Authorship: The Top Search Marketing Tactic in 2013
There are thousands of things that small businesses can do to improve their ranking and appearance in search engine results. But, the top SEO tactic right now is to incorporate the author markup to get a picture beside your listing in the search results. Here’s why and how.
Google’s newish “Rich Snippet” treatment allows some websites and web pages to display author information in the search results along with their pages’ information. For marketers who know that increased visibility in the search engines equates with grabbing more attention and better click-throughs, the current opportunity is simply too cool to pass up.
Why You Should Incorporate The Author Tagging
In some ways, the author treatment is an unprecedented opportunity. Google is probably providing this compellingly advantageous option because they’re dangling it as a carrot to attract greater numbers of people to integrate with its Google+ social media service. The author treatment requires that you set up a Google+ profile in order to have the author markup and picture appear in the search results.
When you see a web page in the search results with the author treatment, the advantage becomes obvious. Here’s an example — the top search results for “plastic surgeons in Los Angeles, CA” includes one listing with the author’s photo icon and byline.
The author listings are also showing up within the business listings pack as well as in regular web results listings. Here’s an example of Dallas attorney, Brian Loncar, appearing at the top of the local listings section:
Conventional marketing wisdom is that anything that can make your search-result listing stand out and draw the eye will probably be beneficial to your click through rate — the “CTR.” Past statistics from the search engines have indicated that special listing treatments like this increase CTR by 15 percent on average. I suspect the increase could be greater than that, depending upon the search keyword and type of business.
As you can see in the above examples, the listings with author pictures appear to be particularly featured. These businesses are almost certainly reaping some benefits from standing out in this way. Relatively few businesses have incorporated the author markup to make this happen, so the tactic is a strategic advantage at this time.
For businesses that are closely associated with the personality of individuals, such as lawyers, doctors, artists and others, the display of a picture of the proprietor is worthwhile and makes immediate sense. Yet, even for other businesses where an individual isn’t so closely tied to the image of the company, having a human face with business’s collateral materials can actually make for a more friendly perception and make it more approachable.
I’ve heard some businesses say that they “cannot” do this because they don’t really want a particular person associated with their branding, or they don’t want to declare an “author” on their site because they have too much employee turnover or they are concerned about the risk of tying their branding with an individual who becomes a sort of de facto online spokesperson. I’d say that having human faces tied to your branding is becoming more important than ever. It would also be possible to create an artificial persona to represent your brand, too, although there are other risks and complexities if you take that road.
In any case, early adopters of this treatment might even reap some long-term advantages. Since user click-throughs to search results influence rankings over time, being one of the first businesses in your category to have the author display treatment could translate into grabbing some long-term market share.
How To Make The Author Treatment Appear For Your Site
To have the listing treatment, you must first set up a personal Google+ profile page with a good, recognizable headshot. I’ve seen a very few isolated cases where someone used a head plus torso photo or a full-body shot. It’s best to use a clear headshot or you risk Google denying your attempt to set up the author display treatment.
Once you’ve set up your Google+ profile, Google provides two different ways to verify you as an author of your site.
The first is the “email method.” This requires you to use an email address on the same domain as your site. If the Google+ profile isn’t already set up using that email, you can submit this email address via the Authorship page to add it to your profile. Each article or page on the site will need a byline mentioning your name, such as “by John Smith” or “Author: John Smith.” The second verification method is what I’d call the “cross linking method.” To do this, you link to your Google+ profile and add “?rel=author” onto the end of the link:
Then, link back to your website from the “Contributor To” section of your Google+ profile. Click to edit the About section of your profile to have the “Contributor To” section appear so you can add your link to it.
It’s also a good idea to engineer your meta description — see “Influencing How Google Displays Your Page Description,” my article on that topic — for best results so that the description text about your page is optimally compelling and attractive to consumers.
It can take a few days for the process to complete at Google and for your author picture to appear in search results. If you only just uploaded your face picture, I think Google uses human editors to verify your photo appears to be on-the-level, which adds a few more days onto the process.
You can check your web page with Google’s structured data testing tool to be sure that everything was done properly. Google gives some specific feedback if the verification process isn’t working so that you can correct any issues.
Once the treatment begins appearing with your website, watch your analytics and see if it affects your numbers of visits referred by Google.