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Three Good Reasons Why Google Authorship Still Matters

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It's a search engine. It's a social network. Google is a lot of things, and its parts are interconnected.

First, some background

The same month that the Google+ social network was launched, Google announced a new way to link writers to content they create: Google Authorship. Along with personalized search results, Authorship became a second direct connection between the social network and Google search results.

Until June 24, 2014, on its search results pages, Google showed author pictures (taken from the Google+ profile page), the name, and the number of G+ circles the author had been added to.

It looked like this:

Researchers found that when an author's picture appeared next to a search result, the clickthrough rate for the search result went up. The "rich snippet" for Authorship was increasing traffic. One study showed a lift of 35%. Authorship was suddenly a way to get more traffic from the same rankings.

On August 28, Google removed the author's byline as well, so that the same search result looked like this:

No picture? No byline? Then what's the point?

Obviously, the interest in Authorship dropped. To most bloggers, it was all about seeing their face and name.

But there are three good reasons to still use Authorship. They all relate to visibility.

  1. Author pictures are still there in personalized results. Anyone who is logged in and hasn't turned off personalized search results will see your picture and byline, as long they've added you to a circle.
  2. Drive traffic to your Google+ profile. Creating another path from Google search to a social profile is a good thing.
  3. Author authority may eventually affect rankings. Google patented the ability to use author information as a ranking factor way back in 2005 in the now-famous "Author Rank" patent. It seems committed to using author information to determine quality. Statements from Google indicate that connecting authors to content is still its goal.

Authorship is a digital signature. If you're interested in personal branding or thought leadership, then you'll want to keep signing your name. It's good for visibility, which is good for networking.

Google Authorship is simply best-practice for any writer. And it's not difficult to set up.

Here's how to add your digital signature

The best way to digitally sign your work is with the "two link method," which involves linking from the authored page to your Google+ profile and vice versa.

Note: There is also a "three link method," but it is used mostly by large multi-author blogs. It involves linking from an authored page to an author bio page on the same site, and then from that bio page to a Google+ profile.

There are two steps in the two-link method.

Step 1: Link from your Google+ profile to your content

On your  G+ "About" page, in the "Links" section, in the "Contributor to" area, add the URL for the site where your content has been published. There's no need to link to the specific article. Just add the link for the homepage of the site. Indicate that you are a "current contributor" to the site.

If you contribute to more that one website, add each site to this list. (Authorship is great for guest bloggers!)

Step 2: Link from the article to your Google+ profile in your author bio

This part is a tiny bit trickier. You're going to link from your author bio to Google+, but you need to add a tiny bit of code to it.

Your bio likely already has a link or two in it. One of those links is going to be to your Google+ profile.

In the code for that link, you're going to add a special tag: rel="author" We're going to add it in two places. So rather than this...

<a href=">Google+</a>

The code for the link will look like this...

<a rel="author" href="Google+"author">Google+</a>

That's it! It didn't hurt a bit, did it?

Tip for WordPress users: There are plugins, such as Author Box Reloaded, that will add the markup for you. These tools also create nice author boxes that include your picture and icons for all of your social networks.

Tip for guest bloggers: If you contribute content to other blogs, I recommend sending over the HTML for your entire bio when you submit your final draft. This is a way to make sure the tags go into the right place. It also makes it simple for the blog editor to add. Here's an example of what that might look like:

Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of <a href="">Orbit Media</a>, a Web design company in Chicago. Connect with Andy on <a rel="author" href="" target="_blank">Google+</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.

Check results

You'll have to wait a few days to see if your name shows in personalized Google search results. To check, make sure you're logged into Google+ and you search for the entire title of the article or a long sentence from the body text. When you see it in the search results, look for your name/link in the snippet.

If it didn't work, try the following:

  • Enter the address of the authored page into Google's Structured Data Testing Tool. It should say "authorship is working for this webpage."
  • In your "Contributor to" links, link directly to a specific post, rather that the website homepage.
  • Check the HTML for the authored page and make sure there aren't two links with rel="author" tags going to different locations. You can add only one digital signature!

The future of search is social

Google Authorship doesn't make you rank higher. It doesn't show your picture. But if you wrote it, why not sign your name to it?

The Web is always becoming more personalized and more connected, and rel="author" is one of hundreds of little tags that are changing how the Web works. If you're a marketer, creating a direct connection between you and your content is definitely a good idea.

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Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a Web design company in Chicago. He's also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. Connect with Andy on .

Twitter: @crestodina

LinkedIn: Andy Crestodina

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  • by Adam Lundquist Fri Sep 12, 2014 via web

    Hi Andy,
    Great article, I had pretty much given up on authorship myself. However, I think you do bring up a good point that Google is still interested in somehow linking articles to authors and using it for rankings. My question is, often when I guest blog they limit me to one link in the footer section. Since currently Google seems to not be using the author ranking I have been linking to twitter. Do you recommend linking out to Twitter for the now, or Google for the future?
    Again, great article :-)

  • by Chris Lang Fri Sep 12, 2014 via web

    There are a few things you missed here: First of all the Rich Snippets data testing tool no longer validates authorship. It does validate publishership.

    You can see my site validating it's publishership there. Also you it would probably be best to add something about publishership still being valid in its least; to validate pages and page profile icons are appearing in personalized search as well.

    Hate to nit pick on ya Andy, but you don't need the ?rel=author querystring. Only the rel=author HTML attribute.

    Good to see a positive note for authorship here though. Good article Andy.

  • by Andy Crestodina Fri Sep 12, 2014 via web

    Thanks for the input, Chris Lang. I'll update my notes about the Structured Data Markup Tool. That's good to know. But I still do recommend including the ?rel=author in the link. I know it should work without it, but I've had problems so I still recommend it.

    Authorship lives! There's more to life that rich snippets for logged out searchers, right?

  • by Mark Fri Sep 12, 2014 via web

    To carry on from Chris' point, it seems authorship details are not going to show up in the personal search results unless you have Publisher set up.

    Which seems to indicate that authorship is well and truly dead.

    So this article is confusing and misleading.

    I had authorship working for years successfully, now when I check the results and the Structured Data Testing tool there's nothing.

    I think it's too early to say what exactly Google is playing at with this.

    Until we get some definitive evidence, there's not much point wasting our time doing anything more with authorship.

  • by suzyspring Mon Sep 15, 2014 via web

    Thanks for the post. Pretty clear about it now.

  • by Jereme Fri Oct 10, 2014 via web

    I would Google Authorship is completely dead. It is a shame because the entire system made a lot of sense and provided a way to claim ownership to articles and other content. Even the Google Rich Snippet Testing Tool - no longer shows the rel="author" tag. The popular SEO WordPress plugin by Yoast has removed the tag as well. RIP Google Authorship!

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