Google Subject Specific Authority Ranking

May 16, 2013 • 8:51 am | comments (45) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google PageRank & Algorithm Updates

google authorityAs part of our coverage of the ten Google algorithm changes coming this summer, I wanted to make sure you all saw that Google was coming up with a technique to determine which sites are authorities in specific topics. Now, if Google determined you a subject specific authority, your rankings will improve.

Google's Matt Cutts said they will improve the rankings of subject specific authorities for queries that they should rank well for. I covered this in detail at Search Engine Land but just in case you missed it.

Here is the transcript of this portion, which starts 4 minutes and 37 seconds in:

We have also been working on a lot of ways to help regular webmasters.

We are doing a doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to makes sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users.

If this is true, I'd guess that this site should start ranking better for search and SEO specific keyword phrases by the end of the summer. Unless, we are really not an "authority" in search and SEO here?

Forum discussion continued at WebmasterWorld & Hacker News.

This story was scheduled to be posted today and was not written today, as I am offline today.

Previous story: 35% Will Block Google Images In Protest Of Change



05/16/2013 01:01 pm

I wonder how this will work for competing brands. There are three companies in our niche that could very easily be considered the 'authority', but I am sure the employees of each company would think that honor belongs to them. We, the company I work for, currently dominate the SERPs for the majority of industry important keywords/phrases, does this indicate authority? We aren't as large as a company as one of the others, does size indicate authority? Lots of questions, hoping for some interesting thoughts to populate this discussion board. Any insights from Barry? From Matt Cutts (ha, yeah right, but I can hope).

TIIT Solutions

05/16/2013 01:13 pm

I have a feeling that this algo update will not work.


05/16/2013 01:16 pm

I suspect this refers more to promoting content by people who are experts in their particular field for a narrow range of search query types. To take it to an extreme, we wouldn't expect an Amazon 'expert' to be returned above Amazon for a search for 'Amazon'. On the other hand, it would be *highlarious* if Google started ranked self appointed SEO authorities on their actual, rather than perceived authority.


05/16/2013 01:20 pm

I'm surprised it took this long. Back in '02 AskJeeves started using a simplified version of HITS to rank the authorities among groups of sites. The remarkable thing about that then was that -- unlike Google PageRank calculations at the time -- Ask somehow did it per query in real time.

Praveen Sharma

05/16/2013 01:35 pm

What's the stipulation to be an authority website among equals?


05/16/2013 02:28 pm

Authority is indicated, among other things, by how many urls show up in search for specific keyword. That's Google's famous non-working, algo glitch where out of 10 results you get 9 results from same domain. For example, on the image below you see 9 results from same domain. The fact that this site is a scraper with enormous authority don't concern Google though...


05/16/2013 03:22 pm

You're showing your age - but very good point and observation!

Silicon Beach

05/16/2013 03:55 pm

That's on page 4 of the results though! Nobody ever gets that far :)


05/16/2013 04:20 pm

That, my friend, is a very good point. Newyorker, why are you concentrating on the 4th page of results? I did a query for 'bird vector' and I see no repeats on the first page of the results, just a lot of useful free vector sites. How do you think this SERP should behave in terms of 'authority'; what do you think constitutes 'authority' in your niche?


05/16/2013 04:53 pm

so we can conclude that results after page 2 are completely irrelevant and don't matter? Or that whatever mess we have after page 2 is ok? Should Google come with disclaimer "Search only first 2 pages. Everything after that is a mess". I don't think that's a valid point. Sounds like a bad excuse for completely stupid set of results we get for a keyword that has 18.8 million results.


05/16/2013 05:17 pm

No, it isn't an excuse, it is the reality of how most people interact with the SERPs for most queries. Refusing to acknowledge the reality in favor of the ideal is a mindset I see many webmasters and SEOs struggling to overcome. Almost nobody is going to page 4, sorry. I would assume that the Google image results for that query would have people looking pages deep, but when they use the web search and find what they are looking for on page 1 then why bother going any deeper? The first page of SERPSs for the query 'bird vector' seems to supply what the user is looking for. Also, didn't Matt mention that they are working on the issue of the same domain crowding the SERPs a few pages deep in the last video he put out? Joke I saw once: Where is the best place to hide a body? On page 3 of the Google search results.


05/16/2013 06:38 pm

I am surprised you were expecting this kind of results on page 1 or 2. What kind of SE would that be? The fact is it wasn't like this before. Also this is not page 4 only. For query "vector abstract" you get 6 results from same mentioned domain on first 2 pages (30%). For first 3 pages you get 16 results from that same domain which is 50%. So on a very competitive query we get 50% results from same domain on first 3 pages. Is this normal? I call it search spam, sorry.


05/16/2013 06:50 pm

Hm, interesting ... I didn't pay attention to this before - "It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever." I have just one question now - how does MC see this in real life ? I mean really, lets fantasy a bit ... So, after the working day and couple of traffic jams, the Bachelor/Doctor of Medicine, with the income much higher than average, returns home. Suppose he has no family and he doesn't eat out. He spends some time to prepare dinner, has it. Then he doesn't meet with friends, ladies, walk, watch TV or read special magazine ... NO ... he opens laptop and creates the website ! about the medicine !!! Now he is not the Bachelor/Doctor of Medicine, now he is the WebMaster !!! but still the expert in medicine. So, he writes code or patches his outdated CMS till 2am. Then he writes helpful articles and replies questions from unknown people from all around the world till 4am ........... At 7am he must wake up to be in office/hospital at 9am. Furthermore, he lives like this at least during one year. Why? Because Google can't get enough signals to mark this "regular webmaster" as an authority in medicine in shorter period of time. Is something like this possible ? Next - travel. Lets see. I visited 25% of the countries on this Planet. Am I an expert ? Absolutely not. Simply because a bunch of them were visited 10+ years ago. No doubt a lot of changed. Can I pretend I'm an expert ? Absolutely yes. Just yesterday I watched the documentary about the guy, who made the trip by Alexander the Great path in Central Asia. It took him six months. Is he an expert in Alexander the Great ? Absolutely yes. Is he an expert in Central Asia ? Partly, during short period of time. Is he an expert in travel ? Absolutely not. Then who is an expert/authority in travel ? Travel agent !!! But how is this related to the "to help regular webmasters" or "if you are some sort of authority" ? Even if this guy would start the blog/website about this journey, he would not be the travel authority in the long run. And this is the same about any "authority". Can you imagine Joe the Plumber returns home and starts to reply questions about leaks on his website ? Day by day, month by month, year by year .... It says to me, that either googlers don't understand/feel modern internet eco system or it was like "Hey, guys, we remember about you. Don't be upset." Either way this is the bad signal. (not only Google can collect signals)


05/16/2013 06:52 pm

LOL ))


05/16/2013 11:15 pm

In reality, Google only cares to make the results good enough to please searchers and compete against competitors. As for providing the very best results for specific queries, that's a little far fetched and the results will continue to be just as relevant as they are today... ...people with the most connections and the most money will continue to outrank those that are more knowledgable.


05/17/2013 12:08 am

Exactly, Google wants to please searches. Then what is this statement about ? How searches can be pleased, if in reality there is no chance to find authority in medicine in day time, who will be "regular webmaster" in spare time. Ok, suppose he is not running the website by himself. Again. There is no chance, that authority in medicine will write articles in spare time to sell for $100 a piece. Otherwise he is not an authority. Searchers can't be pleased, because it's nonsense. How Google's algo can find such signals, if this can't happen in reality ??? )) Doesn't MC understand this ?

Soni Sharma

05/17/2013 05:28 am

I think Subject Authority Ranking already exists. Might be they are going to update this more.

Justin Clark

05/17/2013 05:29 am

Well.. Google will never tell you the exact formula for how you can be stable on top position for a long term. And I am not sure about this algo but i am sure if you linking your google plus account to your website or blog and using the rel=author when possible have made a big difference in search results for our website.


05/17/2013 06:03 am

I think this is why they wanted to make Google+ work but obviously things aren't going as planned. As you said yourself, an algo can't determine an authority. No way will this happen anytime soon. People say that Google's algo can understand things as a human does but that is so far from the truth. We still aren't anywhere near being capable of doing this with today's technology. MC does understand but how is anyone from Google going to admit it? Remember, they want to be the ones that people see as being capable of anything... You know, they can make cars drive themselves and glasses that can do things.

Daniel Hoffmann

05/17/2013 09:04 am

Google is not able to determine original content. This specific website is the largest of its kind by simply stealing content from other websites. It does not have any of its own content, yet it is one of the largest websites in the world (Alexa 1166). It seems to me that Google gives much more credit to the simple mass of content than the quality. If you start a website today in a niche of your choice and you scrape all the competitors, you will soon end up dominating the Google Serps. Google needs to start taking care of the scraper sites that are popping up like mushrooms and dominating the search results, otherwise soon there will be no reason to create original quality content, as all websites will have the very same stolen content.


05/17/2013 11:32 am

Barry, what the heck, with your Disqus ?? It doesn't work. Yesterday and today again.

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2013 11:38 am

What do you mean? Sorry, was offline two days. Didn't even look at comments.


05/17/2013 12:26 pm

Seems, that it doesn't allow to post links. This is ruined user experience, if it doesn't notify ahead.

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2013 12:27 pm

I just saw someone else post links.


05/17/2013 12:33 pm

I want to post link to screenshot right now and can't.

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2013 12:39 pm

I just added you to the "whitelist" because honestly I do not see anything even marked as spam in disqus with your name. Is there a specific error?


05/17/2013 12:57 pm

Still doesn't allow ) Want to show you the screenshot. No error. Just running progress bar.


05/17/2013 12:58 pm

So it means those are targeting keywords of specific industry like travel, they will rank?? If it means the same then, there must be some hidden terms and condition because Google can not be generous with such industries. :P

Barry Schwartz

05/17/2013 12:59 pm

I am sorry. I'll inform Disqus.

Mike Tilma

05/17/2013 01:13 pm

I see your point, but let's rethink this for a second. Doctors routinely write articles for medical and scientific journals. If one of them decides they want to be an authority online, can't they pay someone to do the on page SEO and maintenance for them, or just post to a hospital-owned site and learn how to do a rel=author tag? And if someone really does have an outdated CMS or is too busy to respond to people asking genuine questions that deserve an answer, do they really offer a great user experience? My point is, you're dealing with the question from a real-world perspective. Google wants the internet to reflect the real world, but also realizes that it has its own ecosystem apart from the real world. They want to rank someone who is an authority in the industry ONLINE, not just someone who is an authority in the industry.


05/17/2013 01:46 pm

Do you suppose, that authority built inside the group of people don't related to the industry, is the real authority ? I'll explain. "Doctors routinely write articles for medical and scientific journals." - right, because only people from the industry can acknowledge the authority. "If one of them decides they want to be an authority online" - who will acknowledge the authority in this case ? Patients ? Google must get signals from visitors, but visitors in this case are patients. How can patients acknowledge the authority in they have no appropriate knowledge ? What kind of authority will it be ? Do you suppose, that there can be two authorities - online and offline ? So, the person without the offline authority can have the online authority and vise versa .... ? Is it so ?


05/17/2013 02:15 pm

Oh, ok I got what they want to do ... They don't like, that the most of the current content is published based on the interest. Business interest. Lets call this group Publishers. Remember, Google doesn't own content. When there were no a lot of content published, then Google was important part of the chain - it knew where the content was. Now, when one publisher can be the owner of huge amount of the content, Google become less important part of the chain - visitors can go to the publisher directly and search there. More and more people will stick with the content warehouses and sure Google doesn't like this. So, they want to change the way content is created. They want more content created without the business interest. In this case they really don't understand the modern ecosystem. But anyway this will be the huge fight during the next couple and I'm not sure, if Google will be the winner with such approach. I, being the publisher, will not give up without the good fight )

Cesar Bielich

05/17/2013 08:56 pm

Kind of scrary


05/18/2013 12:46 pm

Well they did't define what they mean by authority !

Vitaliy Kolos

05/18/2013 09:47 pm

That's interesting and sort of makes sense for the most part. I'm just wondering how it will influence hiring people in the SEO field. If you're not an authority, you'll be having hard time getting a decent job. Did I get it right? :)


05/20/2013 01:38 am

sure, if things like that idiotic penguins (we will block main keywords for you because we want), emd updates (we not will send you visitors by your main keyword group because we don't want) and pandas (rewrite all articles, but we not tell you what to do) will continues and we will not get any traffic from google, i not see reason why need to allow googlebot to scrape our sites and allow google to hotlinking our images without sending any traffic to us (one week ago disallow for googlebot-images was added to robots.txt, but it still scrapes our images and "sending visitors"). Google MUST give us exact rules - what is over-optimization, why we cannot use emd, how to write articles to prevent overoptimization, etc. But in current time it dark area (google blackhat) where google just making money just banning sites and not telling this important information to webmasters. With all this changes I not think lot of peoples will invest into new articles anymore, longtail/mid-tail keywords researches, etc. Because instability and you don't know what the new "black and white" update will launched tomorrow. It mean no new articles/sites for google (most of old but nice but pandalized sites will dropped soon after such updates), and google will search big brands press releases, brands articles (only on highly-searched keywords), youtube videos, and wikipedia everywhere. But it is a direct way to end of google as search engine. It already happens now, it now _really_ hard to find what you looking for it google. Everywhere only adwords, wikipedia & big brands. Even informative queries affected deeply. This is google of the future??? wow, really cool! Looks need to buy google glasses to check how adwords ads will looks on small screen and to organize private life direct connection to spying servers. If situation (total misunderstanding how to recover sites, how to create new sites) not will changed soon I really will start thinking to disallow googlebot completely and work _only_ with bing/yahoo and other traffic sources. And will forget about google to save _my_nerves_. I also thinking what latest germany news (pay per displaying snippet law) will change soon "playground levels" of search engines everywhere. And may be google will at same situation as small webmasters now, but we not will "believe them" at that time. Or may be it become largest content farm, who knows...

ferrous sulfate

05/20/2013 02:04 am

everybody begins to become awareness towards SEO. How dose the google going ?

Mike Tilma

05/22/2013 05:48 pm

I think a doctor (or any business owner, for that matter) can absolutely use the internet as a tool to help build authority in their field. That's what we all, as internet marketers, help them do. Patients can absolutely comment on a doctor's authority in a field. In fact, since they're the ones receiving the treatment, they're in a pretty good position to tell other people about the doctor they're going to. If the doctor doesn't deserve to be an authority in their field, the things people say about them online will certainly reflect that. So a doctor can use the internet as a tool to build authority in their field, but the opposite doesn't always happen... that one who is an authority already will use the internet. All I'm saying is, it's a tool that some could use to connect with people, and the best user experience demands BOTH authority in a field AND proficiency with using the internet to connect with people.

Ryan Robinson

05/22/2013 11:07 pm

How do they decide the "authority" what variables do they consider?? How will they decide who has more "authority"? Does Schema help???

Ryan Robinson

05/22/2013 11:08 pm

Thats what I want to know! HOw will they be deciding who has more "authority"?? My guess is whoever pays them the most!! Seems like this might suck...

Ryan Robinson

05/22/2013 11:12 pm

Does SCHEMa help with subject authority ranking? Since I can specify what my product, offer, or business is in a way that the GOOGLE search engine can understand???

Amit Dwivedi

05/23/2013 11:23 am

What the major count in authority?


05/25/2013 11:30 am

Page ranking,content,age of your domain....

Amit Dwivedi

05/27/2013 06:18 am


Jeff Howard

07/16/2014 10:20 pm

"We have also been working on a lot of ways to help regular webmasters." Did anything ever come of this or is it just another broken Google promise to hardworking webmasters?

blog comments powered by Disqus