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SEO Website Audit

5 6 Reasons Why You Need to Use Rel=Author on Your Content

January 11, 2012

Have you heard of Google's Authorship program yet? Whether you've heard of it or not, you've likely seen its fruits in the search results. You know those listings that have a photo of the author next to them? Most likely they get that extra cool stuff because they're using Rel=Author correctly and Google has accepted them to participate. Unfortunately, it's been a bit hit-or-miss as to whether your content gets accepted or not. I saw mine accepted for a day or two many months ago, and then *poof!* it was gone. I reviewed their new guidelines recently, however, made a few changes, and sure enough, within a week or so, my content started showing up…yay!

While you may or may not get your content into the program, the only way to know is to try, and persistence is definitely a key.

If you're thinking it's just not worth the trouble, here are 5 reasons why it's super important:

1. It's kinda sorta easy to implement.

While it is a bit confusing to figure out exactly how to enable authorship based on Google's directions  (which seem to keep changing), in reality their latest criteria have made it easier than ever to implement.

I'm not going into the specifics on how to do it, because you can follow Google's directions. Suffice it to say that the main things you need are a Google Profile page  that links to the website where you have author status, and a link back from your website's home page to your Google Profile page.

You can also have an "author page," such as the About Us page on your website, as long as your Google profile page links to that page.

Once you've got that all implemented, every time you write an article, simply link your name in your byline to either your Google Profile page or your author page with the Rel=Author code, as I have here:

By <a href="" rel="author">Jill Whalen</a>

Rel=Author Byline Link

Be sure to add the Rel=Author tag to as many of your old content articles as well, especially ones that you know show up well in the search results.

While Google has moved toward having you link directly to your Google Profile page in your Rel=Author links (as opposed to your author page) to make things less confusing, I still link to my author page, and it works fine.

If you go this route, be sure to follow their older, more confusing instructions as well.

2. It makes your content stand out.

Imagine if you could put big stars around your content listings in Google's search results that everyone would see. Rel=Author does exactly that! Only it's not stars, but your name and photo.

Before Rel=Author became widespread, only logged-in users and those who participated in social media might see a little profile photo of you if they happened to search on something that you had tweeted about. But with Rel=Author implemented correctly, even users who aren't logged into their Google accounts or their social media accounts will still see the rich author information and photo.

Rel=Author in the SERP

This is huge, folks, and this reason alone makes it worth figuring out the implementation.

3. Provides credibility and more exposure.

Beyond just seeing my smiling face in the listings for my content, as you can see in the above screenshot, Google is also showing how many people have circled me on Google+ as well as a "More by Jill Whalen" link. Clicking that link shows more information about me from my Google Profile, plus posts I've made on Google+ related to the search query, and all the other articles that I've written on the subject.

Rel=Author More Info in the SERP

I've also seen them show articles others have written on the subject that reference me in one way or another.

4. Higher clickthrough rate.

I'd say this one goes without saying, due to all of the above factors. It would be difficult to *not* click on the listing that Google is screaming for you to click on. Time will tell on this one, but so far it appears that since my authorship status started to show up in the Google results (it's less than 2 weeks now), I've been getting more traffic for certain articles.

5. Additional metrics in Webmaster Tools.

As if all of the above weren't enough, once you have your authorship up and running and showing up in Google results, you'll also see new author stats in your Webmaster Tools account. (Look under "Labs.") The information there shows you approximately how many times each of your content pages showed up in the search results (impressions) and approximately how many times it was clicked on, along with other interesting details that you can't really get elsewhere.

Rel=Author Stats in Google's Webmaster Tools

Of course, Google has their own selfish reasons for giving us all of this awesomeness. Their number-one priority this year is Google+ and all that surrounds it. Rel=Author provides anyone who creates online content with a darn good reason (make that 5!) to create a Google Profile. And the more people who do that, the more who might start using Google+, especially if they want to get those circle numbers up as mentioned in #3 above.


#6. Added Sept. 27, 2012: Matt McGee from Search Engine Land has confirmed with Google one more reason why you need to implement rel=author. When someone clicks on one of your authored articles at Google and then goes back to the search results, Google will present the user with even more articles authored by you. Read about it here.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings Jill Whalenand an SEO Consultant in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen

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Post Comment

 Terri Zwierzynski said:
Jill -- This is the first I've heard of rel=author, so thanks for keeping us on top of these things! A question for those of us with multi-author websites. How would we best implement this in a way that will benefit both our authors (and their websites), as well as our multi-author website? I'm not seeing yet how that would work.
 Jill Whalen said:

Google explains that on their more complicated directions page that I linked to in the article.
 Terri Zwierzynski said:
Ah. Ok, thanks Jill!t
 Terri Zwierzynski said:
Yep that explained it. Good examples, too. Have a bit of work to do but it seems straightforward now.

For anyone that may be as overwhelmed by the multi-author website/blog bit -- hang in there, read it through a couple of times and it becomes pretty clear and simple.t
 Jill Whalen said:
I agree, Terri. You just have to read it slowly and carefully a few times and follow each step as you read along.
 Diego said:
Excellent article Jill,

Just one clarification, please.

I understand that linking from the homepage to the Google profile is a must and it's not enough to just link from the About page. Right?

 Jill Whalen said:
@Diego, yes according to their latest instructions, that does seem to be important. It didn't take long after I did that to finally start showing up correctly.
 Lee Jackson said:
Great write up, thanks Jill! I have a Rel=Author link in the footer on every page of my main site and blog. This is actually somethign Matt Cutts suggested months ago but do you feel it's still a viable way to take ownership of content? Is it too 'spammy'?
 Jill Whalen said:
I'm not really sure, Lee. I'm not sure if that's its intended use. Do you have the reference from Matt where he recommended it? Doesn't ring a bell to me.
 Ron said:
It is definitely helping increase ctr. Ive seen an increase of my ctr since i implemented this. Even if your page is way below the serp, users will still tend to click it.
 Jeff Emmerson said:
Jill! You are the SEO shite!


Thanks so much!
 Clinton said:
Gill, I've been a subscriber of yours for years, and I have great respect for you, but you aren't going to like this post of mine.

While the above article explains beautifully how this technique can be used and demonstrates vividly the difference it could make to traffic ... I'm beginning to think Google is asking far too much.

Any benefit we webmasters get from this will be short term. In the greedy rush to get a few extra visitors we end up playing a very dangerous game, a game that is designed to have only one winner and that winner isn't the webmaster.

This isn't Google helping you to rank better, it's Google building up something they don't have - content. And they're using you to do it for them. They'll dump you as soon as their purpose is served. What guarantees has Google given you on the Profile page you are creating? Will it be owned by you? Do they guarantee they'll never charge you for it? Do they guarantee they'll never advertise your competitor on it?

I'm not some lone crank. Some of the biggest names in the business have been warning about the predatory tactics and ulterior motives. SearchEngineLand, for example, points out some of the risks:–-is-google-promoting-authors-or-google-104841 and Aaron Wall at seobook provides numerous examples of how past predation worked with Google:

Using rel=author is not in webmasters' long term interests. It's core purpose is to build Google properties and to help Google compete against other social networks. Yes, it'll get you some short term traffic gain. BUT, there's a long term price!
 Jill Whalen said:
@Clinton, I agree that Google is only offering us some benefits (although I would argue they are great benefits) in order to get links to G+ as well as more exposure. But at this point in time, having your content stick out so prominently is such a huge marketing boon, that I don't mind taking Google's bribe.

I could care less if they own my G+ profile. I have a zillion profiles, and I use my own About Us page as my author page. So whatever Google does in the future with my profile is of no consequence to me.

I'm also not putting content on G+, I'm simply using it to market the content on my own site, just as I use Twitter and Facebook to do the same. For me, the benefits far outweight any potential consequences that could come later.

Sure, Google is bribing us for links (which is against their TOS) but whatever...
 Jonny Ross said:
I Agree entirely, and i have blogged about it several times, and implemented it, but do i find google using my author profile in the search.... no, i am gutted... would welcome any feedback on why anyone things it doesnt show...

 Clinton said:
Gill, I don't agree they are great benefits unless you take a short term view. In the long term, it's only Google that wins. There are numerous examples from the past where Google directed webmaster behaviour in ways that allegedly were in the webmasters' interests only for it to later emerge that it was to webmasters' detriment and really in Google's interest.

Google doesn't exist to make you or me money, Google exists to make Google money. Any action Google takes needs to be seen in that light. And they are known to play dirty. Here's another interesting case that Google has finally apologised for:

If Google would like us to create author profiles and link to them .... we need to consider all the implications and not get carried away by potential, short term higher visibility in SERPS (also called "the bait". Bait, of course, isn't well known for being in the best interests of fish).
 Jill Whalen said:
@Clinton, we'll simply have to agree to disagree on this topic.
 Liz said:
@Jill - What do you think about the impact on e-commerce? I've been talking to some of my friends who own e-commerce stores and their feelings are that there is no need to get involved with Google+ because their usual customers, won't be using it now nor in the near future. They see it as mostly for geeks.

So, they don't have Google+ profiles or pages and they don't have +1 buttons on their sites. I can't see this working out for them unless G+ goes the way of Buzz. What do you think?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Liz, I'm not sure if the rel=author tag would be useful to a straight ecommerce site, but if they're also writing content that would be valuable to their customers then it would be important to do.

As to Google+ in general, that's a whole 'nother article. With Google's new "Search plus Your World" they're kind of forcing everyone's hand to get involved. But like I said, that's a whole other topic from rel=author.
 Kaushalam said:
Is the author profile for only blog, can it be create for website?
 Jill Whalen said:
It is for any content that you author.
 Andrea said:
Thanks Jill. I've unsubscribed to so many e-newsletters, but yours continues to be really useful. In the scheme of what you write about here, do you think it's also helpful to list and link to your individual articles, including old ones, on your G+ page?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Andrea, I think listing all articles you write on your Google+ Profile would be mighty cluttered.

Posting them as a status update (or whatever they call it there), however, would likely be helpful. Not so much for rel=author but more for that whole new "Search Plus Your World" thingee, which again, is a whole 'nother topic.
 Brendan Ross said:
Hello Jill. Love your blog!

I have rel=author all implemented, and my page checks out on the rich snippets testing tool.

About 2,800 people have me in circles.

Whew! This was all a lot of work. Now - how do I actually get google to throw my picture into SERPS?

 Jill Whalen said:
@Brendan, you basically have to just wait. (Assuming you filled out their form that points out your stuff to them.)

They may or may not allow you in. It's not really clear how they decide.
 Bill said:
I believe that google will devalue your links as soon as they realize you are the author of the content and linking to yourself. Seems like u need to balance greater serp visibility (for the fortunate few) vs devalued links.
 Jill Whalen said:
@Bill, I don't understand what you're saying and/or how it applies to rel=author. Feel free to elaborate if you'd like.
 Bill said:
Lets say i publish articles on a blog that i own. I link a few of the articles to my main website so i can earn links. Google doesnt know i am linking to a website i control so those links help me rank. Then i implement rel = author tag on those articles and google algo says no more rank can pass since link votes to properties i control should flow less page rank. Am i making any sense?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Bill: So you're worried that your link spam won't work anymore?

Yeah, I suppose if you're trying to trick Google about stuff, you wouldn't want to point it out to them. But that's a silly way of working and isn't SEO anyway so it isn't a concern for professional SEOs only for web spammers.
 Bill said:
Then anybody using guest blogging to build one way backlinks to their website is a spammer by that definition.
 Jill Whalen said:
They're not trying to hide who authored their posts, however. If you think that Google doesn't already know that the links are to their own site (even without rel=author) then you're simply fooling yourself.
 Bill said:
Thanks for your comments. This is a topic that i dont think is discussed much.
 Andrew Rose said:
Jill, Do you have to be a developer to implement these rel=author?

 Jill Whalen said:
Andrew, no. But you might need to know a bit about HTML code.
 Lisa W said:
I haven't tried the rel=author yet, but I can't even get my website to show up under google search, at all. I have all the meta data filled in, as suggested. Don't know what else to do.
 Jill Whalen said:
Lisa, you need to start learning more about the basics of SEO. Check out my SEO course on It's very inexpensive!
 Ashish Chandra said:
In my website, I have inserted all the essential codes and the authors' images show in Google's Rich Snippets Testing Tool. But after so many days, still actual Google search results don't show the images. :(
 Jill Whalen said:
Ashish, as mentioned, it can take quite some time, or never to happen. You have to have a certain amount of authority to begin with.
 Sandra said:
Jill, another great post. can I ask a question. I have a client who does not want to have a personal G+ page , just a busiless page. Would rel=author still work if linked to their G+ business page or does it have to be linked to their profile??
 Matt said:
Thanks for the info, Jill. I agree with you - use it while you can. If they take it away later, so be it. Plus, my feeling is that the more you use the things they promote, the better your site may rank. That's a totally unscientific thought, just a guess (or wishful thinking!)

If I have 2 (or more) unrelated sites, should I set up a different G+ profile for each site? I'm thinking yes.
 Jill Whalen said:
Matt, you set up one personal profile and then different company pages off of that one profile, I believe.

Sandra, I believe you have to set up a personal page before you can set up a business page, but you should double check on that as they are constantly changing things.
 Mark Oleszczak said:
I've had a hard time having my rel-author to show up in the SERPs. I recently launched my new site, so while it doesn't have a ton of authority yet - I am wondering if they do not show the rel-author for smaller sites? A friend of mine had the same issue until he was featured on a reputable SEO site.

I have a post going on a larger site in the coming weeks - so I'll be curious to see if that is what finally gets my rel-author to show up.

 Jill Whalen said:
Mark, they don't disclose it, but I'm pretty sure you have to have a certain amount of authority before they'll give you author status. It would really make sense to do so.
 matt said:
My site is accessible with the WWW and without it. The rich snippet tool shows that google will only recognize authorship on the exact address you specify, www or not.
which do people use? Should I set my authorship up for www.domain or just domain?
 Jill Whalen said:
@Matt, it doesn't matter. Just choose one, set it in your Google Webmaster Tools account and then use that for your authorship and everything else you do.

You may want to consider redirecting the version you don't choose to the one you do choose, via a 301 redirect as well.
 Anonymous said:
Thanks, Jill!
 Mark Oleszczak said:
I read something about needing a headshot (instead of a logo). What do you think? The more I thought about it, the more I began noticing that most of them are in fact headshots.

Mine is a logo, so I may switch it out & see if that plays a factor at all.
 Jill Whalen said:
Yes you do need a headshot on your personal profile page, which is what you link your authorship to.
 Frank said:
Great job, finally someone explained the difference between rel=me and rel=author. The problem i'm having is that no matter what i do i still can't get my author profile picture to show up. I think it has something to do with the fact that i'm using Google Blogger (blogspot). And i can't put the rel=me link in my profile page, it's un-editable. Any suggestions? Should i make my Google+ profile my blogger profile? Here's what i've done so far: How to Make Your Profile Picture Appear on Google Search
 Carter Bowles said:
Or don't use rel="author", since immediately after I used it my completely white hat site was removed from the search results entirely, save searching for the web address. No idea why but it happened immediately so the odds that it's a coincidence are incredibly low.
 Vaneeesa Blaylock said:
Thanks so much Jill! I especially appreciated the debate between you and Clinton. Even though you had to agree to disagree, you managed to discuss my own concerns and help me understand the landscape better.

I think we all understand that it's been a long time since Google was a couple of idealistic Stanford grad students, still, while we shouldn't be naive about it, I don't think I have quite Clinton's level of animosity for the company. In balance my own sense is probably closer to yours, that yes Google is doing this for their own self-interest generally and to advance Google+ specifically, still, if there's a bit of symbiotic benefit to be had, why not clean the particles off the big fish's teeth.

Thanks Jill! And Clinton too! :)
 Brett Cairns said:
Tried this and it worked for a while in search and then stopped working
 Jim Hobson said:
Authorship is a great tool for building branding and an authority reputation. If you have not already learned about Rich Snippets, you need to get on it asap. Rich Snippets can do for your site, even more that Authorship can do for you personally.

And thanks Jill for all that you do and bring to the forefront.
 Terry Simmonds said:
Just a quick update.

Google are now only displaying an authors image once per page in the results now.

Previously if you had 2 or more results in the top 10 for a search phrase your author image was displayed multiple times.

Now they are only sisplaying an authors image once per page in the results.

More info and a screenshot here -

Interestingly, it is per displayed results page.
Set Google to display 10 results per page and your image can display on pages 1, 2, 3, etc.
Set Google to display 100 results per page and your image will only display once on that page.
 Gautham A S said:
I am wondering how many circles one needs to be in before he gets the metric shown in search?
 Chad Agrawal said:
So many people are using it now, I feel like this is a standard process to have your pic in search results. Anyone know if you can use it as a page?
 Mark H said:

sadly I think it's going to be one of those things where you have to join in or risk being punished in some way later down the line if you haven't signed up.

Thanks for the interesting article and replies to the comments too.
 JillWhalenFan said:

I have reviews done on my site by independents, some of whom prefer to remain anonymous. I could claim authorship as I 'own' the reviews but am reluctant to put into my own name, either. My (maybe silly and naive) question is, could I make the author the business name?

Thanks in advance.
 Jill Whalen said:
I don't think you can make the author a business's name.
 Craig Chant said:
Can someone please clarify if under the multi-author option these guideline notes...

[quote]To identify the author of an article, Google checks for a connection between the content page (such as an article), an author page, and a Google Profile.
•A content page can be any piece of content with an author: a news article, blog post, short story …
•An author page is a page about a specific author, on the same domain as the content page.
•A Google Profile is Google's version of an author page.

...mean you HAVE to have a Google profile page?

I thought the rel="author" could point to your own 'biography' page?

What's the purpose of this Google profile page I don't want nor have a need for?
 Jill Whalen said:
Yes, you have to have a profile page. But yes you can point to your own bio page. The purpose of making you have a profile page is because Google wants to be able to say they have X number of profiles on G+ :)
 Finn Skovgaard said:
I had it set up quickly after they introduced it, and before it was mentioned on Highrankings. The original instructions provided by Google were indeed confusing, but I managed to make it work. I simply added the link back to my Google profile in a footer included on every page.

It no longer works. I checked up on the instructions, and while originally the following type of link worked and was what they told us to do:

they now tell us to use


The frustrating thing is they make no effort to inform those who have already set things up in the original format that it no longer works. They could do so, since they know the profile owner's e-mail address, but for some reason, they prefer to let things slide into disuse.

Neither in the old nor in the new instructions do they tell us if the links work in an IFRAME. They originally did, and I'll find out in the coming time if it still does. Why give us such information up front if all webmasters can waste their time experimenting? The whole thing doesn't seem very organized.

And I've always found Google+ chaotic to use and navigate. One never really knows where in the navigation structure one is, and if there is a navigation structure at all. One wants to find a particular page in there - go figure. It's a maze. One of the reasons I don't use it regularly.
 Finn Skovgaard said:
I can see that the a tags I had included have been discarded automatically, so part of my post no longer makes any sense.

Originally, the rel="author" keyword went next to URL. Now, it is attached to the URL after a ?. Originally, the link went to Now, it is
 Jill Whalen said:
I know they've changed things, but it's surprising they'd remove previously approved people from it. I still link to my own bio not my g+ profile and it still works.
 Craig Chant said:
Well G! can forget it if they think I'm now going to have to manage a multitude of G+1 profile accounts for all my members just so I can then use the author attribute to point to their biography pages on my own site.

I hate my G+1 account and don't use it, I only created it so I could implement the G+1 like button and that was a waste of time, as all it's done for me is create spam from them!

I'm not wasting my time setting up a load more just so G! can make BS claims about how many profiles they have.

I wonder what the percentage of 'active' profiles really is? Number of accounts is a totally irrelivant number, that who ever G! thinks they are going to boast to about is just going to laugh in their face.

Facebook has a gazillion 'members', they still made a loss, as no doubt 90% of the accounts are most likely dormant!

Lies, damn lies and statistics, AKA : G+1 profiles / accounts!
 Jill Whalen said:
That's not the proper nor appropriate purpose of rel=author, Craig. It's for people who write blog posts or articles.
 Craig Chant said:
So it is only for bloggers and article writers, and not books, music, T.V. , graphics or any other type of media to represent who the author is?

Seems limited in scope, and discriminatory to all other authors of other media types, I shall now remove all the attributes from my links.

I thought this type of SEO was for all, not a select few! I guess I shouldn't be suprised though, after all we are talking Google here!
 Finn Skovgaard said:
Jill, surprising they'd remove previously approved people, yes, but that is what they have done. If you google my name, you see my profile photo next to my G+ profile. Then if you google for example "streetwise france" or "french mentaliy" to get my site in the results list but not my G+ profile, Google finds many of my other sites where these keywords don't appear, but they don't show my profile photo next to any of them. I know it originally worked. Now it doesn't. I changed the links as I mentioned when I wrote my first post, so I cannot rule out that when they re-crawl my sites, it may work again. But this whole feature is a game of arbitrary hit and miss. They change the syntax without informing those already using the feature. They have the e-mail address to inform users in the G+ profile, so it's not an excuse that they don't know how to contact the users. Sometimes Google drives you insane.
 Finn Skovgaard said:
In case anyone else has been tearing their hair out of rel=author not working, here is what I finally found out:

1. The link to the site on the Google+ profile must be in the "Contributor to" section on the 'about' page, not the "Links" section.

2. The link with rel=author must be in the main html file for the page, not in an IFRAME included on several pages.

When I fixed these two things, Google's structured data testing tool finally accepted the site. They also have a useful article "Author information not appearing"

The profile photo is still not appearing in search results, but I guess these is a time lag for that.

What I still don't understand is why it worked for one of my sites with rel=author included via an IFRAME and site linked under Links, not Contributor to, while it did not work on another site having the exact same conditions.
 Moonshine said:
if they had aa rel=author tag you could apply to images, they's save a lot of us from the constant headache of issuing copyright infringment notices from those people who seem to think google is a free image bank where they can help themselves to pictures for use on their own sites.
 Scott Warner said:
Thank you for providing the link! I searched through several sites, and I am glad I found the exact link actually posted. Appreciate it!
 Russ said:
For any Wordpress users out there, you can also add the rel=author tag to a specific post. This is really useful if you have an author that has just a few posts on your wesbite, but you want to show their authourship for these posts in Google.

To achive this, just add the authors name and their Google+ profile URL to the bottom of the post (using the rel=author code). Ask the author to add the contributor to in their Google+ profile to either the individual blog post’s URL or the website homepage.

This is acutally easier and less troublesome then using any kind of plugin.