Online Authors Get Some Google Juice: Author Rank and Rel=”Author” Implementation

Google CouponAs someone who produces content on the Web for a living, I’m quite pleased to see Google supporting authorship markup. I’ve created content across a wide variety of websites over the years, and now there is a way to tie my body of work together as being mine. At least that’s the theory.

It all comes down to a few links containing either the rel=”author” or rel=”me” tags. They’ve been around, but Google only began supporting it last June. Big sites like The New York Times have already implemented the code, often with Google’s assistance, while the rest of us are catching up. Here are some tips and tricks for getting yourself set up.

“Doing the Rel Tag” Three-Step

The idea is to identify yourself as the author of your content across the Internet. Here is the short form on how it works:

Step One

Link from your Google Profile to the author profile on the website or blog using the rel=”me” attribute in your link. This one is not obvious since Google gives you no access to the attributes when adding a link. If you click the radio button for “This page is specifically about me” while adding the link, the rel=”me” tag will be added automatically.

Step Two

Now it’s time to link back to your Google Profile. On your author profile for each external website, add a link back to your Google Profile, again, using rel=”me” in the link. Once you have reciprocal links between your profile on Google and your profiles elsewhere, the search engine can see that they represent the same person.

Example:

More about <a href=”https://plus.google.com/111274822243397535728″ rel=”me”>George “Loki” Williams</a>

Step Three

Now it’s time to identify your actual content. On each website, lace a link from each article or post to your profile on that website. It has to be on the same domain or it will not show up as legitimate. In the example below, the “about me” page on SocialGumbo.com is http://socialgumbo.com/vitals. The code below would be included in the signature or author bio of every post I write on SocialGumbo.com.

Example:

<a href=”http://socialgumbo.com/vitals/” rel=”author”>George “Loki” Williams</a>

Wrapping Up

Once you’ve done that, you can verify that everything works with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool Google has provided. Be aware that, quite often, if you get a failing report from the tool, you should check your input. Many times it’s as simple as a single quotation mark being out of place.

Once the links have been built and crawled by the search engines, your various profiles are now identified as the same person seen in your Google Profile. Anything attributed to those profiles with the rel=”author” can now be identified as your work, thus improving your author rank.

This is terrific: not only because it helps unify your Web presence, but also because it should foil content scrapers. Jennifer Kyrnin explains how on About.com:

This authorship attribution does two things to help deal with the spammers scraping your content:

1. If they scrape the content and remove the by-line or the link to the author page, this tells Google that this is duplicate content that is most likely spam.

2. If they scrape the content and leave the by-line in place, this tells Google that the author is by you. But because the link is to a domain other than the one the scraper is on, the author will come up as ‘unverified’ in the Google rich snippet tool, which also implies that the page is spam.

As someone who has had extensive problems with scrapers over the years, I really hope this catches on! In order to help that happen, here are some details that should prove useful in implementing these links.

Google Profile Base URL

With the recent rollout of Google+, the URLs for Google profiles have changed around a bit. What you are looking for is the base URL. Here is how you find it.

When I go to my profile I see the following link in the status bar:

https://plus.google.com/111274822243397535728/posts?hl=en

This is almost what you need. The base URL is what you get if you remove everything after the string of numbers. This would leave you with this link:

https://plus.google.com/111274822243397535728

While this is not required, it is a best practice.

WordPress

Now, the more code-savvy among our readers will probably be thinking that this can easily be handled by putting the proper code in at the theme level by editing the PHP files directly. While a useful solution, it does have some flaws, especially if you are trying to help Google identify scrapers.

Christopher S. Penn from Blue Sky Factory points out why on Awaken Your Superhero:

Sorry. You can, yes, include it in your WordPress theme, but remember that the template isn’t scraped when scraper bots do their thing, so you’ll get less juice out of the rel=author trick than putting it in the post itself.

Multi-Author Blogs

One thing I have not yet found an answer to is the question of multi-author blogs. When there are a number of contributors to a website or blog, there is often either a consolidated “Meet The Team” page or a complete lack of author profile pages.

What I am curious about is whether you can verify multiple author bios on a single page to their individual Google Profiles. Logic would seem to dictate that creating a named anchor tag within the page for each entry would allow this (i.e., testwebsite.com/contributors.htm#loki and testwebsite.com/contributors.htm#David would point to two different profiles on a single page). While I am testing this on one of the blogs I administer, it is still to early in the game to see any results.

Observations

From the perspective of a pro blogger like me, this looks really positive. By cross-verifying content to both my local and my Google profiles, it has potential to bring my body of work together in a sensible way while defeating those who would pawn my words off on spam platforms. Both things I’ve long wanted to do for a long time.

Additionally, since Author Rank is now part of the equation, it should bring a boost to my business. Since I do a lot of blogging and guest-blogging through SixEstate, I was pleased to see the following comment by Ryan DeShazer, a writer for MediaPost’s Search Insider:

Hiring guest bloggers and contributors becomes a more impactful SEO strategy — Want your website and content to appear more prominently across the SERPs? Hire a leading online voice to write a few blog posts. What is likely to happen is that AuthorRank will be convertible into PageRank, which can then be carefully transferred to the domain as a whole.

Looks like our Newsblogging work should get a good shot in the arm from this!

Tangible reputation portability! I get the feeling that authors will eventually find this to be quite a boost.

If you have already implemented the steps outlined above, we would love to hear from you as results become apparent. I’ve seen a couple people report tangible results after only a week, but have yet to be able to verify it.

Get out there, claim your work!

Source: “Rel=author Authorship Markup in HTML5,” About.com
Source: “How To Implement REL=AUTHOR,” Blind Five Year Old, 07/01/11
Source: “rel=”author” and rel=”me” in WordPress,” Yoast, 07/04/11
Source: “Investigating rel=author’s Organizational Impact,” Media Post‘s Search Insider, 06/24/11
Image by Bramus! (Bram Van Damme), used under its Creative Commons license.

About George Williams

George “Loki” Williams is the community and brand manager for award wining game company Savage Mojo, Ltd. and the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC, an online consultancy specializing in Web content and online communications. Loki has produced content for clients including the Open Society Institute, National Association of Broadcasters, Kobold Press, and Kaiser Permanente. His work has been seen or written about in The New York Times, The BBC, Air America, The Gambit Weekly, and NOLA.com, among others.

  

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  1. George, how can we easily go back and do this for historical posts?

    • At the moment it seems like manual insertion is the way. I’m experimenting with signature plugins that will distribute the rel=”author” link through historical posts, but so far they all seem to strip the rel tags. More info when I have it!

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thank you — this was SO helpful! Someone else had recommended this technique to me but I didn’t realize I’d done it incorrectly. Your tip about “rich snippet testing” showed me my mistake, and now it’s fixed.

  3. Deb says:

    You wrote, “If you click the radio button for “This page is specifically about me” while adding the link, the rel=”me” tag will be added automatically.”

    Umm … I don’t see any radio buttons. And when I go back in to edit links in my Google+ profile, I can’t put in the rel=”me” … it won’t accept it. So, I’m confused about where this goes.