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'Authority' status and the benefits it can bring.

How to obtain it, how to utilise it, and what it means.



5:04 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Following on from an earlier thread about getting from #3 to #1 in the Google SERPs, earlier today someone pointed out something very interesting about 'authority' sites.

As a friend suggested today: "A good indicator of authority is when you see the list of links under the homepage URL listing".

What I would like to discuss with you folks is the factors that contribute to the achievement of 'authority' status as defined above, and what benefits/advantages this status affords.

In my own industry I know of only three sites which have the extra links under the homepage.

This is interesting for the following reasons:

1. One site dominates the SERPs. The site has been online since 2003 and has more content than any other site in the industry.
2. The other two sites have next to no content and are mass-produced, template-based sites from the same web design company.
3. Two of the three sites rank very poorly in the SERPs.
4 Two of the three sites have almost no backlinks.
5. The age of each domain is as follows: 11-Feb-2002, 03-Apr-2002, and 01-May-2003.

Based on the above, what appears to determine whether or not a particular site is awarded authority status?

Please post your own examples and whether you think 'authority' status is manually awarded, or whether it appears to be pot luck.

More importantly, once a particular site has been given authority status, does this mean it has far greater trust than its competitors?


5:10 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

From what I can see, the extra links are not generally returned when searching for generic terms - 'books' or 'cars' for example. But search for 'news' and you can see them - for the BBC.

Now, search for the name of any international corporation -'Microsoft' for example, and you'll also get the extra 'side links'.

Searching for 'Ebay' also gives the links, but not for 'Amazon' for example.

Now, what I'm interested to know is how Google decides why certain sites should be given what equates to preferential treatment in the SERPs. For the above examples the reason is obvious - they ARE authority/trusted/respected sites.

BUT, I can give many examples of small sites that no-one has heard of that have these side links also.


5:12 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

So far I haven't seen any hint which would indicate that Google is using any kind of authority system

Do a search on ["authority-like score"]. Would GoogleGuy being the one that brought up this term indicate that Google is using any kind of authority system?


5:21 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

When I google my site's domain name, an extra link appears below it. Searching for something that is within my site's niche results in extra links that point to pages on the site that discuss them.

We can assume that Google provides the extra links to offer ways of getting directly to what someone is searching for. As for why the extra links appear for some sites and not others, or what to call them, it may take a Google employee to fill us in.


5:47 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

All I've heard or read from Google sources says "It's done by algorithm" No, they're not likely to say what the elements of that algorithm are -- but it looks like it's got some dials installed. Over a year ago when SiteLinks were just starting out (August or so) they were relatively rare. They were mentioned a couple times here, but not too often at all.

Then somewhere this summer the topic started popping. More and more searches were showing SiteLinks - so some dial got turned when Google felt they had a good handle on the basic criteria. I think there have been at least two such turns of dial, and possibly several more. So it's now lot easier than it was to see some SiteLinks.


5:55 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Tedster.

Now that I know what they're officially called, this makes interesting reading about Sitelinks [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com]

How do you compile the list of links shown below some search results?

The links shown below some sites in our search results, called Sitelinks, are meant to help users navigate your site. Our systems analyze the link structure of your site to find shortcuts that will save users time and allow them to quickly find the information they're looking for.

We only show Sitelinks for results when we think they'll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn't allow our algorithms to find good Sitelinks, or we don't think that the Sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user's query, we won't show them.

At the moment, Sitelinks are completely automated. We're always working to improve our Sitelinks algorithms, and we may incorporate webmaster input in the future.

[edited by: JackR at 5:57 pm (utc) on Oct. 14, 2006]


5:56 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

the 1st position and more than two results under the top ten positions

This was just an example (-> 'e.g.') for an automated process.

Anyway, if there would by some kind of authority (in the meaning that most of people are using for an authority) it should be independent from the search term. However, the additional links depend on the search term. For example a search for Gruffalo [google.com] shows www.gruffalo.com with additional links while a search for Gruffalo website [google.com] doesn't show the additional links. In my opinion this shows that it has nothing to do with authority (in the most common meaning) or even trust because they are website dependent but not search term dependent.

GoogleGuy said: [webmasterworld.com]

Of course, folks never know when we're going to adjust our scoring. It's pretty easy to spot domains that are hoarding PageRank; that can be just another factor in scoring. If you work really hard to boost your authority-like score while trying to minimize your hub-like score, that sets your site apart from most domains. Just something to bear in mind..

As said before, as long as one is not defining 'authority' the term is meaningless. There are several completely different definitions which can be used (depending on the ranking algorithm one is referring to). For example, an authority as defined in the Hilltop algorithm is search term dependent while other definitions are not. Of course, if you define 'authority = high PageRank' you have some authority-like system even if you're using the PageRank system. However, I wouldn't call such a system as authority-like. In contrast to authority, 'trust' is normally well defined because in general one is referring to the TrustRank algorithm.


6:17 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

For reference - other main threads about SiteLinks. We were calling them "extended listings" and "extended site descriptions" before Google clued us in to their own name.

Google adds information on SiteLinks (extended listings) [webmasterworld.com]
Google SERPS - subcategories with site links in the description [webmasterworld.com]
Extended description at #1 -- now PLUS a #2 result [webmasterworld.com]
Does Google Sitemap help to get "extended listings" [webmasterworld.com]
Extended site description - what makes the extra section happen? [webmasterworld.com]


8:10 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The question we should be asking ourselves is "authority status" a concept we made up like we have "sandbox"?

Has anyone come across any documented statement from an authoritative source from within the Google organization who has used the term "authority" to describe a website?

edit...oh I didn't see what the GoogleGuy said in the above post...nevermind.


9:37 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I appreciate what some (like Whitenight) are claiming about authoritative sites, but I think such is definitely in the eye of the beholder, does not appear the same to all, and is definitely swayed by $$.

An example case very close to me: Once upon a time there as a website which was THE first in it's subject niche by many years, which enjoyed practically every single link, about the topic from others unsolicited, had the largest unique content and was at the top of every seach engine (which originally was pretty much just Excite, Lycos and Webcrawler for you oldtimers who still remember them, and later Y and G too when they came to be).

It didn't actually SELL anything, but it had every scrap of information about the subject... a 'labor of love' I guess you could describe it. Yes they had followers and sold lots of advertising, but they charged a fair price and didn't rip off advertisers even though they WERE the only game in town.

Then one day, about 5 years later, a huge corporation, not really even in the niche, who used to even make FUN of the original company's website, and how it was a waste of time doing on the internet, realized the business potential of the niche when they started losing outside business to the original and started it's own website SELLING the topic. It didn't really have any information about the topic (in fact they often stole content from the original site), just wanted to make a quick buck selling the heck out of it.

Of course because of their core business they had literally $TENS OF MILLIONS to throw at advertising on national TV, magazines, buying out other domains, paid links, hiring teams of professional SEOs, buying SE ads, etc. and schmoozing the right officials and celebrities for endorsements, financing the right deals, paying suited salesmen and lobbyists to convince everyone THEY were the only place to be and steering them away from the rest of the playing field, etc. to the point that the general public, over a period of years, became convinced THEY WERE the ONLY source of this product and practically became iconic in the now sizable industry.

Do you think G employees don't watch TV and see the national ads there? This resulted in putting a lot of the original website's advertisers out of business and further reducing their income.

Needless to say, the new guys are now the 'authority' site with the #1 spot on nearly EVERY related term and the extra listings and the original site still does 'ok' in #1-10 position for many secondary terms, but the new site still has nearly no useful practical content and charges advertisers through the butt (actually unheard of rates of sales commissions from what I hear lately) for links because they were able to BUY their authority position to begin with.

So NO I do not agree that the internet is anymore (if it ever truly was) the great playing field leveler that many still believe it is. Perhaps, for a while you'll out-fox your bigger competitors by knowing more about SEO, at least until they wise up to the potential and hire a whole staff of SEOs, but in the end it will still be who is a better business organizer and who can afford to throw more marketing money in the ad buying pot, which is greatly encouraged by the likes of G & Y.

Money and influence obviously still talks even on the web. Those who started early enough and were fortunate enough to get ahead early with free rankings can still afford to buy their way to the top (ads) of search results using residual income, while the newer ones will likely fail quickly unless they have the funds to buoy themselves there before the startup money runs out.

[edited by: tedster at 9:43 pm (utc) on Oct. 14, 2006]
[edit reason] formatting [/edit]


9:40 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I think that statement from GoogleGuy is referring to Kleinberg's [cs.brown.edu] "hubs and authorities" terminology [cs.cornell.edu] -- and not a broader meaning of "authoritative". such as we are discussing here.


9:44 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If all else fails, you can just wear lots of jewelry and talk really loud, or always type everything in upper case, and pretend you have authority.

Works for me.

Elevator shoes help, too.


11:27 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

"I guess everyone on this forum has done (at least) thousands of searches..."

You've done thousands of searches where the same site comes up at #1 to see when it gets site links or not?

Sorry, that's just silly. Sitelinks have been defined pretty clearly. They are given algorithmicly. The text above notes that sites with lame link structure will likely not get them, which comments not at all on authority.

Google Guy mentioned hub and authority scores years ago, and they are both obviously reasonable things to consider in scoring a domain, but they aren't the only things.


12:19 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yeah I am back on this subject and this one only. I think authority can be gained and destroyed by content. Authority can be destroyed by hijacking webpages and serving known techiques to create a penalisation of web page by the hijacker. It would be impossible for a site to maintain or ever create an authority listing if it had already been hijacked.


1:10 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Think of the business case for Sitelinks.

Another thing to remember about Sitelinks is that they are typically associated with brand names and exact domain names (or at least close matches). What they do is help protect the original brand owner's value they created while also making traffic from an organic placement for such a query much harder for the competition, thus for brand related search queries more people will be forced to use AdWords to buy exposure.


1:18 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

In the past I have seen Sitelinks for scraper sites, listing multiple pages with similar content.


2:25 am on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I don't think site links is the same as sites with an "authority-like score" as MC called them. They may have some factors in common but maybe the two need to be discussed separately.

PS (Whoops, Started my site in 1998 not 88 - message 2221)


5:07 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


Great post, hate to say i agree with you.

Now where,s that rope!


6:29 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If Google considers Wikipedia an Autority site then looking at Wikipedia will give us a clue:

Original content with links within the text and it changes frequently:

PS: MC admitted to being GG in one of his recent blogs.

[edited by: Lorel at 6:37 pm (utc) on Oct. 15, 2006]


7:20 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If Google considers Wikipedia an Autority site then looking at Wikipedia will give us a clue

Glad you bought up Wiki. It illustrates authority v. trusted.

Wiki was an "authority" well before Google trusted it.

Wiki had a huge cult following and even national stories about it, well before G started ranking it for every term under sun (discussion for another thread)

See the difference?
Has nothing to do with onsite links or text or change frequency.

Is Apple an authority on "computers" or not?
Someone explain to me the "authority"-onsite optimization done to that site...

There is none. Period. It's made for users and has nothing to do with Google, or ranking or Googlepray or whatever other nonsense is out there.

Wiki doesn't need to be an authority site, it is trusted.
That's what makes it rank for everything under the sun.
(Note - Wiki went thru the "sandbox" like everyone else)

But it was an authority (at least to most people) long before it ranked...


9:20 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is for sure generic keywords that can make a number one with the extra links. I've got about five different sites right now doing it. But wow check out a search for ebay now. Untouchable.


9:22 pm on Oct 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

as is Wikipedia I ment to add...


12:55 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

As a user, I'm having a difficult time relating to authority sites on google

I had downloaded some software recently and needed some help, tutorial based help to be exact. As usual I started a google search, and immediatly clicked the "authority" link. I was taken to a website that was too difficult to navigate, filled side to side, top to bottom with google ads.

I'm pretty web savvy, I code, I build, I search, I rank.. I would at least expect an authority site to be user friendly. This left me with a bad taste and I have never clicked on authority sites since.


4:40 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member


Are you talking about sites with the Sitelinks giving several links to key pages on the site as is defined in JackR message #:3121233? From his message it looks like Sitelinks has nothing to do with authority sites but is instead something they are doing to help people find information on the top ranked site in a search.

Sites with authority indicators are another thing and theoretically they have different advantages the one most discussed here is the possibility it may help your site in the rankings if you have inbound links from authority sites.

I suspect that usability is not an indicator for either type sites. So I imagine some would have good usability many probably do not. Usability is sadly underated as can be seen by how much smaller our WW usability forum is. [webmasterworld.com...]


9:35 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

where i come from - everywhere you look Wikipedia is #1

Here it's:
#1 ebay
#2 ebay
#3 wikipedia
#4 wikipedia

I doubt that anybody is interested in these ebay results, but G seems to love them.


11:56 pm on Oct 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I don't know if my company's site is considered an authority and hub or not, but I figure it likely is. It is one of the sites which has the sublinks displayed when it comes up for some keywords, but beyond that it's also been tops for a hotly-contested keyword or two for many years.

I think there are a handful of factors which play into being designated as "authoritative":

- is it one of the most-linked-to sites within a particular category?

- are there lots of inbound links from .edu, .org, and .gov sites?

- do the on-page text cues appear to be on-subject for a majority of its pages?

- is it a top site of a publicly-traded company? You'll find that many companies which have stock symbols also have the sublinks appearing below them on Google.

- does Wikipedia link to the site homepage?

- Are there lots of mentions of the site's name in news sites and blogs?

- is it listed in Fortune 500?

Naturally, the above items I mention are hard to separate out as cause vs effect. Any one of these could be "signals" used to designate a site as "authoritative".

"Authoritative" designation may not mean much in Google context, since "relevancy" for a particular keyword/subject could perhaps be used interchangeably with the word "authoritative". The page which ranks highest for a particular keyword is considered "authoritative" by Google for the term.

The only case where "authoritative" is really important in Google context is when sites/blogs have had content scraped and redisplayed. Google would try to display first the page/site that was "authoritative" for the article, rather than the site of a screenscraper. In this context, "authoritative" is likely to be based more on which site has better PageRank, and which site seemed to be displaying the content first.



1:23 am on Oct 17, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I think having those additional listing has nothing to do with "authority". If you structure and link your site strategically, you'll get those additional links. I have several websites that have those additional listing for some not-so-competitive keywords. It is not difficult to get those additional listings for niche keywords.

So I don't believe those additional links imply "auhority".

This 56 message thread spans 2 pages: 56

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