Google Authorship 101

Google Authorship 101If you work in online marketing or SEO, good luck going a week without hearing or reading the phrase “Google Authorship.” If you use the internet at all, good luck avoiding it in your Google searches.

More and more search result pages are being invaded with rich snippets such as Authorship. However, when I say invaded, I mean it in the best possible way, because they really do improve the search experience.

So even though Google Authorship is talked about quite a bit in our world, you’ve probably seen and heard more about it lately. This is because there’s always been a bit of confusion and debate on the topic that Google finally tried to clear up a bit in a recent post on their Webmaster Central Blog.

However, Google Authorship is still a tricky thing. I’ve heard story after story of a content creator doing everything correctly to set it up, and it not working at all. I’ve also heard a few tales about someone not setting it up, and Google taking it upon themselves to set it up for the author, incorrectly.

Google hasn’t published anything substantial on how they choose whether or not to approve an Authorship request, so it’s a big guessing game with many left in the dark.

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So we’re going to take a few minutes today to (hopefully) clear up some of the most confusing things about Google Authorship.

First, let’s talk about what Google Authorship is, and what it isn’t:

Google Authorship is a type of rich snippet markup, a few lines of code on a page that should enhance the search results. In the case of Google Authorship, the rich snippet adds information about the content’s author, like this:

example of Google Authorship

Provided the author or webmaster has set up Authorship correctly, the rich snippet will display the author’s Google+ profile picture, a byline that includes a link to a search for other content they’ve written, and information about their Google+ profile.

But Google Authorship is NOT a confirmed ranking signal…yet.

Many people confuse Authorship with Author Rank, or use the two terms interchangeably. But as Copyblogger has pointed out, they’re not the same thing. Authorship is a confirmed, “out in the wild” tool that attributes content to a person and his or her Google+ profile. Author Rank, however, is a bit more of a mystery. It refers to using Authorship info as a ranking signal in SEO, as part of Google’s search algorithm.

However, that term and most discussion around it comes from the SEO industry, not Google itself. That isn’t to say it’s not something to think about. Authorship and Search Plus Your World both prove that Google Search is moving in a more social direction where who you are matters. It makes sense that these features will eventually turn into ranking signals that more directly impact SEO. There are definitely signs pointing towards that reality.

Next, let’s talk about why you should care:

Many people hear that Authorship has no confirmed impact on search rankings and lose all interest. You don’t want to be one of those people.

Here are just a few reasons you should still care about Google Authorship:

1. Rich snippets like Authorship help your site stand out in search results.

Take a look at the screenshot below. Which results capture your attention first? The ones that are different from the rest. So even if you’re not ranked number one, you may not need to be. The biggest benefit of ranking high is that more searchers notice your site, since they pay more attention to the higher links. However, a big picture in an otherwise text-filled page will have the same effect.

Google search results with Authorship

2. Google Authorship could bring you higher click-through rates.

What’s one obvious result of standing out in search result pages? That’s right, more people clicking on your search results! The biggest benefit of high rankings in SEO is getting click-through rates and traffic up (although for many SEOs, the biggest benefit is bragging rights of having the #1 position). It all comes back to results. By implementing Authorship, you can get results similar to having a #1 search ranking, without that #1 ranking.

3. Google Authorship helps establish credibility.

Implementing Authorship is a great move for personal branding. Without the Authorship snippet, your name may not appear at all on the search results page, even if your content does. People may love your content and find it helpful, but they won’t be associating it with you. And in order to establish credibility in your field and be seen as an expert or thought leader, people need to know who you are.

Lastly, here’s how to apply for/set up Google Authorship:

1. Make sure your Google+ profile meets the requirements.

On the Google Authorship sign-up page, they have a few requirements you need to meet. First, your profile picture must be a “recognizable headshot.” That means you shouldn’t use a company logo, a cartoon, or a tiny full body shot, all of which could hurt your chances of being accepted.

Secondly, verify your email address on your Google+ profile. If you have an email address that matches the domain your content’s appearing on, that could make the process easier. Supposedly, having a headshot profile picture, a verified email address, and a byline on the content that matches your Google+ name is enough to implement Authorship. But with it being so finicky, it’s wise to take extra measures.

2. Sign up for Authorship.

Once you’ve set up your Google+ profile and made sure you have a byline on all pages you want Authorship to show up for, enter your email address on the Authorship signup page. If this doesn’t work, or if you don’t have an email address that matches the domain of the website, you can still try to implement Authorship by following the steps below:

3. Link to your Google+ profile from your content.

It’s important to link to your Google+ profile from your content for many reasons, so you should do this regardless of whether or not setting up Authorship has worked the first way or not. But to officially associate your content with your Google+ profile, simply add a link to your Google+ profile with “?rel=author” added to the end.

For example, if you have a bio at the end of your blog post, you can add something like “Connect with me on Google+,” with a link that goes: Connect with me on Google+, replacing [profileURL] with your own profile URL.

4. Link to your content from your Google+ profile.

Now that you’ve linked to your Google+ profile from your content, it’s time to link to your content from your profile to create a nifty little link circle. Go to the ‘About’ page of your profile, and click the ‘Edit’ link at the bottom of the ‘Links’ section of your profile. Find the ‘Contributor to’ subsection, and click ‘Add custom link.’ From here you can enter the URL, the title of the blog, and whether you contributed content to it in the past or are currently doing so. Click ‘Save,’ and that’s all folks!

Have you had any difficulty understanding or implementing Google Authorship? Share your troubles in the comments below, and hopefully someone can help!

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