Once in a while, it makes sense for small business owners who publish content on the Web to bite the bullet and spend a few minutes getting geeky – because it pays off big time for your website or blog in the long run.
Google Authorship, also called rel=author, is one of those cases. Chances are you’ve spotted examples of Google Authorship but just didn’t know it. When you search on Google, you’ve no doubt come across a results page featuring links to relevant articles – some of which contain thumbnail images of the article’s author. That’s Google Authorship in action.
Authorship refers to Google’s efforts to make a verified connection between our own content anywhere on the Web and our Google Plus profiles. Google’s goal is to reduce spam and reward genuine experts in a given vertical or subject area.
Why Google Authorship Matters in Search
Authorship is important for three reasons:
1) More click-throughs. Studies show that users click on search results showing an author image at a much higher rate than text-only results. And you want people to click through to your site, right?
2) Higher rankings. Your articles in a given topic area will start ranking higher in Google search results over time. “We hope to use this as a ranking signal. We want to get information on the credibility of authors from all kinds of sources,” Google engineer Othar Hansson said in introducing Authorship in August 2011 (see video at top).
3) Get credit where credit is due. If you create original content online, at some point someone has likely ripped off your material and republished it as their own. Or maybe you write guest posts for other sites or allow other sites to republish some of your articles. The search engine needs a signal like Authorship to determine who published it first and who’s the rightful owner. In other words, whose link should appear higher in the search results?
Any one of these is reason enough to implement Google Authorship, but taken together, it becomes a no-brainer. Spend the half hour or so to get this working and you’ll soon start seeing better search results for your business.
How to Set Up Google Authorship in Four Easy Steps
Google has outlined how this process works in only the sketchiest terms — and in a somewhat misleading way. (For instance, you don’t need a byline if you have, say, a column logo and tagline in your article.)
You can set this up whether you’re the lone content creator at your site or blog or if you have a group of contributors.
Here are the four simple steps we took to claim Google Authorship on Socialmedia.biz, the multi-user blog we publish:
Step 1: Make sure each of your contributors has a Google+ account. Here, for comparison’s sake, is my Google Plus profile page (see right). It’s not a friendly url — you’re a number, not a name — so just copy and paste the whole thing. If you don’t have a G+ profile, go to http://profiles.google.com and click “Create my profile.”
Step 2: On your website or blog, you have to map each of your authors to their individual G+ profile page. We found the simplest way to do that was to go into each contributor’s user page in our website’s WordPress dashboard and add this snippet to the Author tagline field:
Follow her on Google Plus. (Note: Link “Google Plus to that person’s individula Google+ profile page).
Here’s what that looks like in WordPress (below):
A few things to note:
- Author tagline is not the same across all WordPress themes, so there may be a different field that works instead, like Biographical bio, for instance. And your website’s content management system may call this something else. So test it out and see what works for you.
- The link should contain both the URL of the contributor’s Google+ page plus “rel=author” at the end of the string, like so:https://plus.google.com/u/0/109676096918015881681?rel=author
- Once you’ve gotten this working, you’re done — it’s a one-time task rather than something you have to insert with each post.
- The name you use on your site or blog (in the fields on your user page) should exactly match the name you use in your G+ profile.
Step 3: Instruct your contributors to go to their Google+ profile page. Click on the blue Edit profile button, then scroll down until you see Contributor to. It’s easy to miss: Look for it between Other profiles and Links (see image below). Click the Contributor to area, then Add custom link, and type in the name of the site and the URL of the overall site, not your profile page on the site. For us, it was simply: Socialmedia.biz and http://socialmedia.biz/. Click Save, and you’re done.
Note: Mark Traphagen recommends that you add a + sign to the blog name and link specifically to the author bio page on your site. Our pointing to our home page may have worked because of the WordPress theme we use.
Optional plug-in step (if you need it): While many of the recent WordPress themes are already configured for AuthorSure (Authorship), making the use of an Author plug-in unnecessary, most older WordPress themes will probably require the use of a plug-in. Options include the WP Google Authorship plug-in. Step 4: The final step is to test to make sure all of this worked. Go to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool (also called the Rich Snippets Testing Tool) and enter the URL of one of your blog posts or articles. Examine the results to see if your author photo shows up.
Here is how I tested one of my partner’s articles on Socialmedia.biz:
A Few Final Tips to Optimize Your Content for Google Search
Within a couple of days, when Google next indexes your site or blog, you should start seeing your author image appearing in search results on topics you’ve written about.
A few final tips:
- Thumbnail: Make sure you have a good close-up mugshot of yourself as the main image on your Google Plus profile page. This will be the image that Google pulls to insert into search results next to your blog post or article. Make sure it’s a photo, not a drawing, and one that shows your face, not a bucolic landscape or your pet. We read articles suggesting that your Google+ profile image should be the same as your author image on your blog or website (if you use one), but that’s not true — at least, not for us.
- Public +1: On your Google+ page, Google recommends adjusting your settings to make the +1 page of your profile public. That page displays anything that you have publicly “+1ed” on the Web.
- Results: Google doesn’t guarantee that your author photo will always show in results. Results may vary depending on a wide range of factors.
One Final Option: Publisher Markup
Now that you’ve mastered Google Authorship, it may be worth spending an extra 10 minutes going the extra mile to add publisher markup as well to your site. It signals to Google that you’re the publisher of your site or blog.
Give it a try and let us know how it works!