The fallout from Google’s decision to drop Google Authorship photos continue to rumble on. Larry Kim has been carrying out some experiments and has put together a case study showing a significant increase in the CTR for Google Ad since the Authorship photos were halted, which only underpins his (previously articulated) argument that there is good reason to be cynical about Google’s altruism in this matter.
However, whilst all these veiled accusations are thrown about, it’s important to stay focused on what’s of practical importance. After all, we are none of us so naïve as to assume that the relationship between businesses and Google isn’t simply a commercial one (with both parties interested in profit). As such, refocusing on what lessons we (as search marketers) need to take from this is a healthy step. Mark Traphegan has produced an excellent piece, asking whether Google Authorship still have value – and it’s a piece that I’m in almost complete agreement with.
The chief take away, I believe is that “Google remains committed to author authority as a search factor”. Some may well have looked at the initial development of Google Authorship and seen a short cut to site authority – just add Author tags and suddenly get a turbo boost up the rankings – but it’s clear Google is wise to that approach and, despite the re-appraisal of its usability, Authorship is still central to how Google sees the establishment of domain authority over time and that is because it’s tightly bound up with the concept of content ownership and the quality of the content over time.
The core message for search marketers is that the sure-fire way to benefit, in the long-term, is not to focus on the algorithm and how to pander to it but to focus on users and how to optimise their experience.
That’s not to say it’s become a simplified process: as Rand Fishkin demonstrates so eloquently on his Friday Whiteboard on Moz, treating SEO as a simple process will lead to missing important factors.
However, if Google sees you as a trusted author (that is, one who writes good quality content that is shared and respected by lots of people, particularly in your niche), chances are that your site will be a trusted site – it’s not a direct causal link, it’s a shared conclusion based on shared algorithmic factors.
The complexity comes in drawing together the elements of potential value so that they’re stronger than the sum of the parts. SEO is undoubtedly complex and to be successful, the holistic argument holds true – there are far more elements that simple content writing and link generation and all elements of a site’s performance need to be considered and enhanced.
On this note, a fantastically meaty article was published by Nielsen Norman Group this week on identifying and solving “findability” issues to improve an e-commerce site – as they say early on, “if the user can’t find the product, the user can’t buy the product”. It is this level of analysis that underpins truly holistic search marketing.
As if to belie that argument, however, my final link is an attempt to provide a simple introduction to user experience optimisation – after all, the first step to improving a site is recognising there’s something awry. Lunametrics’ 7 minute UX test is very engaging and serves as a very useful litmus test for whether you need to take your site design to another level.