Google Authorship seems like a simple, and sensible method of tying your ownership back to content you create. What isn’t immediately obvious is that it might not be your content that’s immediately going to hit the Google index, although it will eventually. There’s also a hidden bonus from sharing others’ content as we’ll see later.

Just a minute here, isn’t making my content attributable the whole point?  Yes, but we need to see what’s actually happening.

I’m going to work through an example of a very simple blog post I made last week, the same day I set up all various Google authorship links to start gaining author attribution:

Two Factor Authentication with World Text

A simple blog post which was then shared on G+ with a little introductory text.  Got a some comments, +1′s and a few reshares.  Nothing terribly surprising there.

Where’s the Surprise?

What very soon surprised me was seeing a reshare of this post appearing in the index as the primary link, with attribution to someone else.  Surprising because it wasn’t his content, and isn’t that rather the point?

Now, the base WordPress article hadn’t hit the index yet, but the G+ post had, so I’d have expected the original G+ post to be the prioritised in the index. So what gives?

Two things it seems. First, and most surprising, is an empty reshare was now causing the resharer to appear in the index with attribution, and author mugshot. At first glance, that does not make sense.  Turns out a reshare carries author attribution to the (in this case empty) commentary text they add. That’s actually important – I’ll come back to this.

Second, and not so surprising, Google was filtering my link for having a non-passport type mugshot on G+.  (I’d changed it, but it can take up to a week to process).  Now I’m really not in favour of this insistence on a head photo for G+ profiles that want any authorship, but that’s an entirely different issue.

What’s Actually Going On?

G+ is assigning author to posts, reshares and comments.  That is counting for something, even when your part is empty.

That makes resharing important.  Sure, we all know sharing is important for engagement on a social network, but it appears it’s also going to help your ranking.  Not so much, but it’s very clearly being used as a signal.

I’m not aware of seeing that spelt out anywhere before.

So the message is clear:  Reshare interesting, quality posts on topics you want to rank for.  It’s going to slightly help your SEO.

And the Blog Post?

About a day later, my changed photo was reflected in SERPs (although the linked blog post was still not indexed), and for around a day both my G+ post and that of the reshared version were both appearing in results, with both our photos.

Very shortly thereafter the blog post itself got indexed, and almost immediately took primacy.

For a little while my own G+ post was also appearing, but further down.

Search now, and it’ll only be the blog post you’ll find.

The Message?

I think it is important, but it’s never explicitly spelt out:  Sharing also helps SEO and ranking.

It’s probably a very weak signal, but it definitely seems to be being used as a signal.

So as well as generating your own quality content, share good posts from others.

Presumably this means if someone with huge G+ following starts resharing your content it’ll all be attributed to them until the core link gets indexed.  There might even be a few edge cases where the reshare takes priority for a week or two afterwards.  Of course you’d be highly unlikely to complain about this given the content would be getting in front of a few orders of magnitude more eyes than previously!

But it’s not quite immediately attributing everything to you either.