Search Engines and Web Directories Can Position Expert Sites More Prominently
Search engines have to put the best results at the top and almost-as-good results right after the best or we go to another search engine or, worse, another way of finding information. What’s the best? Sites that know what they’re talking about is often what we want.
Directories to the Web also need the most authoritative websites for their listings.
In most subjects, the sites that have the best knowledge are the authorities and they often know which experts are very knowledgeable. We can rely on those experts because their expertise is known by leaders in their fields, leaders whom we trust but often can’t ask ourselves.
Like, if we want to know if it’s really true that gray holes exist in space, Stephen Hawking can tell us, but he’s busy right now. Fortunately, he likely knows scientists whose conclusions he trusts and they in turn likely know science websites, even popular science websites, even single pages like articles, that users can reliably check.
A system to support this is needed. Now one exists.
New HTML Meta Tags: Pro and Pro-Auth
Websites can use new HTML markup now. It’ll take a while for it to be widespread, but starting is not that hard. You can discover their use of the tags when your bots parse their pages.
Two kinds of website pages would use the markup: those of authorities, who know who the experts are, and websites or pages created by experts.
An authority’s page gets one and an expert puts the other on their page. The authority puts a partial URL in a page’s “pro-auth” tag. The authority tells the expert to put the same partial URL in their “pro” tag. When the partial URL is the same in both, that tells you that they agree with each other about the expert’s merits.
They Can Give and Receive: One Site Having Both Roles
An expert or authority can be in more than one relationship or field. You may find multiple “pro” or “pro-auth” tags, even both, on a page, each with a different partial URL. If there’s a “pro-auth” tag, there may be multiple “pro-auth-field” and/or “pro-auth-fragment” tags. Tell your bot to collect them all.
If either party prefers to limit this to use within a small network or one terminal, they can do that, too. They can add the “private” keyword to their “pro” or “pro-auth” tag. (Maybe they have their own search engine.) With the “private” token, the Internet will know to ignore the tag. But most of us will want the Internet to recognize their authority or expertise, so the “private” keyword won’t be common.
Good Riddance to an Annoying Authority
If the expert wants nothing to do with some so-called “authority” who besmirches the expert, the expert has two ways of disconnecting. One is for the expert to remove the tag with that particular partial URL. The other is to leave the tag in place and add the “false” keyword to its content. The difference may be practical or stylistic but the meaning is the same.
New HTML Meta Tags: Pro-Auth-Field and Pro-Auth-Fragment
- Only two other tags are in this set:
- pro-auth-field (pro-auth-field spec)
- pro-auth-fragment (pro-auth-fragment spec)
One states the field of expertise. The authority write it in free-form text of their choice. You can evaluate that claim. Initially, you’ll need humans to parse that tag, but you’ll probably buiild up a collection of common tag content for automated parsing.
The other distinguishes the links that are to expert content from the links that aren’t. (Sometimes, a website links to a critic few think is an expert.) In the visible list of links to experts, the authority surrounds the links with HTML markup that names a fragment. An HTML span element can do that, and other elements can serve, too. More than one fragment is allowed. A “pro-auth-fragment” tag gives the name of the fragment meant for this purpose. Now you can tell the expert links from the ordinary links.
How Many Tags?
The authority’s site usually needs only three kinds of meta tags. They’re the “pro-auth”, “pro-auth-field”, and “pro-auth-fragment” tags. Once the tags are set up, the authority can talk with the experts.
The site with expertise will need only one kind of meta tag, the “pro” tag.
Usage in Depth
Here are the main details of use:
The authority picks a page of their own that tells the world why users should believe the authority and lists links to experts liked by the authority. It may be on a few pages or across many or all on one. The content about why to believe the authority may be on the “about” page, it may be on a separate page, it may be anywhere, and it may be divided across a few pages, if that’s how the website is designed. Redundancy is not needed.
The links to experts can be in one list or several, on one page or several, organized any way the authority likes, and annotated or not. The authority writes what they want. They’re in charge of that.
Then, the authority adds to just those pages the following three elements (the content gives examples only):
<meta name="pro-auth" content="www.history.example.org/widgets" />
<meta name="pro-auth-field" content="widgets Florida 1920s" />
<meta name="pro-auth-fragment" content="#experts-in-wisconsin" />
An expert only needs to add one tag:
<meta name="pro" content="www.history.example.org/widgets" />
The content field has to match between the “pro” and “pro-auth” tags, to help a search engine. It contains a partial URL (usually meaning without “https://” or “http://”). The partial URL is chosen by the authority and usually is for the authority’s website or page, but it can be for a fragment or a website directory.
When you send a bot to update your database of websites, you can discover the “pro” and “pro-auth” pages and see that they have the same partial URL, and you would associate those two together. There’s no reason not to. That will make them different from all of the other “pro” and “pro-auth” pages.
With the “pro-auth” pages, you may look to see if you should treat the claimed authority as a real authority indeed. This is where human judgment might be needed, as complementary to algorithms. Two questions will predominate: Does the subject field matter and need an authority? If so, does the authority know what it’s talking about? You can apply any criteria and procedure you wish. You can review and reconsider whenever you wish, also by any procedure and criteria. You can answer either question with any nonnegative degree of agreement you like, including zero. You can have several scales of degrees, maybe for different large subjects. And “degree” here is just a colloquialism, not defined in the specs. You don’t have to disclose your decisions. If you decide yes for both questions, meaning any nonzero agreement, then the links from that authority deserve to be treated as expert links. The experts might then be given higher prominence in search results.
And, it’s reasonable to think, if you judge the authority as good, its own content could rise in the results, too.
Double Expertise or Doubly Authoritative
An expert can be linked to by a few authorities. An authority can be authority in several fields and host different lists of experts. Each should be judged separately. Being bad for one should not be held against the other relationship. For example, someone who is listed as an expert by one authority on a fringe topic and by another authority (or even the same authority) on a mainstream topic might be given a zero for one and high belief for the other; the zero should not be used to bring down the high belief for the other.
An expert can decline to be associated with an authority’s judgment. The spec says how.
Giving and Receiving: They Can Have Both Roles
One good turn deserves another. An expert approved by one authority can also be an authority itself listing other experts. A top scholar can list other scholars whose work is good and they in turn can authoritatively list popularizers who do a good job in their field. Thus, someone with a “pro” meta tag can also carry a “pro-auth” meta tag on the same page or on a different page, with a “pro-auth-field” tag that’s the same as or different from the one for the authority above. And while one’s an authority, a higher or lateral authority can decide that the same person an expert in another field, and then that person would carry both “pro-auth” and “pro” tags. Thus, a web of leading experts can easily be found across the Web, with time, and most of the work will have been done by website creators.
You can still offer your present order of results. If your present model is what most people want and you don’t want to switch over, you can add a link that would prioritize authority and expertise, at least with certain subject queries. Or you can use this to offer a competitive advantage among search engines. This system takes away nothing. It adds.