Should You Rush and Implement the rel="author" Tag on Your Site?

by on November 07, 2011

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Image: Rel="author" by Google (Image credit: Search Engine Land)

A client asked us the other day whether she should start using the rel=”author” tag for key content creators for her company’s website and link it to each author’s Google+ profile for enhance search visiblity. The client generates a substantial volume of great (valuable and engaging) content by several team members and has had some of that content republished without authorization. That’s one thing the rel=”author” tag is meant to prevent.

(It is really tempting at this point to launch into a discussion of whether Google+ is more than just “the new shiny” of the day, but that bigger question deserves a post of its own (look for it next week), so I’ll focus on the question at hand.)

What does the rel=”author” tag do?

The rel=”author” tag is a way to signal to Google and other search engines that you are the originator of the content. Having the tag in place helps the search engines correctly attribute all articles (blog posts or other web content) to the correct author, regardless of which website publishes them. It can be particularly useful when you are a prolific web influencer wanting to keep track of your output or working on building up your individual brand.

How does the rel=”author” tag work with Google+?

The bonus feature comes with using the rel=”author” tag in conjunction with an active Google + account. When someone searches for a topic you have written about which has been rel=”author” tagged, it will:

  • Put your profile picture from Google+ next to search results for articles you write on the queried topic, which can make your search result stand out from the rest on the page.

  • Centralize all the articles that you have written that are scattered across the web into one place.

  • Enhance your personal “brand” (meaning you) know matter where you write.

It looks like this in search results:

Example Google+ and rel="author" search engine result - Confluence Digital blog

 

As you can see, this search result promotes Google+ through listing the number of Google+ Circles, a button for adding to the circles for some authors, comment numbers, and a link to the Google+ page. And it also promotes Steven Levy, the author of the article.

However, not everyone’s Google+ profile picture is displayed. It may depend on the number and popularity of your posts and whether or not you are perceived as an authority for the search query terms. In other words, unless you’re a “rising star” or prolific enough to be perceived as an influencer by Google, you may not get the visibility boost from the tag implementation.

As an argument for implementation, there’s speculation that since there is evidence that Google favors its own properties in search engine results (SERPs), using the rel=”author” tag could someday boost your articles’ rankings in search results.

So, should you implement the rel=”author” tag today?

Unless you’re very active on Google+ and your name is tied to your company’s brand, we think it’s a nice feature but not something to prioritize over other search optimization activities at this time. 

However, if you want to give it a go, here’s how you would go about setting this up:

  1. If you have more than one content contributor on your team, you will need to create separate profile for each one on your website, ideally with a URL format like this: http://www.yourcompany.com/FirstNameLastName.
  2. If they do not currently have a Google+ account, they will need to set one up, activate it, populate it with useful content and use it for some time in order to gain prominence and influence.
  3. Then, in each one of their profiles on your site, you will need to create a link to each one’s Google+ profile and add it to the page’s code. The format of the snippet will look as follows:

    <href=”https://plus.google.com/101010101010101010101/posts?rel=me”>FirstNameLastName>

    (The 1010… number sequence is a stand-in for the Google+ account number and FirstNameLastName will be replaced by the actual name of the user.)

  4. Next, you will need to link your Google+ profile to each profile page.
      • Sign in to your Google profile.

      • Click Edit profile.
      • Click the Contributor To section on the right (depending on how many photos you have, you may need to scroll to see this section), and then click Add custom link. Make sure to check the box that says “this page is specifically about me”
      • If you want, change the visibility of your link, and then click Save.
  5. On each article written by a contributor you want promoted in this way, add

      <href=”https://plus.google.com/101010101010101010101/posts?rel=me”>FirstNameLastName>

  6. Finally, fill out this form and submit it to Google.

And if you want more details, check out this much more detailed “how-to” post that also discusses the rel=”author”’s tag “cousin”, the emergent rel=”me” tag.

Contact us if you you are looking for help with your inbound marketing efforts. We’re also happy to answer any of your questions about digital channels such as SEO, social media, paid search, web analytics, conversion rate optimization and more.

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