:: Why do I see images by some Google results? ::
Have you ever seen images like the one below next to search results while perusing Google and thought, hmm, that's interesting?
If so, you may have noted upon more careful inspection that the picture is of the author of the article listed. It may be a well known personality, but often times it's not.
So why this special attention? Why do they get their picture there?
:: What is Google Authorship Markup? ::
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and in the last few years they’ve begun reading and using a special set of html tags called structured data or microdata to help them do this. Microdata lets website owners tell Google that a certain string of text on their website refers to a person (in the case of an author), a place (such as an address) or a thing (like a recipe, an event, a video or one of several other microdata options). In addition, microdata often allows for the use of additional descriptive tags to help Google better understand more about the subject of the microdata.
With this microdata, Google then can supplement their search listings with “Rich Snippets” that more effectively inform and engage the searcher.
The author image above is one of those Rich Snippets displayed courtesy of the "rel=author" & "rel=me" microdata markup tags.
“Yeah, that’s cool,” you say, “but so what? Wouldn’t our time be better spent creating well optimized content to get into the top 3 of the Google Search Results for our important keywords?”
:: Why use Rel=Author? ::
Well over 60% of search traffic goes to the top 3 results in any given search query. Yet with Rich Snippets, pages occupying positions outside of that royal trio of search placements can still hope to garner looks & clicks if they properly implement microdata.
Repeated heat map studies show how our eyes dart first to images when visiting web pages or doing searches. It's how we're wired. On a page filled with text, like the traditional Google results, eyes are easily drawn to listings with video stills, star ratings and other non-texual items such as faces of authors…even if it is not in the coveted top three spots.
So, in brief, getting Rich Snippets in Google’s Search Results increases awareness of your rankings and can even increase click-throughs to your web site as well.
Okay, so that’s all good in theory, but does it really work that way? Are people really going to change their search behavior because of a little face of someone they don’t even know?
Update: See Derek Halpern's "How images convince people you're not lying."
:: Got Proof Rich Snippets Increases Traffic? ::
In a word, yup. But to back me up, here are some people that have been implementing the “rel=author” microdata tag to garner more clicks from their existing Google search results:
- Click Through Rate Increased 38 Percent With Rel Author
- “20%- 50% increase in traffic for blogs’ pages”
- “clicks to the site dramatically increased by +150%”
If the above examples excite you, you may be wondering what to do next. Well, you're in luck, turns out that I've thought ahead and answered that question below.
:: How Do I Set Up Authorship Markup? ::
Easy…well, the concept is easy. The actual implementation may take more depending on how your website is set up, but very basically, here are 3 things that need to happen to set up rel=author on your site:
- A link from your blog post or article to your author page using rel=”author”
- A link from your author page to your Google profile page using rel=”me”
- A link from your Google profile page (In the Contributor To section of the about tab) to your author page.
There are a few more instructions. Google has given users more (and easier than before) options to implement this. See here.
WordPress Users can install & tweak the Authorsure plugin. You can order my Fiverr to see a video of how I set it up. I will also set it for you for a little extra!
Once you've linked your website and your Google+ profile, perform an Authorship Verification to see if you've done it right with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool. If you see your image next to the sample search result then you're good to go!
Note: The Rich Snippet Bookmarklet makes it super easy to check authorship on any page.
:: I've linked Google+ to My Site. Now What? ::
Well, because Google ultimately decides whether or not your image shows up, you basically wait. I've found it's easiest to do a search for the exact name of one of your articles like this: "Authorship Markup, Rich Snippets & Your Image in Google Search Results". You can also see your Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools once your image starts showing up.
In the meantime, keep creating content. Keep sharing with your social networks. Keep getting links via guest blogging on good sites in your industry. I've seen Google plus images show up in search results in as little as two weeks, but have also heard of it taking many months for some. You can check to see
:: How do I Know if the Markup is Effective? ::
I asked AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old what he recommended as the best way to track your rel=author implementation to determine if it was worth your time or not. Here was his reply:
”+Ryan Mendenhall the best way is probably to isolate a set of terms and URLs that have a consistent rank and traffic profile. Launch Authorship, determine when it goes live, and then see if the traffic profile on those terms changes. If things remain relatively the same you should be able to attribute material differences to the presence of Authorship.”
Makes sense to me. Of course testing everything is good, but if you're not up to going this deep, just implement it, make a note of when it goes live and look for a jump in your traffic the following several weeks.
:: Conclusion ::
Google has given authors a gift, the ability to draw attention from other search results to their own with the use of their Google+ Profile image. All they need to do is let Google know they are the author of a given blog post or article and they should start to see an increase in traffic from search, especially if they've been writing a while and already have some good traction in the search results.
There are many possible variations to authorship implementation based on your site/blog setup. Because of this, feel free to ask an questions about your specific situation in the comments below.
And again, don't forget that if you're having troubles, go ahead and have me set up Google Authorship for you!