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To attribute, or not to attribute?

Posted by Alex Perryman on 1st August 2013

Coincidentally, two companies recently approached me with an interesting question concerning author-attribution on their blogs. It was one I’d never heard before:

‘Good staff are hard to find. Should we avoid naming them as authors on our blog so as to reduce the risk of them being headhunted?’

I think most PRs would sit in the ‘pro-authorship’ camp, for something like the following reasons:

  • Google-attributed content is important in terms of future proofing your SEO. As Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google remarked:
    “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google.
  • Individually attributed content is usually more engaging. Fewer people read anonymous blogs, often because they seem overly faceless and corporate. Attributed blogs make room for more personality. Organisations can easily use the fact that someone’s following an individual as a way to communicate their company messages.
  • It’s never been easier to poach people. If recruiters want to find your staff, they’ll find them anyway, via LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

However, none of these points really answer the question.

Bearing in mind the following figures are totally made up, I felt the answer would be something like the following:

On average companies see a 2% upswing in poaching following the implementation of Google authorship markup, with an average of a 25% upswing in engagement with their blog. Depending on your business priorities, Google authorship is probably (not) worthwhile.

But I was surprised to find that no real discussion of this question had taken place online, let alone discussion of stats.

Admittedly, there would be a lot of variables here. For example, would blog-contributors, by nature, be more knowledgeable, or higher-up, or more prone to across-the-board self-promotion? I.e. would they be more prone to getting poached anyway?

In the absence of concrete evidence, I feel obliged to continue falling back on evidence forauthorship markup. And it’s extensive:

  • Authorship markup increases click-through rates (CTR) when implemented correctly. Take Cyrus Shepard of SEOMoz, for instance. He managed to implement the markup feature and experienced a 35% increase in his click-through rates.
  • According to a recent search behaviour study, implementing authorship markup into your current campaigns can increase CTR by up to 150%!”
  • Keeping blog-contributors anonymous is going to seem increasingly unusual. It could potentially give staff the feeling that, relative to other companies, they’re not trusted enough to be given their own platform. Authorship markup can actually have the opposite effect, making your consultants feel more empowered and appreciated

Now that authorship markup is reaching early-stage maturity and many people understand these positives, it would now be interesting to see some evidence against implementing it.

In the meantime, on the whole, I and every other PR will tell you that it’s a positive thing.

Alex Perryman

Alex joined Wildfire in 2007. He is renowned for his ability to pick up complex technologies and new industries extremely quickly.