Update September 2014
Well, it was a neat feature while it was available but unfortunately Google is no longer offering authorship markup at of late August, 2014. Search engine land has a good article discussing the details which can be read here. I’m going to go ahead and leave the original article in tact just to serve as a reference of what the feature offered when it was available.
If you have been using Google search recently you might have noticed more and more results with a profile picture on the left side. The profile picture is that of the author and is part of Google’s authorship markup.
Not only do these enhanced listings pop but they also garner a higher click through rate than a standard result. In addition to that, it has been hinted by the folks at Google that authorship might eventually become a ranking signal in the future. Many search optimization pros are betting it will be as it gives the search engine additional elements of trust and authority to factor in the battle against web spam.
Regardless of authorship being a ranking signal at the moment the additional clicks not only get you more traffic but click through rate is widely believed to be a ranking signal right now so it can help rankings in a roundabout way as well. For an insurance agency this is going to equate to more organic search leads.
How to Implement Google Authorship
The premise of authorship is to give credit to the author of a piece of content. Implementing authorship markup is fairly straight forward and Google has made changes recently to make it even easier.
What You Need
1. A Google+ Profile
Google has bet the farm on Google+ so it comes as no surprise that your account acts as the hub for their authorship markup. If you don’t already have a Google+ account you can sign up (or optin) with your current Google account here: https://plus.google.com.
Note: For your picture to show up in search results your profile picture must be a clear and distinguishable head shot photo.
2. Add Your Website to Your Google+ Profile
The next step in the process is to add a link to your website, or any site where you have published content from your Google+ profile. The link should be added in the Links section of your profile under the “Contributor to” headline.
Navigation: Profile -> About -> Links -> Contributor to (must be public)
3. Link to your Google+ profile using rel=”author”
The final step in making the authorship connection is linking your content to your Google+ profile using the rel=”author” tag. (See example below)
There are actually several ways to implement this authorship link back to Google+
- Add the rel=”author” link to your Google+ profile on every article you write. This can be done in an author bio box or just slapped on at the end of the article. If you are the only author for your site you could also add the link to your sidebar or footer so it is on every page.
- If you have an author or about page on your site you can simply add the rel=”author” link on that page. You will then need to link your author byline using the rel=”me” tag to that page to make the authorship connection. This is a good option if you want more control over what pages have the structured markup.
- If you write for an outside source that has limited use of HTML but does allow you to add an author link you can simply append the end of your Google+ profile URL with ?rel=author (example below).
Here is a example of how a basic implementation would look.
There are a few other ways to make the authorship connection as well such as link in the site header and verifying an email address from the domain. We have used a header link here at ILG which can easily be implemented in WordPress with various authorship and SEO plugins such as the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast.
Does it Work?
Once you’ve linked everything up it generally takes a few days to a few weeks before your image shows up in the search results. Before you decide to sit back and wait however you can head over to Google’s structured data testing tool (formerly rich snippet tool) to see if you have everything working properly. If your profile image does not display go back and check to ensure you have everything linked properly.
A successful result would look like this:
Once you have implemented your authorship markup you are one step ahead of your competition. It is human nature to gravitate towards a search listing that stands out and right now we are not seeing too many agency websites with the markup. Not only will your head shot stick out in the search results and attract more clicks but as I hinted before the increased click through rate is likely to get you higher search results as well. Google’s goal with search is to provide the best results possible. If your website results are getting a better click through rate than higher ranking results Google’s algorithm with take that into consideration.
As more sites get up to speed with authorship we are likely to see the authority factor come into play as well. This means it is probably a good idea to start building up your Google+ following and positioning yourself as an authority figure on the platform. Admittedly I have not worked on this much myself to date but it is going to be a priority moving forward. In fact, let’s connect right now: Mike Izni Google+.
I realize this article might a bit confusing for many of our readers so feel free to ask questions in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help you out.