Google’s John Mueller Answers Whether Author Bio is Necessary via @martinibuster

On a Google Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked if the author bio page was necessary in order to meet Google’s E-A-T guidelines. Mueller’s response downplayed the necessity of author bio pages as a technical issue and suggested it was a user experience issue.

Authorship Signals

The SEO industry believes that Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines describe how to rank better in Google. It is from those guidelines that the belief that naming who the author is and listing their biography and credentials are a technical requirement to check off  the SEO ranking signal list.

But Google has never said that authorship biographies were a ranking signal. And the Quality Raters Guidelines were never represented by Google as listing ranking related signals.

John Mueller’s answer does not recommend authorship as a ranking signal. Instead, he frames it as user experience issue.

Expertise, authority and trustworthiness are important. But they are not the entire algorithm.

The Necessity of Author Biography Pages

The webmaster was concerned that their author biography pages were not being seen by Googlebot because they were noindexed. Noindex is an HTML element that tells search engines to exclude a web page from the search engine index.

The concern was that because Google could not see the author biography pages that this would have a negative effect on rankings. But according to Google’s John Mueller, that’s not the case at all.

Here is the question:

“Can you speak to the necessity of E-A-T and author biography pages linked from an article?

….So, kind of the necessity of the author biography pages. Should we have the author’s credentials on the article itself or is linking to their biography by their byline good enough?

We have an issue where the author bio pages are meta noindex. Does it stop GoogleBot or Google Quality Raters from accessing the pages?”

John Mueller began by trying to define what the acronym E-A-T meant.

He raised his  head and stared upward for a few seconds trying to recall what it meant.

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller struggling to remember what the acronym E-A-T stood for.

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller struggling to remember what the acronym E-A-T stood for.Google’s John Mueller raised his head and gazed upward as he appeared to struggle for a moment to remember what the acronym E-A-T stood for.

John Mueller then went on to incorrectly recall what the acronym E-A-T stood for. He repeatedly referred to the “A” as Authority. Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines consistently referred to the E-A-T as Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It’s authoritativeness, not authority.

Here is John Mueller’s response:

So E-A-T is expertise, authority, trustworthiness, I think…

And it comes from our quality raters guidelines, which are basically the guidelines that we give the folks who help us to improve our algorithms overall.

So… first of all it’s worth keeping in mind that our quality raters help us to improve our algorithms overall. They do not review individual websites.

So it’s not something where you need to optimize your websites for access by quality raters.

John Mueller Downplays Author Bio Pages

Mueller does not at any point indicate that the author biography page is an important SEO factor. There is no indication from him that it is important to show the author bio. Instead, he focuses on how it impacts site visitors.

Here is what Mueller said:

With regards to author pages and expertise, authority and trustworthiness, that’s something where I’d recommend checking that out with your users and doing maybe a short user study, specifically for your set up, for the different set ups that you have, trying to figure out how you can best show that the people who are creating content for your website, they’re really great people, they’re people who know what they’re talking about, they have credentials or whatever is relevant within your field.

Author Pages May Not be Required

Mueller then went on to state that author biographies are not a technical issue that needs to be addressed.

This contradicts a pervasive SEO belief.  Many SEOs insist that failure to include an author biography could result in a loss of rankings.

This belief is seen in many posts on Google’s Webmaster Help Forums. For example, a “silver” level member of Google’s own Webmaster Help Forums cited authorship signals when trying to diagnose why a website lost rankings.

“The website has no information about the valid organization of the publisher.  …This contradicts to the following recommendations of Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness – EAT of Google:
● Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) is responsible for the website.
● Who (what individual, company, business, foundation, etc.) created the content on the page.”

Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines were not produced to give insights into Google’s algorithm. Yet members of Google’s own Webmaster Help forums treat the information as if it holds insights into why a site may have lost rankings.

John Mueller advises that author biographies are not a technical requirement:

So that’s less something I would focus on this as a technical thing like you need to do this, this and this or this type of markup for these pages but rather more as a quality thing, as a user experience thing where you can actually do user tests with your users directly.

Author Biographies are Not a Ranking Signal?

There is no evidence that an author biography is a ranking signal. That’s something that’s so easy to fake, that it makes sense to not make it a ranking signal. So maybe it’s time to move beyond the endemic reductionist thinking that seeks to miniaturize Google’s algorithm to simple technical factors.

There is no evidence that author biographies are the critical ranking factor that many in the SEO claim it to be.

Watch the Webmaster Hangout here.

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