As SEO and the online ecosystem continue to evolve, creating killer content is rapidly changing from a differentiator to an expected practice. When faced with multiple sites offering seemingly uniform content, users will look for alternative means to determine the most relevant and interesting information source. And that, my friends, is where Google's rel="author" becomes your secret weapon.
What is rel="author"? It's Google's way of tying our identity to the content that we create, and displaying that identity in search engine results pages for users to see. This is done by embedding a small piece of code on our site and trying our Google+ profile to the content we create.
In addition to providing an improved search and discovery experience for users, it opens the door to a multitude of benefits to you as an author/business. But before we get to that, let's look at how rel="author" effects users.
To demonstrate how rel="author" inclusion impacts a search result, I conducted a Google search for "How to Make the Best Cheesecake". Below, we can see one result which is not utilizing rel="author", and one which is (respectively):
Notice the difference? Right off the bat, we can see that an article featuring rel="author" information includes an authorship line, and a small image of the author.
If you're wondering where that image comes from, we can see the first hint next to the author's name, where it states that she is in 200 Google+ circles. If I click on the author's name in this result, Google will take me to another SERP which shows a little bit more information about her and links to her Google+ page:
So, now we understand how Google is using Google+ profiles to identify authors and help readers better engage with their search results. Including her social standing (200 circles) also helps us to better understand her influence and social participation. But why?
It starts with the humanization and visualization of search.
It's no secret that humans are visual creatures. According to HubSpot, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.
If we're trying to get someone to our site to view the content we've created, it makes sense that Google, and we, should want to include visual cues to guide them along the way.
The ability to help users literally put a face to our name is one benefit of rel="author", but it's not the only one. Google authorship also helps the world's largest search engine identify content created by specific authors, and give higher authority (read: search ranking) to that content based on the author's history.
To see this explained in more detail, check out this video of Matt Cutts, Google's head of search spam, discussing the matter:
In addition to helping Google filter spam and allowing users to connect with our content on a more personal level, rel="author" has several benefits for your site and business. These include:
- Improved click through rates: several authors have measured their click through rates before and after implementing rel="author", and the [seeminly] universal consensus suggests a significant upward trend after establishing authorship. Conduct a Google search to see the array of positive testimonials on the matter.
- Access to analytics: By associating articles to your account through Google, you'll gain further insights into those articles' performance. This is found under the Labs tab of your Webmaster tools, and serves as a great way to centralize information:
- Opportunity for continued discovery: Let's briefly look back at the results page above for Emma Christensen: how to make the best cheesecake. Recall that we got there by clicking on Ms. Christensen's name in the cheesecake result.
If I remove "how to make the best cheesecake" and repeat this seach with just her name, Google will show me a whole results page tied to her other articles. Not only is this great for boosting her credibility as an author, it's a clear opportunity for users to discover new content authored by you:
Alright, we've spent a lot of time talking about why rel="author" matters, and how it can impact you. My guess is you're ready to set it up for yourself!
Good news. For all the benefits that Rel="author" provides, it's incredibly simle to implement. Just follow these easy steps:
- If you haven't already, set up your Google+ profile. Take care to include a professional and high quality headshot, as this is what users will see next to your articles on SERPs.
- Copy your Google+ profile URL, and paste it into the code below:
So it reads like this:
- Add your completed code to your author bio in your content management system
- Add a link to your publication (blog, site, etc) to your Google+ profile. Do this by simply logging into your Google+ account, selecting your "About" section, Clicking Edit, and adding your website's link in the "Contributor To" section. See mine below:
And voila! Your authorship is set up. Now get to creating all that awesome content swirling in your head, so I can start seeing your beautiful face show up in my Google searches!
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96976831@N00/10215167