27, 2016

I read “Google Has Stopped Using Authorship Completely, Even for In-Depth Articles.” The write up points out that “authorship is officially and completely dead.” What an outstanding development, assuming, of course, that the article is spot on.

Google seems to be able to figure out who wrote something from the text alone. The innovation should put to rest the question about Shakespeare’s plays. Also, when anonymous information appears on a pastesite, the Alphabet Google thing will “know” who wrote the upload, right?

As wonderful as the world’s largest derivative of GoTo / Overture technology is, I am not 100 percent confident in the authorship function. I am reasonably certain that the Googler making the pronouncement was speaking to the search engine optimization crowd which believes many things in my experience.

For those in the law enforcement and intelligence business, perhaps the best way to determine Google’s capability in authorship is to probe the pastesite content. Wouldn’t that make clear what Google can and cannot do with “authorship.”

My best guess is that Google’s technology might fall short of the mark for some real world applications. For now, knowing who wrote what remains a semi useful factoid. By the way, who writes those Google patents? The named individuals or a flock of legal eagles? If authorship is irrelevant, why do some Google patent applications present the names of numerous Alphabet Google wizards?

Oh, right, I forgot that authorship only applies to marketing type content for the purpose of objective, on point results for the purpose of selling ads. Got it. Students will have to know who wrote “Foresight and Understanding: An Inquiry into the Aims of Science” or “Go Add Value Someplace Else: A Dilbert Book.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 2016

Social Media Litigation is On the Rise

August 12, 2015

When you think about social media and litigation, it might seem it would only come up during a civil, domestic, criminal mischief, or even a thievery suit.  Businesses, however, rely on social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to advertise their services, connect with their clients, and increase their Web presence.  It turns out that social media is also playing a bigger role not only for social cases, but for business ones as well.  The X1 eDiscovery Law and Tech Blog posted about the “Gibson Dunn Report: Number of Cases Involving Social Media Evidence ‘Skyrocket’” and how social media litigation has increased in the first half of 2015.

The biggest issue the post discusses is the authenticity of the social media evidence.  A person printing out a social media page or summarizing the content for court does not qualify as sufficient evidence.  The big question right now is how to guarantee that social media passes an authenticity test and can withstand the court proceedings.

This is where eDiscovery software comes into play:

“These cases cited by Gibson Dunn illustrate why best practices software is needed to properly collect and preserve social media evidence. Ideally, a proponent of the evidence can rely on uncontroverted direct testimony from the creator of the web page in question. In many cases, such as in the Vayner case where incriminating social media evidence is at issue, that option is not available. In such situations, the testimony of the examiner who preserved the social media or other Internet evidence “in combination with circumstantial indicia of authenticity (such as the dates and web addresses), would support a finding” that the website documents are what the proponent asserts.”

The post then goes into a spiel about how the X1 Social Discovery software can make social media display all the “circumstantial indicia” or “additional confirming circumstances,” for solid evidence in court.  What authenticates social media is the metadata and a MD5 checksum aka “hash value.” What really makes the information sink in is that Facebook apparently has every twenty unique metadata fields, which require eDiscovery software to determine authorship and the like.  It is key to know that everything leaves a data trail on the Internet, but the average Google search is not going to dig it up.

Whitney Grace, August 12, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta