Authorship: Messing Up Your Rankings

Your ranking data could be skewed since the introduction of authorship suggestions. In this article we investigate how this could happen.

Major SEO portals have recently covered the “hidden benefit of authorship” where users who return back to results after reading your article are presented with additional three articles written by you. We investigated this feature to learn more how Google selects what to show, and the answer is simple: they use topical relevance as the first and major factor (as opposed to +’s, shares, PageRank and date which could play secondary role in the selection).

Now, the interesting part is that if you break down the URL of any of the suggested article links you will see the following:

  1. url?sa=t
  2. &rct=j
  3. &q=
  4. &esrc=s
  5. &source=web
  6. &cd=1
  7. &cad=rja
  8. &ved=<hash>
  9. &url=<URL>
  10. &ei=<hash>
  11. &usg=<hash>

Notice the CD=1? This is the part which could be causing trouble in your ranking data within Google Webmaster Tools.


If users click on the first of the suggested articles it will be treated as a first position, but for what phrase? If it’s the original phrase then this might not be the problem as Google Webmaster Tools show the position for the highest ranking page. Consider the “Top Pages” data however, and how this may impact the average position for specific URLs. It could for example make them appear to be ranking higher than they are if Google users click on the first suggested result which is normally found on position 9 or 10, or even on the second page of results for most searches. Similarly a top ranking page could appear to be ranking lower if it ends up being a third suggested result to your other content, passing on the CD=3 value.

Top Pages

At this stage we’re unsure whether Google uses the CD= variable to feed the data into Google Webmaster Tools too or through a different mechanism, but this is definitely one thing that’s worth keeping an eye on. We’ll be asking this question in the next hangout with Google in hope to clarify this issue.

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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