Searching for a quick way to improve visibility, authority, influence, clicks and conversions? Your solution: Google Authorship. It’s not without its problems, but implemented carefully Google Authorship can significantly help small and mid-size businesses improve SEO, build their personal brand increase click-through rates, and – most importantly – improve lead generation. The best part? Google Authorship won’t cost your business a single dime. If your business does not currently use Google Authorship, it is missing out on a major marketing opportunity. Here’s what your company needs to know to get started and make the most of Google Authorship.
What is Google Authorship?
To the naked eye, Google Authorship is a photo and a byline that appears on search result pages. And while the photo and byline are obvious benefits to Google Authorship, there is also a strategic layer. By tying Google Authorship to your Google+ profile, this creates a verified connection between web content and the creators of this content. Most significantly, this helps Google identify quality, human-created content and distinguish this content from the spam that’s cranked out daily on content farms. Fundamentally, Google+ is an identity platform and Google Authorship is its digital signature. In essence, Google is using Google Authorship to “verify” content quality and eliminate spam. So while Google Authorship may seem to be all about pretty pictures and bylines on the surface, when you dig deeper, you’ll realize that it’s all about adding value to search results and content.
And while there is no evidence (yet) that Author Rank affects search results, many SEO experts expect Google to eventually incorporate authorship information into its algorithm. If you have not already, your business will benefit significantly when you add an author tag to your website and link relevant profiles from your Google+ ‘About’ page.
Understanding the Value of Google Authorship
Content marketing is the hottest marketing trend for 2014. Seventy-five percent of CMOs believe that content is the future of marketing. (Demand Metric). Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. Content marketing is ‘one of the top marketing priorities for 2014’ (BtoB Magazine) and was listed as the top priority by the Altimeter Group. But all that content creation is effectively worthless no one reads it. Don’t leave your blog posts floating in cyberspace. Setting up a Google Authorship account will best position your business to take full advantage of this trend in 2014. Here’s why:
#1: Get noticed.?
Heat maps of search engine results consistently show that Google Authorship bylines are key to getting noticed in search engine results. As you might expect, the top portion of Google’s search results receive a lot of visual attention, but so too do the results that include rich snippets (i.e., your Google Authorship information). Study after study proves that visuals are eye-grabbing. The greater visibility your content has in the search results, the greater the chance that it will be noticed be the right people. Higher visibility equals higher clicks; it’s that simple.
#2: Improve click-thru rates.?
Google Authorship increases click-thru-rates by 150%, according to a study performed by search marketing firm Catalyst in 2012. That’s a substantial increase that requires very little to no effort on your part to achieve. Why are click-thru-rates higher? Research suggests that search results with rich snippets are visually more attractive and, thanks to the photo and byline, more likely to engender trust. Consequently, individuals are more like to click on search results that include Google Authorship.
#3: Beat the content farms.?
As evidenced from heat map studies, where your content lands on the search results page matters less when you are also using authorship. For example, even if your listing in the search results is #5, if you could beat out the #2 ranking by using Google Authorship, that’s a clear advantage, right? And it’s not just content farms that you will be beating – Google Authorship also provides a competitive advantage over big businesses that naturally rank higher. Less than 3.5% of Fortune 500 companies are actively using Google Authorship. Until they get started, Google Authorship is a great advantage for smaller businesses.
#4: Be the future of search.?
According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, Google Authorship is the future of search. Schmidt argues that identity will play an increasingly important role in search results. Consequently, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher in search results than content that lacks this verification. This combination of a higher search ranking, together with the visual benefits of a photo and authorship tag, will naturally lead to an increase in click-thru-rate for content created using a Google Authorship tag. When it comes to publishing content, remaining “anonymous” as a business could ultimately mean becoming irrelevant.
Getting Started with Google Authorship
Are you new to Google Authorship? Do you have a Google+ account but never use it? Not to worry; here’s how to get started in just a few minutes.
- Select a profile photo for your Google+ account. Since you’ll be tying this account to your business, be sure this is a professional photo; your LinkedIn photo would be a great choice. Pictures matter. While there is no ‘perfect’ formula, one Google Author’s personal study found a 35% click-thru increase when he swapped out a poorly lit photo for a more processional image.?
- Add a byline that matches your Google+ name.?
- Add an email address that matches the domain of your content. Assuming your company blog has the same domain name as your company website, adding a matching email address should be easy.
If you don’t have an email address that matches your company blog’s domain (and you can’t create one) all is not lost. Instead, you will need to link your Google+ profile to your blog content. For example, in your bio at the end of the blog post, you would include a line like “Come find me on Google+” and then hyperlink ‘Google+’ to your Google+ profile. When you build the hyperlink, it is critical that you append a tag onto the end of your Google+ URL that contains “?rel=author” at the end. Adding this extra line to the URL allows Google to recognize you as the blog’s author and alerts search robots to check for Google authorship.
Next, you will need to update your Google+ profile to list the Google+ sites where you currently contribute work. This is essential to getting your authorship recognized. Yes, this may seem a bit redundant, but Google instituted this system of checks and balances to help protect the integrity of its Google Authorship system, and so far it’s worked pretty well. Under the “About” section, there is a small edit button in the bottom left corner. Click the edit button for “links” and add in the site(s) where you wish to be listed as a Google+ Author. In this case, it’s your company blog site. Ta-da! You’re all set – now your Google+ profile picture will show up besides all the posts that you’ve authored on your company blog, adding credibility and improving clickability.
Author Rank & Growing Your Influence on Google
Now that you have your Google Authorship account set up and linked to your company blog, it’s time to grow your influence on Google. Google “Author Rank” is part of Google’s never-ending mission to ensure that high quality, trustworthy content is always at the top of search results. While Google does not “officially” use Author Rank to determine search results, as Google continues to emphasize the importance of claiming Google Authorship, it’s clear that it is only a matter of when, not if, Author Rank will be a factor in search results.
In order to prepare your business for the rise of Author Rank, it is critical that you grow your Google Authorship’s influence on Google. Here’s how:
#1: Increase your presence in Google+ circles. Next to your byline, Google lists the number of circles that you are in. It goes without saying that a high number like 50,000+ is far more impressive than a low number, like 15. You appear to be a much bigger influencer. One way to increase your presence is to add others to your circles; as you add in new people, there’s a good chance that they will add you back.?
#2: Discover new leads. Yes, referrals ARE possible through Google+ and other social networks, thanks to the power of content marketing. And thanks to Google Authorship, you won’t have to spend as much time “proving” your business’s credibility; it will already be established.?
#3: Create quality content. Now that your name and photo are tied directly to your Google content, it’s more important than ever before that your business’s blog is publishing high-quality content. Don’t let poor quality content dilute the hard-earned benefits of Google Authorship. When creating blog posts, focus on content that is relatable, insightful and provides real value. Consider your customers’ pain points and problems. How can you solve these problems (or demonstrate a potential solution) on your blog??
#4: Be interactive. Just like a social network, your Google Authorship tag is your “calling card”; use this to post comments on other blogs and link back to your own blog. When doing so, be sure that your comments foster genuine dialogue and appropriate engagement; avoiding posting comments simply for the sake of building backlinks. Not only will this strategy not work, but you will also diminish your credibility as an opinion leader.
#5: Find your niche. What does your business do really, really well? You already know the answer: it’s your business’s unique value proposition. Now apply this value proposition to content marketing and Google Authorship. Aim to be the (or one of the) ultimate authorities on this subject. Author Rank is more variable than PageRank with it comes to being recognized for a specific topic; consequently, it’s better to focus all your energy on ranking highly for a single topic.
#6: Guest post. Just like any good backlink, selective guest posting on high quality sites will benefit your Author Rank. And just like SEO, there’s virtually no benefit to a plethora of low quality, high quantity guest posts. Guest posting is about not only creating great content, but also selectively choosing the blogs where your content will appear. There’s no benefit to writing a killer blog post only for it to end up on a so-so blog with low traffic. Be selective to get the biggest bang for your guest posts.
Next Steps: Google Authorship for SEO
Building identity around top content is integral to an effective digital marketing strategy. As the marketing industry buzzes about the growing importance of Author Rank, it’s clear that Author Rank may ultimately be more disruptive than Google’s previous Hummingbird and Panda algorithm updates. Author Rank builds off existing SEO best practices for content marketing and link acquisition. For example, using Google keyword tools and Trends will help ensure that your content touches on the most searchable and clickable keywords for your industry. Consistent publication is also key; for optimal content engagement, aim for at least one value-packed publication every week. Finally, be sure that the title of your articles answers the questions that your audience is searching. Use natural language that incorporates a searchable keyword phrase.
Fundamentally, Google Authorship is about improving SEO by building real relationships, not links. This reflects Google’s current shift towards rewarding interactive, quality content and punishing content farming, backlink purchases and keyword stuffing. To succeed as a Google Author, you need to do three things: build an identity, cultivate relationships, and consistently produce quality content. Doing these three things will translate into improved visibility, authority, influence, clicks and conversions for your business.