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Google’s rel=author Authorship feature

2013 January 14
by Kathy Alice
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This post originally appeared on October 28, 2011, in January 2014, I made several changes to it to bring it up to date. On August 28, 2014, Google ended the Google Authorship program citing low participation and concern over how it was cluttering the search experience, especially for mobile users. Despite this, you may want to still implement it if you are active on Google+. Users who are logged into their Google account and that follow you on Google+ will see the the enhanced snippet. Otherwise it’s not worth the effort.

Ah the old days. The early days when all Google looked at was how many backlinks pointed to your page. These days, trust, creditability and authority signals are a big part of what Google looks for when deciding whether to rank your page in the top ten. In the summer of 2011, leveraging Google profiles, Google released another feature that helps it do just that. You can now tag your articles with HTML markup to link your pages to your Google profile – which makes you more “real” in Google’s eyes. The nice thing about this is that then Google will put a pic of you next to the snippet of your article that shows up in the search results as Danny Sullivan appears below.

Danny Sullivan article

Danny's article with SEO advice to Bill Gates

Google’s desire to tie content to “real” people perhaps sheds some light on the 2011 mass removal of non user Google+ accounts.

I had initially tried to set it up on my blog but it didn’t work. After seeing tweets from several people that it didn’t work for them either, I put it aside and forgot about it. However I circled back to it and was determined to get it working.  The concept to get here is that you have to establish a bi-directional link between your blog and your Google profile, as a way to validate that it is really you that wrote the article.  So far, sounds easy right? Well, unfortunately there are a lot of little details.

Set up your Google profile

If you have a Gmail or Google+ account, you already have a Google profile.  You might have even filled it in back in the Buzz days.  Sign into your Google account and select Edit My Profile from the right hand dropdown on Googles black bar that appears on Gmail and other Google properties.

  • Add a decent, recognizable picture to your profile.  Picture of your cat won’t work.
  • Add a link in the “Contributor To” profile setting to the site that you are publishing on. Note, with multi-author blogs using the 3 link method this link should be to the appropriate author archive page.

Add tags to your articles and bio page

Now you have a choice.  You can use the 3 link method or 2 link method. There is even now an email verification method but this requires you to publish your email address, which I don’t like because it attracts spam so I’m not going to cover that. Which method you use comes down to whether you have a bio page for each author on your blog.

  • 2 Link Method: The 2 link method creates a bi-directional link (as I described above) between the posts you author and your Google+ page. So this requires you to have a link (for example the author name link) in each post that you author to your Google+ page or somewhere on the page. Some blogs have an author meta box at the end of each post which lends itself naturally to the 2 link method. If you don’t have a bio or an about page (an author archive page with author meta data can work too), then the 2 link method is for you. If you have a multi author blog you can also investigate this plugin to set up Google Authorship
  • 3 Link Method: The 3 link method is a three way link between the Google+ page, the posts you author and your bio or about page. The bio page has a link with the to the Google+ page, the posts (or somewhere on the page the posts are on) have a link with rel="me" to your bio page. In my case, my About menu item link is where I added the rel="me".

I ended up using the 3 link method, because I have a bio page I’d rather my visitors visit rather than sending them offsite off my blog to my Google+ page. 

This Matt Cutt’s video walks through both methods, although they frame the 3 link method as being more relevant for multi author blogs. You may also find this Google plage on setting on your profile useful.

If you have a bio page on your blog (and you really should), adding the rel="me" is easy. What’s harder is figuring out how to turn your author’s name into a hyperlink with the pointing to your bio page. One way to do this is with the XFN attribute available in WordPress menu settings that you can use to add the author tag to your About menu link. .

XFN Attribute in WordPress menus

Setting XFN Attrribute so About Menu Link is tagged with rel=”author”

Thanks to Joost for his post on using XFN to add the author tag

Many WordPress themes are stripping out the “rel” tags (this doesn’t happen with the XFN attribute), do a view source to look at your HTML code to see if this is happening to you too. If so there is a WordPress Plugin that you can install to prevent this, however keep in mind that use of this opens up a security hole which is why I don’t use it.

Testing your Google authorship implementation

It can take a while for the author pictures to show up as Google has to index the pages first, but you can check whether you have done everything right with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool Google provides.  You want it to look something like the below:

Rich Snippet of WebEnso Blog Post

Now you sit back and wait for your smiling face starts to showing up in snippets in the search results

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Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a technologist, author, blogger and SEO consultant with a background in web operations and engineering.In her spare time she loves to get outside.
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5 Responses Post a comment
  1. November 2, 2011

    This week noticed that if you are logged into Google+ there is now a “Google+ circles” link as part of the snippet. So if you like what the author has to say, you can add them directly into one of your circles. Thanks to Armand Morin for posting about this.

  2. November 28, 2011

    I saw that Google had recently updated their Authorship section and seems to now allow you to link back using a Google Profile button.

    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1408986&ctx=plusone

    I’ve tried this on my WordPress author site (adding the Plugin you mention) and it appears to work according to the Rich Snippets Testing Tool but when I added it to Blogger the Rich Snippet Testing Tool doesn’t recognise it at all – very confusing as Blogger is meant to be linked to Google Plus now and I’ve switched from a Blogger Profile to a Google Profile.

    It’ll be interesting to see if this gets any easier!

    Thanks for your helpful post.

    • Kathy Alice permalink*
      November 28, 2011

      I don’t use Blogger, so I haven’t tried it yet. Thanks for sharing your experience, hopefully you can get it working!

  3. December 16, 2011

    Thank you. How can I implement this one described below?! I have a personal website and I want to address to my main domain automatically for all of my posts.

    ” You can actually use the root domain as your author page if it a) has a link, using rel=”me” to your Google profile and b) if it is not on a free host domain such as WordPress or Blogger. (Credit: @pedrodias)”

  4. Kathy Alice permalink*
    July 31, 2013

    Armin, you can use the 2 link method where the link pointing to G+ is just on your sidebar of your main site.

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