Authorship: How to Get Google to Recognize You as an Authority

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter. This article was contributed by guest author Jeanne Davant.

Generating great online content takes a lot of work – and people appreciate it. Google appreciates quality content as well, and is increasingly emphasizing the role of content in its search-ranking algorithm. Not only that, Google is placing more emphasis on identifying and promoting individuals who generate quality content.

The search giant is giving content-producers new tools to identify themselves as “authors,” including an Authorship markup tool. Content that has been properly marked with the rel=author tag and linked to an author’s Google+ profile is displayed differently in Google search results. This can attract more attention from users than non-tagged listings. Further, you can use the Authorship tag to help position yourself as an authority in your field and add credibility to your brand.

The process does require you to join yet another social network, and you may be rolling your eyes at the prospect. But we are recommending that our clients who create content make the effort to implement authorship now, because there are indications that established “authors” are already enjoying higher search rankings.

What’s in Authorship for You?

Google is still tinkering with Authorship, and it isn’t perfect yet. The set-up process is somewhat complicated. But if you work through it you’ll be rewarded, first and foremost, with higher clickthrough rates. When you establish authorship, your picture will appear on search results pages alongside the link to your content, which helps your article or post to stand out.

Let’s say I want to learn about a gluten-free diet, so I do a search for gluten-free recipes. Here are the first four results that pop up:

gluten-free search

Notice that Elise Bauer’s post displays her photo, byline and how many Google+ circles she’s in, which help her post to stand out. Her post also occupies more real estate than the untagged results above it. All of these factors will motivate users to click on her link. (In fact, several sites have done studies that show improved click-through rates of 38% or more after adding the rel=author tag.) Clicking on Elise’s byline will send a user to her Google+ page—another opportunity for clickthroughs.

The more content you tag, the more Google authority you build up. And tagging an article when you post it will help to prevent others from taking credit for your original content.

How to Set Up Authorship

Google does not yet guarantee that your author information will show up in search results, but it certainly won’t unless you set up your Google+ profile and link your content to it. Here’s how you do that.

  1. Create a Google+ profile by visiting https://plus.google.com.
  2. Add to your profile a clear photo of yourself that people can recognize. A straight-on head shot is best. Use the same photo on your About page.
  3. Enable the Profile discovery option Help others discover my profile in search results.
  4. Add links to any site you write for to the “Contributor to” section in your profile.
  5. Make sure all articles you post have a byline that takes the form By [Your Name] or Author: [Your Name]. Your byline must match the name on your Google+ profile.
  6. If you have a WordPress site, get a Google Plus Authorship Plugin. Popular plugins include Google+ Author Information in Search Results and AuthorSure.
  7. Add the rel=author tag to your articles. Follow the procedures spelled out here.
  8. Link your content to your Google+ profile using either an email address on the same domain as your content or a direct link from your article to your profile. Add the rel=author link either as a meta tag in the head area, or as an actual link to your Google+ profile, for example in the author bio area.
  9. Use the Google Authorship testing tool to ensure that authorship is successfully established.

Authorship Dos and Don’ts

  • Do link original content to your Google+ profile. You can tag everything from short social-media posts to blogs and guest posts on high-quality sites.
  • Don’t tag every page on your site, such as your Home page, About page or product descriptions. It’s possible such tagging will be detrimental to your Authorship ranking.
  • Don’t expect your authorship information to show up immediately in search results. If you’ve been adding content to your site on a regular basis, your results likely will show up sooner.
  • Don’t adopt Google+ Authorship solely to improve page rankings. Authorship tagging isn’t and won’t be a magic bullet; as Google has more than 200 factors that determine where your content will rank. Your primary goal should still be to create content that provides great value for your target audience.

Why Authorship Is So Important

Google rolled out the Authorship program in June 2011. Although many online marketing insiders adopted authorship early on, it hasn’t been widely embraced outside the industry. Now, however, Google is sending signals that authority and credibility will become ever more important in search rankings.

Here’s what Sagar Kamdar, Google’s Director of Product Management on Search, said about it recently:

To light up the people behind the webpages, we wanted to start highlighting the people creating this content in Google.com search results. People discovering information on the web often want to learn more about who created it, see other content by them, and even interact with them….We hope it will improve the search experience over time as we believe that often times content associated with real identity is of higher quality than content published anonymously.” [our emphasis]

A statement by Google’s former chairman, Eric Schmidt, in his new book, The New Digital Age,confirms that:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance. [our emphasis]

Kamdar and other Google officials have not said directly that Authorship currently is a factor in Google’s ranking process. But a statement on the Official Google Webmaster Tools blog on August 6, 2013 confirmed that Google is beginning to use Authorship to display content. On that day, Google announced a new search results feature to help users find in-depth articles. The new feature kicks in when users are looking to learn about a broad topic. Say, for example, you’re searching for information about a gluten-free diet. Google displays a block of results that looks like this:

in-depth search

In the August 6 post, Google indicated that tagging content with rel=author is a key factor in the algorithm used to identify and display these search results.

Authorship’s Coming Influence

We expect that in the near future, authorship will become an increasingly important factor in Google’s search-ranking algorithm. If you do any kind of content marketing (such as blog posts) or if you are an organization that offers information and advocacy, it’s going to be increasingly beneficial to have an Author ranking. Consider doing it now, and you will be ahead of the game.

This is author biographical info, that can be used to tell more about you, your iterests, background and experience. You can change it on Admin > Users > Your Profile > Biographical Info page."

About NSI Partners

A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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