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="http://www.highrankings.com/jill-whalen" rel="author">Jill Whalen</a>
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.
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.
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.
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 and an SEO Consultant in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen
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