Google+ Authorship: Understanding the New Trend in SEO

Google+ Authorship
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Last updated: March 2023
Launched in 2011, Google+ (sometimes written as Google Plus) is essentially a social network, which now ranks second to Facebook in terms of userbase, having surpassed Twitter in January 2013. But what does social networking have to do with SEO, you might ask. Well the answer is, increasingly, quite a lot.

In 2011 Google’s SEO guru, Matt Cutts announced that the company would be supporting a move towards authorship markup. This signalled the genesis of a new trend, in which Google would begin to give more and more weight towards authorship, as well as links, as a key determinant of any given webpage’s credibility. And the key to this relationship was to be Google+.

Research by SEO company, Moz in 2011, has shown a very gradual shift in Google’s algorithm towards authorship and other ‘social signals’ in determining rankings on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), for any given keyword or keyphrase. ‘[Google have] also introduced an increasing number of signals for evaluating pages beyond the link based signals that made them,’ explained Tom Anthony in a post he wrote for back in 2012. ‘If we look at the ranking factors survey results from SEOmoz for 2011 we see that link based factors make up just over 40% of the algorithm. However, in the 2009 survey they were close to 55% of the algorithm.’

When to use the rel=”author” parameter

The rel=”author” parameter tells Google’s spiders and bots to attribute the article or post to a specific Google+ profile. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an author. The rel=”publisher” parameter will tie content to a company or organisation’s Google+ profile. See below for an example of the HTML code required to give you this link: Magnus Linklater on Google+

rel=”author” – Magnus Linklater on Google+

When applying Google+ authorship markup to an article you’ve had published, it’s important to link back to the content you’ve created. First go onto your Google+ profile page and click on the ‘About’ tab at the top of the screen. From here scroll down to the ‘Links’ section and click ‘Edit’. Now you can just add the links to the sites you have contributed to. Some sites have their own author bio pages, separate from the pages containing articles and posts. To link these back to your Google+ profile involves a slightly different method.

When to use the rel=”author” attribute

On the author bio page of the site in question make sure you enter the following HTML attribute to your Google+ link.

Link to Google+

On the pages you have written content for you will need to add the rel=”author” attribute and link back to the site’s relevant author bio page. This would look something like this:

Authors Bio Page Link

Notice how the rel=”author” and rel=”me” are no longer HTML parameters but have changed to attributes by falling outside of the href’s quotation marks. Now you will have to link your Google+ profile back to this author bio page’s ‘other profile’ of you. Go into ‘Edit’ underneath ‘Links’ again on the ‘About’ page. Then under ‘Other Profiles’ click ‘Add Custom Link’ and enter the URL of your author bio page on the site in question (i.e.

Google+ Manage Links

The Email Method

The other most common way to assign authorship to content is to use e mail verification. This is very handy if you have an e mail on the same domain that your content is placed. First of all place a byline at the start or end of your content with your name (ie “This article was written by Magnus Linklater”) and then enter your e mail address in the Google+ Authorship Page. You will then need to verify your address by clicking on the link in the confirmation email. Confirming the email address will add your email to the ‘Contributes to’ section of your Google+ profile. And that’s it. You’re all set!

Rich Snippets

The benefits of having a well maintained and healthy Google+ profile go far beyond good SEO practice though. Rich snippets are a way of making your website stand out from the rest in Google’s SERPs and Google+ is an effective way of taking advantage of these. Rich snippets are a type of on-page markup which allows Google to display certain information next to the results returned in its SERPs. By linking your article to your Google+ profile you could well see a thumbnail photograph of your head appearing in the search results (although Google doesn’t guarantee it will use this for every piece of content you create). Whilst rich snippets don’t affect search engine rankings, they do have the effect of drawing the user towards your article. This can clearly be seen by looking at the example below. Studies have found that this can dramatically increase click through rate (CTR), with some estimates putting the increase in CTR at 150 percent.

Bristol SEO Company

Signed up and Future-proofed

Using rel=”author” in authorship markup allows Google to associate all your work to you as an individual from now on. In this way the more authoritative you become on any given subject the more weight Google will associate to your work as it has a unique understanding of who you are, what you’ve written and who has you in their circles. The information contained on your Google+ profile is key to the process of assigning authority to individuals around specific subject areas. Although Google+ profiles can be set up in a similar way for companies and business entities, it’s important to understand that they don’t carry the weight of authorship that an expert in their field will have. The individual is more important to Google than the business entity they are associated to. This is incredibly powerful stuff and as Google+ becomes more proliferate on the net, the more emphasis is likely to be placed on individuals. That’s not to say links are going anywhere anytime soon. Indeed links and authorship will continue to take on a symbiotic relationship, as the power of any given link may well come to hinge more and more on the authorship associated with it.

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Magnus Linklater SEO Consultant

Author: Magnus Linklater

Magnus is an SEO specialist and online marketing professional with over 25 years of digital and traditional marketing experience.

As the founder of Bespoke Digital, Magnus has worked on technical site audits and content marketing campaigns for hundreds of clients and regularly writes about SEO strategy, tips & tricks.

Find Magnus on LinkedIn

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