Google Plus Authorship

As part of Google’s massive platform, Google Plus has been shown to be a significant driver of web traffic (well, on Google at least). It’s likely that the more +1’s your content receives, the better the chances it’ll be seen by users important to you or your business.

The idea behind Google’s Authorship functionality is that content created by trusted sources will be suggested to the user (especially if said user is in the content creator’s circles) in search results. Simply, your name shows up right next to the result from your website so people who consider you an authority will be more likely to click through to your content.

Users can also click your byline in the search results to see other articles you’ve written (perhaps on different web properties you own) and to follow you on Google+. It seems to be going through a number of changes as of late and its effectiveness in page ranking seems somewhat dubious, but I can definitely see the value in linking up content you’ve created all over the web and funneling it into search results.

Getting Google Authorship Set Up Correctly

Getting Authorship working correctly was somewhat confusing. There are a few different places you’ll need to muck around with to get it started and some of the documentation is out of date or in conflict. Even then, it takes a bit of time for content to be crawled and catalogued, and you’re not guaranteed to see author data unless Google finds it to be “relevant” (oof).

  1. Obviously you have to have a Google Plus profile, using your real name. The documentation indicates that you need a profile picture with a recognizable headshot, but Google recently removed the author image from results (more on that later), so this may not be important.

  2. You need a byline on your article page. You can see mine (“By Benjamin Borowski”) in the header of this article. You can see how this looks in the header of the individual article page titles on the page you are reading:

    <h2>
        <span class="author" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Person">
            By
            <a href="https://plus.google.com/+BenjaminBorowski-t1e?rel=author" itemprop="url">
                <span itemprop="name">Benjamin Borowski</span>
            </a>
            /
        </span>
    </h2>
    

    In the above example, you can see that I have a byline which reads “By Benjamin Borowski”. My name matches my name on my Google+ profile (this is important for the Authorship to work correctly), and the name is linked to the Google+ profile.

  3. I’ve also appended ?rel=author to the byline link. This is what Google looks for (one instance of this) on the page to associate the content with your G+ profile. This is probably the most important step.

  4. “Sign up” for Authorship on this page. You will need to enter an email address on the same domain as your content, and this email address will need to be associated with your Google Plus account.

  5. Visit your Google Plus profile. Under the “About > Links” panel, edit the “Contributor to” section. Click “Add custom link” and add the URLs you’ll be publishing content on:

    Contributor to

    Make sure that this content section is set to “Public” visibilty.

  6. Visit your Settings page and make sure that “Help people outside my organization find my profile in search results” is checked. Otherwise your profile won’t show in search results.

  7. Finally, you should share the URL to the content on your Google Plus profile to create a link from the author URL to your profile.

Testing Your Integration

Once you’ve completed the above steps and published your content, you can use the Google Webmaster Tools' Structured Data Testing Tool. Enter the URL of the article and click “PREVIEW” to see if Authorship is linking correctly. Here’s an example from a previous article I posted on this site:

It's working! Making sure the authorship is set up correctly (check out the linked byline!)

It's working! Looks like Google found a “?rel=author” URL on the page

Hopefully you should see “Authorship is working for this webpage” in one of the sections and lots of Yesses that things are set up correctly. If not, try to follow the instructions to correct the issues. If you’re not having any luck, feel free to get at me on Twitter and perhaps I can help.

Optimizing Your Content with Structured Data (AKA Schemas)

So what’s with all that itemscope noise in the markup above? Glad you asked.

That is an example of a schema; a section of “structured data” that tells search engines a bit about the content on your page. Marking up your content with these schemas (HINT: from schema.org) hints to search engines about the types of content on your pages. Some search engines use these structures to provide neat little rich elements in search results.

For example, the AggregateRating schema might be used to mark up a review or rating on a site. This might be used by a search engine to display the rating with a bar or star ratings graphic to indicate its rating visually in search results. You could imagine how valuable structured data like this would be to a company such as Yelp or Netflix.

I marked up the author of this page using the Person schema. Using the structured data testing tool again, Google sees this data structure:

structured data schema The Person data structure as well as the Company data structure pulled from Facebook’s meta-data

The Typeoneerror site makes liberal use of schemas, for example, the logo on the home page is marked up with:

<div class='typeoneerror-studios' itemscope itemtype='http://schema.org/Organization'>
    <header>
        <h1 class='t1e' itemprop='name'>
            TYPEONEERROR
        </h1>
        <h2 itemprop='description'>
            We craft digital products for an evolving web
        </h2>
    </header>
    <meta content='http://typeoneerror.com' itemprop='url'>
    <meta content='hello@typeoneerror.com' itemprop='email'>
    <meta content='T1E' itemprop='alternateName'>
</div>

Let’s see how Google sees this data structure:

Organization schema Neato, there’s the Organization data structure

So you can see how standardizing on these schema markup systems can make data more presentable to different search engines. We have been liberally marking up our client sites with structured data (including Event, Article, CreativeWork, et al) with the expectation that future-enhancing our markup will lead to better findability as more browsers adopt and utilize these data structure standards.

Personally, I think adopting structured data schemas is more valuable than Authorship. Since Authorship is easy to implement, might as well, but not super concerned with it unless the author is an avid Google+ user (this author is emphatically not).

One Caveat

Be careful with only including one Schema for a Person on your article page. You will probably need to wrap the entire article in an Article structure as well. Google prefers schema markup over the <title> tag and it seems to be dumb about figuring out that the name of a Person isn’t the title of your article. When I first went to share this article on Google+, it brought the title up as “Benjamin Borowski”. After wrapping the article in the Article schema, it correctly pulled in the title.

Hey, Where’s My Photo?

In late June, Google decided to remove the author’s photo from the SERP (fancy talk for Search Engine Results Page). Initial reactions were mixed, but I did find a few articles that seemed to support Google’s own claim that “click-through behavior…is similar to the previous [design].” Dubious, to be sure. I am naturally leaning towards the explanation that the addition of pictures to the previously text-only search results was so compelling, that it was “distracting users from clicking on [the] ads”.

@ This ?rel=Author

Are you using Authorship to increase your social reach on your blog? Do you think this is a totally worthless waste of time? Do you like movies about gladiators? Follow me, and let me know if you have any additional tips on Twitter.