Matt Cutts, head of the Google Web spam team, confirmed this week that the plan to reduce rich snippets by 15% has been implemented. Cutts made the announcement of this pending change a few months ago at PubCon, explaining that Google intends to promote authoritative sites over low-quality sites claiming authorship. What some call the “good guy algorithm” recognizes subject-matter authorities and gives them a SERP boost.
In episode 227 of Google This Week, Cutts said about 120 minutes into the video, as transcribed, “We have been working on a lot of different stuff. We are actually now doing work on how to promote good guys.” Cutts explains that the new algorithm determines who qualifies as experts in thousands of topics by assessing indicators that include being linked to by other authoritative sources. Cutts said, “The New York Times is important, so if they link to you then you must also be important. But you can start to drill down in individual topic areas and say okay if Jeff Jarvis (professor of journalism) links to me, he is an expert in journalism and so therefore I might be a little bit more relevant in the journalistic field.”
The move to promote more authoritative content by tightening up authorship means that lower-quality content will drop in the rankings. Web site owners have been complaining about the loss of authorship in various online forums, particularly the Google Webmaster Help Forums. A MozCast features graph shows the drop in rich snippets from November 19 through December 16, reflecting a notable decline.
Yesterday, Barry Schwartz, search marketing expert, reported on Search Engine Roundtable that “black hats” are hatching plots to fake author authority and spam the good guy algorithm. He read a thread on Black Hat World discussing different ways to exploit the algorithm. One comment explained how to get “extra link juice off someone else’s work” by tagging popular niche authors. Another speculated about how to build authority for fake authors. These efforts are likely to be addressed by algorithm updates to continue promoting higher-quality results for search engine users, allowing them to find authoritative, relevant content more easily.