What’s in a name? Well, if it’s Google’s name or your name—and especially the combination—a lot.
Yes, that means even without photos (gasp!) and bylines (double gasp!), Google Authorship can still wield tremendous power for you and your business. How so, you ask? Before we answer that question, let’s first look at what Google Authorship is (or was) and what it was originally intended to do.
Why Authorship Came to Be
When it was first launched, Google Authorship was touted as Google’s way of allowing content creators to essentially lend credibility to their work. The addition of photos was supposed to personalize the experience and show that real people instead of computerized robots actually wrote the material. Connecting authors’ social profiles—especially their Google+ profiles—to search results for their other work as a way of communicating “real” authorship was another goal.
What Actually Happened
As the initial version of Google Authorship rolled out, a few problems became apparent. These include:
1. Cluttered SERPs
Search result pages displayed a mix of “normal” results and those featuring head shots and bylines above the meta descriptions. This inconsistency in SERP display and layout became one of the primary problems with Google Authorship because it actually impeded a simple user experience.
2. Low Participation
Adoption of Google Authorship was not exactly overwhelming. Whether people did not understand or buy into the premise of authorship or whether they were put off by the complicated path to implementing it, many content creators simply did not participate.
3. Competition with Ads
Photos embedded into non-paid search results competed visually with paid ads for viewers’ attention, potentially lowering the effectiveness of some ads. Think advertisers would be happy about that? Nope. Think Google would be happy to see ad revenue drop in lieu of more photo-laden SERPs? Nope.
At the same time that these seeming flaws in the Google Authorship program began showing through, the increased emphasis on overall user experience as a measuring stick in SEO rankings grew. Wisely, Google rethought its approach.
What Has Changed
Some may be touting the death of Google Authorship but that is not at all what has happened. Instead, the rel=author markup has evolved. The first hint of any change came late in 2013 when the percent of SERPs with photos or bylines began to diminish. Then came the removal of photos altogether followed by the removal of all bylines.
The visible nature of Google Authorship may be gone but its power and relevance to overall search rankings has not. In fact, one could argue that its importance in this manner may actually increase. Google Authorship now essentially works behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera. It still feeds information to Google’s complex web of algorithms and tracks Google+ activity. If you don’t think that is important, read on.
How Can Today’s Google Authorship Benefit Businesses
The best way to think about the changes in Google Authorship is to consider everything else that is going on in the world of SEO, especially Hummingbird. One of the main points of this algorithm is to encourage a more natural and logical user experience. Another is to facilitate greater engagement and personalization of web experiences, especially in the context of social media. Ideally, the companies and individuals that do these things will be rewarded with improved search engine rankings.
The new Google Authorship plays into these goals perfectly and, in a way, could be considered a logical extension of Hummingbird. It delivers the following:
1. User-Friendly SERPs
Cleaner search result pages allow visitors to find what they want faster and easier—especially when on mobile devices (you have heard how mobile searches and online use is growing, haven’t you?). Author photos and bylines were all about the authors. Searches are supposed to be for the users.
2. Promotion of Google+ Engagement
If a person is logged into his or her Google+ account and performs a search, the photos and bylines of authors who are in the searcher’s circles will display. Google is clearly telling us all that relevance and connections cannot be fabricated, they must be real—and they ideally should happen within the Google network.
3. Confirmed Author Authority
Author Rank has been around since 2005 and while Google currently denies a direct link between authorship and search rankings, enough rumblings have been heard about how this *may* happen in the future to the point where this concept should be considered highly likely.
4. The Right Links
Yes, “link” is a four-letter word but it can be a positive thing when done correctly. A link between your own content and your Google+ profile is very much “the right type” of link.
The bottom line is that even without a direct impact on ultimate search result listings, Google Authorship is a validity indicator of content, authors, social presence and connection to searchers. Knowing this, it is hard to understand why any blogger or site owner would choose to ignore it.
It’s Not Really That Difficult
It’s time to stop whining about how difficult it is to set up a rel=author markup. Why? Because it is really not that hard. The most common way of doing this involves creating a link from your Google+ account to the site or sites where your content appears and then vice versa.
The outbound link from your social profile simply involves adding the URL from the destination site in the “Contributor to” section of your G+ links. The inbound link is created by adding a special rel=”author” tag to your author bio.
You can test your links to make sure they are working correctly when logged into Google+. You can also verify it in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool by inputting the URL to the linked site.
Yes, Google Authorship still matters. Yes, it can differentiate you and connect you to your content. Yes, it is easy to implement and manage. Why, then, would you not participate?