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Authorship SEO for news publishers
Authorship as a strategy for news SEO is all about leveraging your writer’s E.E.A.T and communicating topical authority.
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Hello, and welcome back. Jessie here, contemplating new hobbies. Every week, it’s softball, a concert, collaging or thrifting (yes, I did all four this weekend). Good news for folks bored of my rote updates: Next week, I start sailing ⛵ 😀.
This week: Authorship as a strategy for news SEO. Reporters and columnists are your biggest resource for demonstrating topical authority. This edition is all about how to leverage your writers’ E.E.A.T assets for your search gains.
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In this issue:
What is authorship in news SEO?
Building out an authorship strategy
What to includes for authorship
Authorship as a news SEO strategy
Back in 2020 John Mueller, Google’s Search advocate, downplayed the importance of author pages as an absolute necessity for ranking, but said it’s useful for trust-building.
However, great author pages are useful for readers — for earning their trust, showing off a reporter's work and disambiguating people with common names on the internet. Even divorced from ranking, it’s the opinion of this newsletter that strong authorship (including clear author pages) is not only worth having — but worth being front and centre in your strategy and across your site.
Authorship establishes the brand and authority of every journalist and contributor at your publication – and makes that expertise crystal clear to search engines.
Authorship, E.E.A.T and topical authority are closely related — practically sibling concepts. Together, they communicate to Google and other engines why your content should appear prominently in search results. It should be part of an overall, holistic news SEO strategy.
Why authorship matters
Gaining visibility in search results is more than simply having the right keywords in a headline. Google wants to serve content that properly fulfills a reader’s query with helpful, quality content.
Their documentation makes this clear: “Google's ranking systems aim to reward original, high-quality content that demonstrates qualities of what we call E.E.A.T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.”
In turn, demonstrating the authority of your authors (their content, their credentials, their experience and connection to your overall website) is key to visibility in search.
Google cares quite a lot about who is writing content for Your Money or Your Life topics. YMYL topics include news and current events, finance, shopping, health and safety — areas where the stakes for getting it right are extremely high. Communicating why your journalists know what they’re talking about is an essential component here.
Real experts with deep knowledge of a subject are the gold standard. These are the authors whose content search engines want to serve. It is writing that is (usually) the most useful for readers to consume.
As we see the rise of generative AI, authorship is about making it clear who the real experts are. And with the rollout of Perspectives in certain countries, we want Google to know which voices have earned the right to rank in that feature.
This feature will “showcase insights from a range of journalists, experts and other relevant voices” related to a user’s query. There will be a series of “long- and short-form videos, images and written posts that people have shared on discussion boards, Q&A sites and social media platforms.”
Google will also provide additional information about the content creators next to the Perspectives carousel.
Visibility in this feature will likely depend on how well each individual contributor demonstrates their expertise.
As Lily Ray explained: “If you're in the business of providing information on topics that can have an impact on people's lives or well-being, it's very important to add trust signals throughout your site.” That means publishers.
THE HOW TO
How to have good authorship: Levers to pull
Here are some areas to explore for building up your authorship strategy. This is not an exhaustive list, but a good place to start.
An author/byline page
Every writer that contributes consistently to your site should have an author page that lists (and links) all their stories. Each story should contain a byline that links to their author page. The definition of "consistently" might vary between newsrooms. There is a concern that, for authors who contribute infrequently, their pages will be thin (which adds minimal value). You run the risk of penalizing yourself — so find a measurement that makes sense.
The copy that’s on an author page will vary, depending on the writer, as well as the flexibility of your templates and content management system.
Here’s a shortlist of information to consider:
Name (obviously 🙃);
Position title (reporter, editor, columnist) and if they’re full-time staff or freelance contributor;
Beat or area of expertise;
Professional headshot photo;
Complete author biography (more on this below);
A list of stories, videos, podcast episodes or a newsletter the person authored. These pages should list their most recent reporting, with pagination to dive deeper into the archives. The New York Times has a great search functionality on author pages, while The Guardian pages have a neat chronological approach;
Books, podcasts, newsletters or other editorial features created or hosted by the author;
Years the author has worked at your publication or covered their beat;
Author’s academic or professional credentials;
Major awards won by the author;
Social profiles and RSS feed links.
While not exactly about the writer, if your staff are all subject to a set of editorial standards, ethics policy or code of conduct, link back to that resource from the author page. This is primarily about reader trust and communicating the editorial standards you operate within. At the writer level: Link any additional disclosures needed to further strengthen that trust (for example, disclosures for investing reporters).
Complete author bio: The biography should include details demonstrating why the person is a trusted expert and authority on the beat or topic they cover.
Stephanie Nolen’s profile for the New York Times notes she’s reported from 80 countries around the world — a useful detail considering she’s the global health reporter.
Mark MacKinnon’s page for The Globe and Mail details his decades as an international correspondent, including his previous post in Moscow and coverage of Ukraine's Orange Revolution — useful given he’s now covering Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Treat author pages as live-updating resumes. Add to and edit the pages frequently: Add major reporting projects or tentpole events you’ve covered. This could include an investigative series, new column or internal project.
Complete author biographies are doubly important for those who cover YMYL.
Health or fitness writers, and investing or personal finance columnists should reference their academic achievements, accreditations and further professional development, as well.
TL;DR: A great author biography establishes your reputation and communicates to readers every reason why you’re a trustworthy voice.
A page for all authors
Consider including a list of your entire reporting staff and senior editors somewhere on your website (i.e., on the About page). A simple list of names with links to each person’s page works, and can be linked in the footer of your website. Dan Smullen suggests including a HTML sitemap for authors (like The Guardian does).
Author page schema
For every author page, ensure you attach robust, complete Person schema to the page. Schema, or structured data, provides “explicit clues” to Google about the meaning of a page. The additional layer of data can help connect the dots for Google, making connections not otherwise probable in the Knowledge Graph.
Ideally (🙏), your CMS can auto-generate this structured data based on user inputs. If not, there are many plugins or other tools to use. Always use the Schema Markup Testing Tool to validate schema before publishing on your site, and use Kristina Azarenko’s extension to review when the page is live.
The Person schema could include:
publishingPrinciples (link to your editorial code of conduct or publishing standards)
The purpose of the sameAs is to “unambiguously indicate the item's identity.” This can include a person’s Wikipedia, Muck Rack or LinkedIn profile, Knowledge Graph URL or any other source they’re referenced online. Do the work of disambiguating a reporter for Google.
Other schema to consider: As noted by Lily Ray, the reviewedBy and citation schema properties are useful for showcasing E.E.A.T on pages where medical experts have reviewed the content, or listing the sources used in reporting. Ahrefs has a great review of how Healthline does E.E.A.T on its exclusively YMYL content.
The Author schema can be used to identify anything that is designated under the Article or NewsArticle properties — so anything on the article page. The property accepts the Person or Organization schema.
Author schema communicates who wrote a piece of content, where Person schema contains specifics of the author. Organization schema can be used within the Author property for non-bylined or general “Staff” bylines (only do this when absolutely necessary).
Article pages and connecting author bios
Every article should have a byline linking back to a person’s author page (where it exists).
Avoid using a generic “Staff” label or leaving the byline field blank as much as possible. For readers, it creates an ambiguous relationship with the content, and for search engines, they cannot attribute the story to an author — it's a missed transparency signal.
For files with many contributors: List all the contributors. There’s no sense hiding your experts behind a “Staff and contributors” byline (even on live blogs or other files where several writers are filing).
Some New York Times stories have “enhanced bylines” that communicate to readers “more about how journalists did the reporting.” Development on these bylines pre-dates Google’s addition of Experience to E.E.A.T, the company says, noting the bigger bylines highlighting experience is “just a nice coincidence.”
As for when the enhanced bylines will be used, NYT’s Edmund Lee said: “When we feel that an unusual amount of effort went into a particular story — or there’s a particular connection that the reporter may have had to the story, or a particular part of their background or expertise relates to the story — we’ll highlight it in the enhanced byline.”
These bylines are excellent. What better spot to communicate your author’s expertise than the byline? Don’t expect readers will just know your investigation is the result of 18 months and thousands of documents by reading the piece — make it explicit.
What about wire stories or syndicated content?
Great question. Not everyone even knows what’s meant by “wire content.” And not every reader knows the difference between a Canadian Press, Associated Press reporter and a staff reporter. That also means they might not know why stories from a wire reporter are on your site.
Is it helpful to have a page for The Canadian Press or Reuters that provides additional information about the wire service? Perhaps! (If you’re a local outlet running copy for foreign stories — would your audience assume you have reporters on the ground? Why not make the how of journalism clearer?)
Knowledge Panels are a type of rich results that show up on Google for entities — people, places, organizations or things – in the Knowledge Graph. A Knowledge Panel contains “a quick snapshot of information on a topic” and includes the subject’s basic details.
It’s likely many of your reporters are known entities and may already have Knowledge Panels in search results. That’s terrific. It means they’re known by Google.
There’s no way to apply for this feature; Google's algorithms decide if the entity has enough authority to warrant placement. There are ways to prod Google, like using structured data on your site or having a Wikipedia page, but they are long-term, lower impact efforts.
When the Knowledge Panel does exist, encourage reporters to click the “Claim this Knowledge Panel” button. This starts the verification process. Follow the steps outlined by Google to verify — it’s pretty easy peasy. Once completed, you can suggest edits to the panel.
Once a panel is established, Google does take feedback suggestions. Click the small “Feedback” button under the panel, and submit your tweaks.
Pro tip: Knowledge Panels are very important for journalists with common names (Ian Brown, for example, is the name of both an English songwriter and one of Canada’s finest longform writers. Depending on your location, Google may not know which Ian Brown is the reporter and which is the rock star.)
Knowledge panels act as mini-author bios for reporters in search results, meaning it has great trust-building benefits.
The bottom line: Your reporters and writers are your most valuable resource. Their expertise is unmatched — but that’s not always as clear to Google and other search engines as we would like. By building out robust author pages (with lots of details and completed schema) that are linked to on article pages, and claiming Knowledge Panels, we can help Google understand the E.E.A.T and topical authority of our content creators. It’s a long-term investment, but one that is well worth making.
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