Current & Past Contributor To Links in Google+ Profiles

whereWhere Did That Come From?

Whoa! This is new. Well, it’s new to me. While adding a new SwellPath hire to my Google+ circles (yeah, we’re going to have a new team member by the end of the month), I noticed that she had a curious notation next to her one “Contributor To” link.


Current? What does that mean? It was the website of her current employer, so I thought, “Oh, that’s just cause that’s where she’s currently employed”. Then I thought, “wait a minute! This isn’t LinkedIn and those are contributor to links!”

So, I jetted over to my own profile and frantically clicked the Edit option under my own contributor to section and, lo and behold, there it was.

Edit the Contributor To Section and Set To Curent

So it looks like we now have the ability to specify whether a “Contributor To” link is somewhere were we’re either a “current contributor” or a “past contributor”. Very interesting!

My first thought, as a Google+ user is, “this is pretty cool”. As I get more and more “Contributor To” links added to my profile, I like being able to distinguish between them. I contribute to and my own site all the time, but some sites I haven’t written for in over a year.

Past and Current Contributor To Notations
When did this show up?

Will This Impact Google Authorship?

My second thought involves my SEO brain kicking in: “How will this impact Authorship and AuthorRank?!” I’ve argued, often pretty passionately, that Google+ was always in someway intended to be a digital signature system/portable identity platform. This was because Google needed an easy-to-use way to tie content back to individual human agents and use that data (Agent Rank, any one?) to improve their search experience.

So any change that impacts the functionality of that “Contributor To” section could ostensibly be pretty impactful. What could this new notation mean for AuthorRank and Authorship? Is Google going to actually use this user-provided insight to figure out which sites an author is actively, currently contributing to and distinguish that from places they once contributed to? Is setting your link to “Past Contributor” going to disavow Google Authorship for that domain? Are they just going to be weighted differently? Or is it all just a visual notation for people checking out your profile, not playing whatsoever into authorship or AuthorRank?

So many questions!

Well, I decided to give it a spin and I set my “Contributor To” link to to “Past Contributor”. I wrote one guest post on eROI’s site over a year ago and I think it definitely falls into the “past contributor” category. I’ll be monitoring the following over the coming days/weeks.

  • Appearance of the Author Rich Snippet in logged out organic search
  • Performance in my Author Stats in WMT
  • Where that post ranks for its title, “Responsive Web Design And Search Engine Optimization”. Pretty generic as far as titles go and definitely has a lot of competition (it ranks #22 in my logged out results right now).

One thing I noticed immediately was that, in the code, the current links show up with rel=”contributor-to”, while past links show up with rel=”past-contributor-to”. This seems to indicate that it’s not purely visual.

Have you seen these new notations for “current” and “past contributor to” links yet? If you saw them before today, how long ago was it? I’m insanely interested and I haven’t seen anything else published about it yet. Mark Traphagen and AJ Kohn told me that they’ve been discussing it since earlier today, when they first spotted it. I’ve reached out to a few others but they hadn’t noticed it before today.

There’s been no official announcement from Google on this change nor any kind of informal response.


A rep from Google, Iska Hain,  reached out to Steven Shattuck, after his recent post on the same subject, to let us SEOs know what’s really going on. Well, it’s pretty much what we expected, but it’s always great to hear things directly from the mouth of a Googler. The quote is as follows.

“We’ve made a minor improvement to the Google+ profile page so that now you can specify whether you’re a past or current contributor to a given online publication. This way you can connect your Google+ profile with the content you’ve authored, even if you no longer write for a given site.”

From here.

Allow me to interpret this for all of you who don’t speak Google,

“We really want to know about all of the content you’ve ever written, so maybe this will convince you that it’s cool to tell us about everything you’ve authored.”

Attribute ALL the Authorship
Attribute ALL the Authorship