Live from SMX East | Authorship: Step-By-Step & Troubleshooting

By Tad Miller | Oct 2, 2013
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SMX East 2013 AuthorshipAuthorship is hot!  At least it’s a buzzword everyone seems to be talking about today.  Authorship is the ability of a search engine to recognize and associate an author with his/her published work, and it has emerged as a possible ranking factor and a way that search engines could combat spam. The panelists at this SMX East session explain how to properly set up authorship, and discuss common authorship implementation errors and how to correct them.

John Shehata is the Executive Director of Search and Social Media at ABC News. Authorship is linking your content on a specific domain to your Google Plus profile. You can verify it via:

  • Email – it needs to match your company domain name
  • The 3 link method: Content links to an author page on your site and then the author page links to your Google Plus Profile.
  • 2 link method uses the Google Plus profile Contributor section and links to the place where the content lives.

There’s too much data for Google to comprehend or establish ownership to.  Google can “defeat” spam with Authorship.  Great content comes from great authors.  Google believes that authorship can improve search quality, by relating real people to content.

Why it’s important for Authors/Publishers:

  • Google says it will rank higher (Eric Schmidt said so…)
  • It gives your content higher content and visibility and better click through rate
  • Author images draw the eye to SERP results – regardless of low position on the page
  • It gives your authors better visibility for all of their content
  • More Google+ results are showing up in search results than ever (43% in the latest study)
  • It helps news articles get page one visibility
  • If you don’t set it up, it’s possible that others could hijack your content (even accidentally)

Improve Author Rank by:

  • claiming authorship immediately
  • Use Google + consistently
  • Spend time building your Circles
  • Generate more engagement by linking to Google+
  • Be topic-based with your content – specialize in specific topics
  • Notify fans of your other social platforms used
  • Try different profile images – use clear pictures that Google can tell is a face
  • Include the main keywords in the beginning of your status updates on Google+
  • Most importantly:  Keep your Contributor section updated for all the publications you write for
  • Use the word “By” in your byline.  Make sure your name on your Google+ page matches your name on the articles

John Carcutt, for Advance Digital

Advance Digital works with a lot of newspapers all across the country.  Getting buy-in to get authorship in place can be difficult.  You need the executives, the IT people, the publishers and the staff to all agree on doing it.  They have over 1,000 authors that needed authorship.

There are challenges with implementation:

  • Early Adopters that get ahead of the corporate implementation
  • Technical challenges
  • Mass training
  • Push back from the stake holders  - they doubt the effectiveness of Google+
  • Email verification

Google Plus Communities has been a turning point for getting buy-in on authorship participation.  Engagement is very high and it’s getting discussions started.

Negative Factors of Authorship:

  • Syndicated Content – the Associated Press republishing of content is an issue
  • When Authors leave an organization, what happens to their authorship?  Unless the author removes the Contributor section, the connection stays in place and everyone benefits (publisher and author both).

Our own Janet Driscoll Miller is the President and CEO of Search Mojo.

Google can infer authorship in a variety of ways (not always in a good way):

  • In press releases
  • In video SERP results
  • From PDF content if your name appears in it
  • Word documents that are online and your name appears on them
  • PowerPoint documents online and your name appears on them

Potential Pitfalls:

  • If there are multiple authors, only the first one listed gets shown.  Multiple authors aren’t allowed.
  • Using the word “by” in your text, or “presented by” can unintentionally enable it when you want different rich snippets to show (such as video)
  • “Edited by” credits can sometimes give authorship
  • Authors can only appear once on a page of search results
  • Names must match exactly (Google+ and the content).  If your name changes, you lose authorship.

SEO value of authorship?  Should you pitch to authors with supposedly high authorship rankings?

Publishers need to address their content!

Content theft is a problem.  Search Mojo has clients that have duplicate content issues (100 different sites that used the clients’ pages).

A client’s content was stolen by someone who applied authorship to the stolen content.  The client lost all of their top rankings to this site.  As soon as the content was removed by the other site, traffic bounced back – whether this is correlation or causation remains to be seen.

Pierre Far is a Webmaster Trends Analyst from Google.

Authorship is connecting web searchers with authors.  Authorship and image search launched last week.

What kind of content can get authorship:

  • Pages with single articles (not list pages)
  • Content with easy-to-infer authorship (the byline is the easiest way to establish it)

Technical tips:

  • Mark up all authors
  • Panels are not supported – Google doesn’t want that  (but still mark them all up for authorship).
  • Verify e-mails with the same domain name as where your content lives.
  • Google Author names must match the content’s byline.
  • Don’t mistake rel=publisher for authorship.  Publisher markup is for organizations only.

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