Everything You Need to Know to Get More Traffic from Google Authorship

You’re ready to take Google Authorship seriously.

In fact, you can’t wait to get started.

Great! So what comes next?

You need to set it up.

The Missing Link Between You and Your Content

The basic idea behind Google Authorship is to create a trustworthy link between you and your online content. It gives you an easy way to prove to Google that you’re the true author of your work.

Which prompts the question: how do you prove that you’re, well, you?

In the real world, you can use your driver’s license or passport to prove your identity, but online it’s a little trickier. People often have multiple identities on the web and it’s not always obvious how those identities correspond to a real person. (Sometimes that’s part of the fun!)

Google could have used your email address as a digital passport – it’s unique to you and it’s easy to prove you own it. But people change their email addresses periodically, and it’s not something many people would want to publicly attach to their content for fear of spam.

So instead of using an existing mechanism, Google created their own passport and it’s based on their new social network, Google+.

Google+ – Your Passport to More Traffic as a Writer

You’ve almost certainly heard of Google+ and you may even be using it already.

Google+ is Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter, and its growth as a social network has been impressive. Since its launch in the summer of 2011, it now boasts more than 500 million active users per month.

When you register with Google+, you set up a personal profile, which is effectively your homepage. It’s the Google+ equivalent of your main profile page on Facebook or Twitter.

And like your Facebook and Twitter profile, your Google+ profile has its own URL, which is unique to you. Here’s mine:

https://plus.google.com/116950991646711886276

This URL is public, there’s no need to change it over time and it’s unique to you as an individual. So guess what? It makes a great online passport. Hell, it even has a photo of you!

So to take advantage of Google Authorship, you first need to be on Google+.

(If you’re already on Google+, well done, you’re ahead of the curve. And it means you can skip this next section.)

How to Create Your Google+ Profile

To create your Google+ profile, you’ll first need a Google account.

You’ll already have a Google account if you use Gmail, have a YouTube account or use any of the following Google products:

  • Google Calendar
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools

If you’re still not sure, a Google account is simply an email address and password combination that you can use to login here.

If you don’t have a Google account yet, you can sign up on this page:

google-sign-up

You’ll need to sign up for a Google account to create a Google+ profile

If you created a new Gmail address (or logged in with one) there’s no need to separately create your Google+ profile – Google will do that for you automatically.

On the other hand, if you registered using an existing (non-Gmail) address you’ll need to log in and create your Google+ profile one of the following ways:

  1. Click the You+ button that appears when you click the “grid” icon in the top-right corner of the screen.
  2. Go directly to this page.

Either way, you should see this page:

google-plus-create-profile

Creating your new Google+ profile

Follow the prompts to set up your basic profile, and make sure you read the next section before uploading your all-important profile photo.

“Rich Snippets” and the Benefits of a Good Photo

Your profile should have what Google describes as a “good, recognizable headshot,” because Authorship gives Google the ability to display additional information about you – the author – alongside your search results. We’ve already mentioned these rich snippets and for authors this means your name and photo:

gary-korisko-rich-snippets

Author name and photo showing in search results via rich snippets

However, Google will only enable this feature (assuming the rest of your configuration is correct) if your photo is a clear and recognizable photo of you. Not a picture of your cat or your masked alter-ego El Diablo Grande.

Once you’ve set up your Google+ profile, you’re ready to configure Authorship.

The Essential Steps to Claiming Your Content with Google Authorship

The next stage is to claim your content (or establish authorship in Google lingo) by creating a link between your Google+ profile and your blog.

(We’ll look at setting up Authorship for other blogs later, e.g., when you’re guest blogging.)

Two separate steps are necessary to claim the content on your blog:

  1. Link your Google+ profile (your identity) to your blog.
  2. Link your blog content back to your Google+ profile.

You can establish authorship in a number of ways, depending on exactly how your blog is set up. But we’ll look at one of the most common scenarios, where you are running a self-hosted WordPress blog. And we’ll show you the easiest and most reliable way of configuring Authorship on your blog – using an WordPress plugin.

But before we do that, we need to tell Google about your blog.

Why Google Authorship Is a Two-Way Relationship
The reason Google Authorship is a two-way “handshake” is all about trust. If only Step 1 were required someone could, for example, claim authorship of content on Smart Blogger they hadn’t actually written. And if only Step 2 were required, they could try to claim that someone else, e.g. Jon Morrow, had written content on their own blog.

How to Link Your Google+ Profile to Your Blog (Step 1)

Firstly, we need to let Google know that you are the author of the posts on your blog – and a section on your Google+ profile is designed just for this.

Log in to your Google account and head over to your Google+ home page (click the +YourName link towards the top-right corner).

Then select “Profile” from the drop-down menu on the left-hand side:

google-profile-menu-arrow

And then select “About” from the horizontal menu at the top of the page, which shows all of the separate pages that make up your profile:

google-about-menu-arrow

On your About page, you’ll see a number of different panels, such as Story, Work, Education, etc. You may have filled these out earlier, but make sure you do so at some point because they help bring your profile to life. For now, we’re only interested in one – Links.

More about Google+ Profile Pages
Your Google+ profile is divided into a number of different pages such as About, Posts, Photos, etc. You can control which are visible to other users. The default page is Posts, which shows, not surprisingly, your latest Google+ posts.
Scroll down your About page until you find the Links panel and click “Edit” at the bottom of the panel.

links-panel-edit-arrow

Editing the Links on your profile

Find the “Contributor to” section and click “Add custom link.”

add-custom-link-arrow

Adding a new custom link to your Google+ profile

You should see a new panel with some fields to fill-in. Complete these as follows:

  • Label: you can leave this blank or enter the human-friendly name of your blog, e.g., “Smart Blogger.”
  • URL: put the base URL for your site, e.g., “smartblogger.com.” Make sure you include the full URL for your site, so if a “www” is normally at the front, be sure to include that.
  • Make sure that “Current contributor” is selected from the drop-down.
  • Make sure the visibility of the “Contributor to” section is set to “Public”
custom-link-fields-arrows

Completing the process of adding a custom link

Finally click “Save” at the bottom of the panel.

You’ve now set up one side of the two-way connection between Google+ and your blog required to enable Authorship.

The second step is to enable Authorship on your blog and complete the circle of trust.

But before we do that, there’s something we’ll need from your Google+ account – your unique Google+ URL.

What’s my Google+ URL?

Every Google+ user has a unique 21-digit ID that appears in various similar URLs you’ll encounter as you navigate Google+.

For instance, the following URL takes you to my latest posts:

https://plus.google.com/116950991646711886276/posts

You may also see a letter and a number in the middle of the URL, for example:

https://plus.google.com/u/1/116950991646711886276/posts

However, they are functionally the same and both include the same 21-digit ID.

You can find your own Google+ ID by bringing down the main menu at the top-left of the Google+ interface and clicking the “Profile” link again.

Copy this link to your clipboard from your browser’s address bar because we’re going to need it for the next step.

Google+ Custom URLs
Note: Around a year after its launch, Google+ started to introduce custom URLs, which are human-friendly versions of Google+ URLs based. For instance, my custom URL is https://plus.google.com/+GlenLong. Where a user has a custom URL, the +Username label is a direct replacement for the 21-digit ID. You can find out more about custom URLs here.

How to Enable Authorship on Your Blog Using the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin (Step 2)

The Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin is a popular (and free!) plugin that helps you optimize your blog from an SEO perspective.

This plugin is great for a number of reasons, but one handy feature allows you to configure Google Authorship for your blog with ease.

Two separate tasks are required.

a) Install the Plugin

If you don’t already have the plugin installed, you can grab it in the same way as any other plugin in the WordPress directory:

First, select “Add new” from the Plugins menu item in the left-hand WordPress sidebar.

wordpress-add-plugin-menu-arrow

Next, type “WordPress SEO” in the search box and click the “Search Plugins” button.

wordpress-search-plugins-arrow

Then, find “WordPress SEO by Yoast” in the results (it should be at the top), click “Install Now” and then click “Yes” to confirm.

wordpress-install-plugins-arrow

Finally, once the plugin has successfully installed (it may take a few seconds to download), click the “Activate Plugin” link.

(After the plugin has installed and you’re returned to the main Plugins page, you may get the option to help improve the plugin by allowing anonymous tracking on your site. We recommend selecting “Allow tracking” since it does the developer a good turn.)

b) Add Your Google+ URL to Your WordPress Author Profile

Once the plugin is installed, you need to tell WordPress where to find you on Google+. This will give the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin the information it requires to automatically insert Authorship markup (essentially some extra HTML code) into your blog posts and pages.

To do this, first select “All Users” from the “Users” sub-menu in the left-hand WordPress navigation menu:

wordpress-all-users-menu-arrow

Then find your own user profile in the list (the one you use to write the posts on your blog) and click “Edit.”

wordpress-edit-user-arrow

In the Contact Info section, find the field labeled Google+. This is where you’ll need to paste the Google+ URL you copied to your clipboard earlier.

wordpress-user-profile-arrow

Google+ field on the WordPress Contact Info page

This URL should work fine as-is. However, we prefer to use a shorter, simpler version known as the canonical URL.

The canonical URL takes one of the following forms, depending on whether or not you have chosen a custom username for your profile:

https://plus.google.com/UniqueID
https://plus.google.com/+Username

So trim your pasted URL to match one of the templates above.  (For safety, copy and paste the edited URL into a separate browser window and make sure it still takes you to your Google+ profile).

Assuming all is well, click “Update User.”

How to Check the Plugin is Working

And that’s basically it. The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin will start inserting Authorship markup automatically for any post published on your blog where you are identified as the author.

If you want to see what’s going on behind the scenes, view the HTML source of a blog post where Authorship should be enabled and look for a piece of code like the following toward the top of the page:

<link rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/109491751060696057136"/>

If you allow guest posting on your blog, simply set up any guest authors as new users within WordPress (most likely using the “Contributor” role), make sure you add their Google+ URL to the profile as described above (and that the user is identified as the author of the post within WordPress), and presto – Authorship is set up for them too.

Should You Enable Authorship on Your Home Page?

The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin gives you the option (via the Google+ tab on the Social submenu) to specify an author for the home page of your blog.

The idea here is that rich snippet information would also appear for search results that include your home page.

However, experts now believe that this can cause problems with Authorship for other pages – particularly in the case of multi-author blogs – so we recommend that you leave the “Author for homepage” setting as “Don’t show”.

yoast-social-homepage-arrow

Setting the “Author for homepage” in the Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin

What is the “Google Publisher Page”?

Note that the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin also gives you the option on the tab mentioned above to specify a publisher via the “Google Publisher Page” field.

You don’t have to complete this field to get Authorship working on your blog.

However, if you have a Google+ Page for your blog (Pages generally represent brands, products or businesses rather than individuals – you can set one up here) you’ll enter its Google+ URL here. You’ll also need to enter your blog’s URL in the Page’s About section in Google+ to complete the loop, similar to what you do for Authorship.

yoast-social-publisher-page-arrow

Setting a Google+ Publisher Page in the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin

Do You Need a Google+ Page for Your Blog?
There are some advantages to creating a Google+ Page for your blog. A full discussion is outside the scope of this guide, but one example is where your blog gets to the point where you want someone else to manage its social media hubs. Then you can make them a manager of the page without giving them access to your personal Google+ account. In this situation it makes sense to establish the publisher link because it tells Google that the page is the verified page for that website.

How to Make Sure You Didn’t Screw It Up

Although setting up Google Authorship is relatively straightforward (if you follow our instructions), a few things can prevent it from working properly, so it’s wise to test rather than just assume everything is okay.

Fortunately, testing your configuration is simple using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Introducing: The Structured Data Testing Tool

The Structured Data Testing Tool is a simple web app that attempts to detect any structured data markup (such as Authorship data) in a public web page and displays what it finds.

structured-data-testing-tool

Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

All you need to do is paste in the full URL of a post on your blog, which should now have Authorship enabled. Then click “Preview” and the testing tool will give you a report showing whether or not the correct Authorship information has been detected.

Error messages are shown in red. “Yay – things are working” messages are in green.

If you select “Authors” from the “Examples” menu shown above, you can see a sample report:

testing-tool-report

Preview of example result with rich snippets

Let’s look at the various sections.

Preview

The first section, Preview, shows you what the webpage would look like in search results. If you can see your headshot in there, that’s definitely a good sign that things are configured correctly.

Authorship Testing Result

This tells you at a high level whether Google Authorship is working for the webpage. The message you’re hoping for is:

Authorship is working for this webpage.

If something’s not quite right, you’ll see this:

Authorship is not working for this webpage.

This means Google can tell you’re trying to establish authorship (i.e., it’s found Authorship markup in your page) but something is not quite right yet (e.g., your Google+ profile is not yet pointing to your blog).

Sometimes you may see this:

Page does not contain authorship markup. Learn more

This means it can’t find any valid markup at all.

Assuming you’re using the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, do the following:

  1. Make sure your Google+ URL is entered correctly in the Google+ field of your WordPress user profile (maybe you pasted it into the wrong field).
  2. Double check that the post you’re verifying correctly identifies you as the author within WordPress (and not some other user, e.g., ‘admin’).

Authorship rel=author Markup

This section reports whether Authorship has been successfully established using a rel=author link, which is the method described in this guide.

It checks that both parts of the two-way handshake between the webpage and your Google+ profile have been successfully established.

Authorship Email Verification

This section applies to a method of establishing authorship not covered in the main body of this guide.

Essentially it can be used if you have a working email address on the same domain as your blog, which may or may not be the case.

However, we have found this method to be a little more fragile and so we decided not to cover it here.

Publisher

This section (not shown on the above report) tells you whether a publisher link has been successfully establish to a Google+ page (as discussed above). If there is a link, you’ll see the message:

Publisher markup is verified for this page.

How to Claim Ownership of Your Guest Posts

So you’ve configured Authorship for your blog. Google is finally able to notice you as a writer and give you credit for the content you create.

Great start! But many bloggers (particularly the smart ones) don’t just post on their own blogs; they write for other blogs too. Otherwise known as guest blogging.

Guest blogging has long been recognized as a smart way to build your authority and drive traffic to your site. In fact, it’s a no brainer. You get exposure to a new audience (usually on a blog bigger than yours) and the blog owner gets quality content they don’t have to write themselves.

But from an Authorship perspective, there’s a small challenge – someone else is in charge of the blog configuration, so you can’t just sail in and start messing around with plugins.

(Also, some blogs worth writing for won’t have caught up with Authorship yet, but don’t worry because the following method ensures it still works for you even if it’s not implemented across the whole blog.)

So how does Authorship work for guest blogging?

First, you need to complete the first step of Authorship setup again, pointing your Google+ profile at the target blog.

This is done by adding a custom link to the blog in the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile, exactly as we did before.

How to link your guest post back to your Google+ profile

Once again, we need to create the reciprocal link, from the blog post back to the profile.

If you happen to know (or have worked out by looking at the HTML source) that Authorship is enabled across the whole blog (e.g., by using a plugin as described above), the blog owner will simply need your full Google+ profile URL to enter into his or her author configurations.

But if this isn’t the case, since you don’t have control over the configuration of the target blog yourself, your Authorship details need to be included in the post itself, and the best place to do this is in the author bio at the bottom of the post (sometimes called the byline).

The bio is critical in guest blogging because it’s the part that drives new visitors (and hopefully new subscribers) to your blog.

To establish the authorship connection, you need to include a special link in your author bio, which tells Google you’re the content author by pointing to your Google+ profile using the canonical URL described earlier.

The link looks like a normal HTML link except that it has a special marker that tells Google it refers to the post author.

About the Author: Jon Morrow has asked repeatedly to be called “His Royal Awesomeness” but no one listens to him. So, he settles for CEO of Smart Blogger. Poor man.

In this example, the hyperlink on the author’s name would link to their Google+ profile and includes the marker – the extra parameter ?rel=author.

(Note that a real hyperlink has not been used in this example to prevent interfering with the correct Authorship attribution for this page of the guide.)

So the full link would be:

https://plus.google.com/109491751060696057136?rel=author

Why the Parameter Method is the Smart Choice for Guest Bloggers
There’s actually more than one way to supply the rel=author marker. For instance, you can add a rel=”author” attribute to your HTML hyperlink, but the advantage with the above approach is that it works even if you don’t send your guest post as HTML – e.g., you send it off as a Word document with embedded links.

What should I use for the anchor text?

The recommended anchor text (the visible text which is the clickable part of your link) is your full name as it appears on your Google+ profile.

However, if you particularly want to link your name to something else – like your blog – we recommend using “Google+” as the anchor text.

Glen Long is the Associate Editor of Smart Blogger. Why not circle him on Google+?

In this example, the first link is to the blog, the second is to the Google+ profile.

How to Make Sure You’re Getting Full Credit for Your Guest Post

Once your guest post goes live on the host blog, you can test the Authorship using the Structured Data Testing Tool in the same way as before. Simply paste in the full URL to the post and look out for any errors.

And don’t panic if your photo doesn’t immediately appear in search results – it can take a few weeks for Google to register the new information.