Google’s made it pretty clear that Google Authorship is the next big thing, and when Google speaks (or makes updates) you really have to listen. Like it or not, Google’s the big kid on the SEO playground, and if you want to play ball, you have to follow their rules.
PageRank has been the main benchmark for SEO success for some time now: Google evaluates individual pages and assigns each page a value based on its relevance to keyword searches. The higher your PageRank, the better the chances that your page winds up on the all-important first page of search results.
Google Authorship’s going to change that. Instead of looking at individual pages, Authorship ranks the importance of content creators, evaluating their work over multiple sites. In theory, pages written by experts who provide consistently accurate, interesting information will rank higher than others.
How you choose to use Google Authorship will determine whether or not the search engine favors your site, or whether you’re going to watch your page rankings slowly fall off the first page. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on how to maximize you Authorship use.
Before we get into anything else, you’ve got some time. Yes, Authorship is live, and yes, Google wants us all to play. Adoption of the new system has been slow, however. Blekko crawled 4 billion pages and only discovered 222 million pages using the rel=author tag. That’s only 5.6 percent of all pages crawled.
This tells us two things. First, if you haven’t implemented Google Authorship yet, you won’t be fighting an uphill battle against established authors. The mad rush to optimize for Authorship hasn’t started—yet.
Second and more importantly, now is the time to establish yourself as an Authority and Author. You’ll have less competition. Creative sources identified by Google as experts on their topics will receive more weight in the search results. New content that established experts upload also benefits, receiving a bump based on the quality of pre-existing content.
Start using Google Authorship now and you can secure a top position in your niche early, whether you’re a business lawyer or the founder of 12 Palms addiction rehab center. Regardless of your industry, it’s important to get on Google’s good side if you want to enhance your online marketing presence.
Determine Who’s Getting Google Authorship
I know a number of freelance writers who have their Authorship pages already set up so that their Google Authorship ranking moves with them from one client to another. While this is great from the perspective of the writer, it creates an issue for businesses that utilize freelancers.
If you hire an established writer, by all means piggy-back on his or her Authorship. Bear in mind, however, you also need to secure your business’ place as an author or publisher of content, so in the long-term you want your name credited for most of your content. If you can’t provide your own content, don’t fret—that’s what ghostwriter’s are for. Just make sure the content links to your Google Authorship account, not the ghostwriter’s.
This raises another point, which established websites might miss. The days of anonymous content are coming to an end. Go through your existing content, and add rel=author tags as needed. Pages without clear Authorship, no matter how informative, are likely to drop in the search results as Authorship starts rolling. Once you’ve added your rel=author tags, make sure to list your website or blog under your “Contributor to” section on your Google+ page. Test to make sure the process was successful using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Consider Your Profile Picture
Pages linked to an author’s Google account display the account’s profile picture as a thumbnail to the left of the search result. This gives the search result a personal touch, as the viewer can see who wrote the piece.
Given human nature, viewers are likely to judge whether or not they’ll find content useful based on the author picture, raising the issues of racism, sexism and other judgments affecting your click-through rate. Even physical attractiveness will sway user judgments. People are bizarrely unfair when it comes to appearance.
I’m not suggesting you hide your ethnicity or gender—that would be unthinkable. I am suggesting that you give some thought to your profile picture, so it looks friendly, authoritative and professional. Depending on your situation, a professional head shot might be in order.
You could use your business logo as your author picture, of course. This would work for established companies with good brand recognition. For smaller businesses, a human face is probably the better choice.
As previously mentioned, it’s better to get a jump on your Google Authorship now before the mad rush begins. With anything in business, it’s always best to stay ahead of the game. As any company with an established web presence knows, waiting to step-up your game with Google can result in a hard hit to your site. Don’t let that happen to you.