How to Display Author Information in Organic Search Results

March 9, 2012: Google’s Authorship program allows publishers to connect their authored content with a corresponding Google profile. From a search engine results perspective, an image of the author will appear alongside applicable web information. The end goal would be additional visibility to the author, both through impressions in search engine results and (ideally) click thru rates to applicable content.

Example Authorship in Search Results
B2B marketers should consider leveraging this opportunity, for applicable individuals of the organization, since thought leadership, public relations “buzz”, and marketing to a growing number of people involved in the buying process are B2B marketing goals.

Here are the requisite steps right now for (potentially*) enabling this opportunity.

Preliminary Step: Make sure to have a list of all of the key places and web addresses that authors have contributed to and/or help to showcase their expertise.

Step 1: Create a complete Google+ Profile for the Designated Author

Creation of a Google Profile can be done in a few simple steps. What appears to be most directly important for authorship is a high quality headshot image that Google can use as a thumbnail in search engine results. One would surmise a relative weight of “importance” might also have an impact, but this must be tested over time to determine significance.

At the very least, the following information should be entered when creating a complete Google+ Profile.

  • Tagline (Recommend trying to incorporate keyword strategy in this section)
  • Introduction (Which can be formatted and include regular hyperlinks)
  • Occupation, Employment, and Education
  • Links to other social media profiles and websites of interest, as well as links in the “Contributor to” section (see next step)
  • Photos, Personal Interests, etc can and should be also added to create a more complete social networking experience. Similar to Facebook, the level of openness will be subjective for each user.

For more information, Social Times has compiled a series of video tutorials (from Google and other third party sources) on creating and managing a Google+ Profile.

Step 2: Add links to applicable author pages in the “Contributor to” section of the Google+ profile

Cross-Links via Google Plus Profile
Google indicates the following preferences for links, but we are testing variations for effectiveness.

  • Links to author pages are preferred
  • Link to specific articles (especially if a link to the applicable Google+ profile can be made)
  • Link to publication home pages, if no Google+ link can be made

Step 3: Add requisite Google code to the same author page listed in step 2

The most critical step, which requires greater coordination from third party, or often outside sources, is obtaining the appropriate type of links back to the Google+ Profile. There are a few common options for doing this.

  • Option 1: Link directly to Google Profile by adding the personal badge to your site Google+ Badge Generator
  • Option 2: For multiple authored sites, add the following type of link/code on each author page (that has a Google+ Profile):
    <a rel=”me” href=”[website]“>Read more about [Name]</a>
    • Note: Make sure all published content from the author (individual articles) links back to this author page with the following HTML markup:
      <a rel=“author” href=”LINK TO AUTHOR PAGE”> AUTHOR NAME</a>
    • Google provides more detailed recommendations on how to handle multiple authored website integration which can be passed along to website support teams, as well information for site owners using WordPress.
  • Option 3: You can also add a work email address to your profile. Google will send a verification email to that address, with further instructions for verification. While this seems easier, authors published in multiple locations might not have requisite email information to enable this.

Time to Production:

Once implemented, Google provides a Rich Snippets Testing Tool, which allows website owners to check whether Google can correctly parse your structured data markup and display it in search results.

There is also form submission that can be sent to Google for additional review (but ensuring the code works via testing tool above seems to work just as well).

In limited experience, it appeared to take roughly thirty days, once the correct code was in place, for author information to appear in search engine results. We have heard from other industry professionals of it taking shorter time, but no less than two weeks. What have your experiences been like? I would love to read your feedback and perspective via comments below.

*Unfortunately but predictably, Google provides no guarantee of authorship within search results or for all publications, which is what leads me to suspect more than just basic profile information is required. Weight of profile, publication, and individual articles may all have an impact.

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