Guide to Google Authorship for Businesses and Individuals
What is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship is the link between your Google+ profile and the content you create.
Why would you want to set it up?
Google Authorship can, very simply, help more people find your content in search, and click through to view it in full.
How does this happen?
- Google finds out more about your area of expertise.
- Click through rate (CTR) for your content can be boosted.
How does Google knowing more about me help with trust and authority?
If all the content that you create on the web is linked back to a central profile, that means Google doesn’t have to guess whether Joe Bloggs on the Acme Widgets website is the same person as Joseph Bloggs Esq on the Boggles Widgets website. Thus all the great content you create is attributed to you, and not to multiple versions of you. With that in place, there’s nothing stopping you becoming the foremost online authority on left-handed widgets.
Why would more people click through?
Put simply, people relate to people so having your image next to a link would seem to increase ‘trust’. This is especially the case if the image is of someone who you know and have seen their likeness before. Having the additional information with the number of people who have this person in circles could also help to increase trust.
Sounds great, but how do you set it up?
There are two things to consider when setting up Authorship:
a) content posted on Google+ that is ‘public’ (although with Search Plus Your World switched on, an image can appear to those with whom it is shared).
b) content you author elsewhere e.g. your website, where you guest blog etc.
Step 1 – ensure your Google+ Profile is optimised
The key criteria you need to know is this: have a clear headshot and make sure you are tagged in the picture.
If tagging is present, you will have a grey surround on your profile picture when you hover over – your name will appear too.
If you have not tagged the photo you will probably have the opportunity when you hover over.
Make sure you add other links to the ‘Contributor to’ section for areas which you also provide content e.g. SlideShare, other blogs you write for etc.
Once complete, all your Google+ content will be linked to your profile, indexed by Google, and if it appears in search results then your image will show next to it.
Step 2 – linking your non-Google+ content
If you want to have authorship for content you write on platforms other than Google+, then you need to do a little more…
a) Where you have no control over the website (e.g. if guest blogging elsewhere)
Further down there are implementation instructions for when you have enough control over the coding and design of your site (such as when it has a content management system). But for other situations, there is an online tool which will let you assign individual posts/pages to your Google+ profile for authorship purposes. To see it in action, check out this link: https://plus.google.com/authorship
As you can see:
1. Your profile image appears next to your Search results (nice post Steven Levy!)
2. Yes, you really need that head shot (pose is optional)
3. Your byline on your content needs to match your Google+ name – another deviation from the name e.g. an extra initial could cause an issue
4. If you have an email address for that particular website then you can enter it into the box and you will receive an email to that address. Click that email and you can confirm the link. This should then add the website to your ‘contributor to’ section on your Google+ Profile ‘About’ Section. Done.
Hold on a second…didn’t I just avoid explaining that whole ‘byline’ thing? Yes I did.
This is where things can go wrong as this is a website issue – if for instance you have an ‘authors’ page on the site, that may well cover the link for everything you post. But this is where you want to check with your web chaps and ladies and have them set it up correctly.
The good news is this…
You can tell whether it is set up correctly very easily! Phew.
Click on this link: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets
Linking using the Google+ Badge
This is another way you can link a profile to your site.
Simple go to https://developers.google.com/+/web/badge/
Then, choose the badge you want to add and drop in the code to your site.
Setting up on a Blogger site
This is very easy but if you need some extra help then this article will cover all bases: Blogger set up with authorship
Configuring a WordPress site
The simplest way to do this, avoiding any plugins, is described here: How to Implement Verified Google+ Authorship on Your WordPress Website
If you use the excellect WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast, then it is extremely simple: Social Media Optimization with WordPress SEO by Yoast
A Word of Caution!
Authorship should only really be set up on pages that contain a real person’s perspective or analysis of a topic. So if you can easily avoid it, then you should not set up authorship on home pages, blog category list pages, etc. This is a recent clarification from Google and tools may need a bit of time to catch up. But if you are managing authorship manually then you should check that you’re doing it according to the guidelines sooner rather than later.
What is the difference between ‘rel=author’ and ‘rel=publisher’?
The simple answer is: Authorship connects people to content; ‘publisher’ is for a brand page connecting to a website.
For more on this check out Mark Traphagen’s in depth article on it here.
As a business or as part of an organisation, there could be the fear of putting an employee out there as the “face” of the business.
If you ‘are’ the business, it is easy. But what about for an organisation?
Well, as you will see from the interview below it is something we at PYB are really working through with clients.
Whilst the online world is changing, managing your rising stars is something you may well want to consider from the offset.
Ready to test your Google Authorship skills?
Here is a test that stands alone as well as being Level 2 in the PYB programme (which will issue badges to those who pass). You will need 80% to pass and please note that you will also get an average score if you take the test more than once. Enjoy!
This has been very well received. So if you are looking for a comprehensive interview on many of the issue and benefits of authorship, then this is the one:
So those who like text, below is a transcript…
Interview with Mark Traphagen on the subject of Google Authorship
Martin: Hi. This is Martin Shervington, and today I’m here to talk about Google Authorship with Mark Traphagen. How are you doing Mark?
Mark: I’m doing nicely. Good to be able to chat across the pond with you as always about these very interesting topics Martin.
Martin: Well I’m delighted to be here. And in my summer clothes for a change. And you’ve matched me as well. You’ve put on something just post-fourth of July to be casual.
Mark: Yes. And also, it’s great to join with you today in the spirit of reconciliation. I think it’s time we put aside our old conflicts and work together, don’t you Martin?
Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s one of these things. Obviously we never learned at school that there was ever anything called a war between America and the UK, ever. It was just a mild misunderstanding. That’s what we learned. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
Mark: We’re just a franchise that spun off, right?
Martin: A start up. We just exited. That’s all we did. No big happening.
Well thanks for joining. And let’s look at what we’re going to cover. We’re going to cover very much the how-to of Google Authorship and get the nitty gritty stuff. But we’re going to kick off with the why-to and what it is.
But also, one of the things that I wanted to bring in is this question of having a Google Apps account. And I know that people have been asking you what is the consequence if people are using a company account and building authority using Google Authorship? And what to believe. So that’s something we’re going to come onto a little bit later. So thanks for your questions around that.
Okay, let’s kick off. What is Google Authorship?
Mark: Basically, it is a program that Google has set up to allow you to connect your Google+ profile – and by profile we mean personal profile, the profile of an individual – to that individual’s content anywhere on the web. So authorship is saying, I am the author of this. I created this piece of original content, whether it’s on my own blog or site, somebody else’s blog or site, whether it might be on YouTube or on SlideShare or all kinds of content sites saying, this is mine.
And Google’s been looking for this for a long time. It’s basically just a way to identify authors by a verified connection. So as far as we can tell by every good measure, this is this person’s content. And then beyond that to begin to help that person build a reputation and authority for the content that they’re producing, partly by promoting it in the search results. The one place where people see authorship first is by seeing an author’s photo appear next to search results, and Google Authorship is the way that that happens.
Martin: Okay. So in summary, Google Authorship connects individuals or people actually to their content.
Mark: Very simple. You’ve got it.
Martin: Well said. So let’s go through a quick why. You mentioned about it potentially going to search and you started even a little towards authority as well here. So why is this important for individuals?
Mark: Well the reason again that most visible of having your photo show up in search. And if nothing else happens in authorship, that in itself can be very powerful. From the standpoint, as is often repeated, it’s pretty well proven to increase clickthrough rate in most circumstances.
This is very important in search. You want as many people as possible to click. And most people are aware that the first result in search gets by far the most clicks from people, and then it drops off rapidly as you go down the page.
But in rich snippet result like this, which is what Google calls these, where there’s a photograph, and particularly a photograph of a face, that draws people’s eyes down that search results page. They see it. They’re more likely to click on it. And so they’re going to get more traffic for your content.
So that’s at a very simple level. But I think it goes beyond that. As people tend to have certain interests, and they’re searching the same things. If you are consistently creating content out there that’s centered around certain topics that you’re building expertise in, that you know, that you write about, you create videos about, whatever it is, those people are going to begin to see your face more and more. And they remember it. And they’re going to start to even subconsciously associate that as you being an authority in that topic.
And that just holds all the more true if they clickthrough, because authorship has a link on it to your Google+ profile. They might clickthrough. They might start to follow you so they get more of your great content. (And this is beyond the scope of our discussion here.) Once that happens, they’re tied into your network, and you’re influencing their other search results by what you share on Google+.
So it has a lot of verifications out there. Just very quickly, something that a lot of other people also like to talk about is this thing called Author Rank. And we have no evidence that Google is using Authorship yet as a direct influence on the search results. Because there’s a lot that has to happen with Authorship before that would ever be instituted. But it is something that’s been talked about.
And very simply, Author Rank would be using all the massive data that Google can collect on an author. When this author shares on this topic again and again, people like it, they share it, they comment on it, they tell their friends to go see it, it only makes sense that Google would want to rank that author’s content higher for that category, for that topic.
Martin: Okay, great. We’ve got advice just now. Let’s now look at the how-to.
To begin with, leaving aside websites, what do I need to do on Google+ in order to set up authorship?
Mark: Starting with your profile, the most fundamental things that you must have on your personal profile are number one, the name you choose. So choose your name carefully. To make authorship work the best and most seamlessly, decide on the name that you want to by and that you’re going to use on your content across the web. It always works best if that matches up.
So Mark Traphagen is the name of my Google+ profile, and that’s what I go by in content across the web. This blog post is by Mark Traphagen.
The second thing, and also probably equally important, is that you have a clear face photo, a clear head shot as people like to call it, a photo that is proportional, and that is clearly a real photograph of a real human face that for the most part fills up that profile.
We’ve both seen that Google is very apparently using facial recognition software to check the search results when they show an authorship result. I tested this a couple weeks ago as some people probably know. I put up an icon instead of my face. After 4 days, my authorship results in search disappeared entirely. That tells me that it got flagged. I think probably there’s a manual review. Once something’s flagged, a human looks at it and says, no, this is not a human face. They take it out.
I then put my human face back on, and within 24 hours I was showing for authorship results again.
Martin: I love the idea of you putting your human face back on!
Mark: [laughter] A lot of people said, it’s so nice to see you back.
Martin: I wondered why. I didn’t notice that the icon was there.
Mark: And by the way, people do make that human connection. And part of your audience has heard me talk about this before, but just quickly, it’s such a great story. I was at a conference last year and they were using authorship, and this is evidence again of how people search the same topics over and over again. So you start showing up, they start seeing you.
I’m walking through a crowded hallway at the conference. This guy grabs me by the shoulders, holds me at arm’s length and says, I know you from somewhere. And that’s always a dangerous moment. What have I done? What bar were in together where I said the wrong thing? But then he said, I got it! You’re in my search results. Because he searches all the time. So I was like a Google authority to him. And he was so thrilled to meet me in real life when that happened.
Martin: Cool. Okay. So first thing then, got the photo. And next thing, you mentioned that tagging.
Mark: Now the next part is you’ve got to connect up with that content across the web. Just having those two things will take care of anything that you put on Google+. You’re now connected to everything on Google+. But now you want to connect your content across the web. And there’s a couple of different methods to do that.
You’ve got to do something on the content side, so the website or blog out there. And you’ve got to do something on the Google+ profile side. Let’s start on the Google+ profile side, because that’s the easiest and it works the same for all of these.
In your Google+ profile, go to the About tab, scroll down, and find the section called Links. And there’s so many different subsections within that. One of the subsections is called Contributor To. And this is where Google puts your Authorship links. It wants you to link up to the places where you post your content across the web.
Think about the name of it: Contributor To. This is the sites that I contribute content to. And all you need to put there, in most cases, is just the domain, or the homepage if you will, of that site. Google will figure out the rest if you connect it up correctly on the other end. So the first step is add every place where you’ve created content to the Contributor To section of your Google+ profile. That’s step 1.
Now you’ve got to do something on the other side too to verify to Google that not only – I could be anybody. I could put any site in my Contributor To. I’ve got to verify from the other side that this is my content. A couple ways to do that. There’s one method called the email method. (I’m going to go through some of these on a very simple level, and we can give resources later, Martin, to people who want to dig in deeper and get instructions.)
But the email method is simply, if you have an email address that has the same domain name as where you post your content. So let’s say you own MyBlog.com, and I have an email address there, it’s Mark@MyBlog.com. Then I can verify that email in my Google+ profile. And again, we can give the instructions to that later. And once that email is verified, as long as I post my content on my site with my name clearly on it, so by Mark Traphagen, Google should pick that up for authorship.
That’s the easiest method, but the least one that I recommend. First of all, it only works for sites where you have that domain email address. And second, because it’s dependent on Google scanning your name off the page, sometimes it can get messed up if you pick up a different name from something else and authorship can be misattributed.
So let’s go on to the other method. The other method is a little harder to do, but it’s more fail safe. And that is providing a link back from your content on a given site to your Google+ profile. Now the safest method, you could simply put that link in every piece of content. Like every blog post could have, say at the bottom of it, there’s a link. Follow me on Google+, and then Google+ links to your Google+ profile.
That can become cumbersome. So more simply if your blog provides an author page for you, and this is the way it should be done if you have multiple authors on the site, that you put the link for each other on his or her author page on the site. And then connect all the content to that author site.
Most modern WordPress themes, for example, will allow you to do that. They call them user profiles. Every user sets up a profile. And if he or she produces content, it goes on the profile. If you click on the by-line, the link by Mark Traphagen, on that post, it goes to that author page. And that author page then connects to the Google+ profile.
That was very complicated. Let me try to simplify that. At a simple level, by the link-up method, you want to have a link from either every piece of content or from a unique author page on your site, on any site that connects your content to Google+ profile, and then of course the link back from the Contributor To section of your profile.
Martin: Okay. And the Contributor To section, because I know there’s been a couple of questions around this in the stream, that is on the About page of your profile, on the lower right hand side, in the Link section.
Mark: Right. So if you scroll to the bottom of the Link section, you’ll see a little blue button that says edit. You click Edit, and then find the Contributor To section. There’s a link that says, Add Custom Link. Click that, and it will be very apparent what you do. You can add a label, visible name of that link.
So if I create content on Maximize Social Business, which is a site where I do create content, in the label I put Maximize Social Business. And then the next blank is URL. I put in the address of my author page on Maximize Social Business. Then I click save. And that’s the link you need on the profile side.
Martin: Okay. Fantastic!
Let’s now have a look at two examples. The first one is going to be the Blogger site. If somebody’s using Blogger, what do they need to do in relation to authorship?
Mark: Fortunately, Blogger, since it’s owned by Google, has finally – a few months ago – made it very, very easy to hook up to Authorship. It didn’t used to be, which was crazy because Google owns Blogger. It used to be one of the hardest places to hook up authorship.
But now, I can tell you very simply, all you have to do is go to the Dashboard of your Blogger account, and you will see a Google+ section. Click on the Google+ section. You’ll see a link that says connect to Google+. Just make sure that you’re already logged in to the Google+ account you want to use for authorship. Click the Google+ connect button. And that’s it. It will make the connection. You confirm it. And that’s all you have to do.
From that point on, Google sees this Blogger blog is connected with your personal profile, and you get the Authorship credit for it.
Martin: Fantastic. Next one is WordPress.
Mark: WordPress can be a little more complicated because there’s so many different themes of WordPress. And they have varying functionalities.
More and more we’re seeing the most up-to-date themes and the most up-to-date frameworks – without getting too technical, WordPress developers can build something called a framework, which is kind of a big WordPress template if you will that a lot of WordPress themes can be built off of that framework or template.
The Genesis framework is a very popular one. That’s what we use at Virante. It has Authorship built in. So each user just goes to his or her user profile. There’s a blank that says Google+. You put your profile URL in there. And you’re done. From that point on, all of the content you publish on that site that’s connected to your user account for that site as long as you’ve got that Contributor To link back, in your Google+ profile.
Now if you have an older or simpler WordPress theme that doesn’t have that, I recommend finding – there are authorship plugins out there. If you just go to the official WordPress plugin site. You can search for authorship plugins. A plugin I recommend, if you don’t have it, that includes authorship is the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. It will not only have you solve a lot of SEO problems for your site, but it automatically gives that Google+ box to every user account on your theme. So all of your office can just edit their user account, add the Google+ profile URL, and you’re done.
Martin: Okay. Fantastic! So we’ve covered authorship as it appears almost naturally on Google+ when you have your headshot and you’ve tagged yourself within that image as well. So that’s any content you’ve got within Google+. And then we’ve got that connection to a website that you create content on and that you write on. And this leads to a question of what is rel=author, and what is rel=publisher?
Mark: When we start talking about rel, you may have seen these bandied about, you’re getting into something called markup language. A number of years ago, the major search engines all agreed together. They mutually formed a non-profit, non-biased organization called Schema.org.
And Schema.org set up a whole standard of markup codes that people could use on their websites, and search engines could choose to adopt that would allow people to identify information on their websites in unique ways.
For example, there’s Schema markup you could do for an address on your site. You could identify to a search engine, rel= for markup, this is an address. So the search engine can go, if I wanted to display that on my search engine results page, I could display that uniquely as an address.
Well author and publisher are two of the Schema markups that are available. And Google in 2011 decided to adopt those in unique ways, to make use of those. So rel=author is the official markup for authorship, only you’ll notice we haven’t mentioned it to this point. And that is because it used to be in the early days of authorship you had to tag the links.
When you linked back to a Google+ profile, you had to specifically add that rel=author tag. It doesn’t appear that’s really necessary. it works fine as long as the links are there. So Google’s kind of putting it in automatically now. You can add it. It doesn’t hurt anything. But you don’t need it. We still refer to it as rel=author. It’s the basic connection.
On the other hand, Google adopted rel=publisher when it brought out brand pages for Google+. It’s not a personal profile, but a brand that a page made. And that’s a little more mysterious. We don’t really know what they’re doing with that or tending to do with that, other than that Google wants you to make a connection with your brand page and the official website that’s connected with that brand page. So if you’re Acme, Inc., you should have Acme Google+ brand page. Of course that page would link to our Acme.com site.
And then on the Acme.com site, you link back. And you’ve got a number of ways. You can get a Google+ page to put on your site to link you to the page. You can just hide the link in the header of your site. You can create your own link. As long as there’s that two-way linkage, that establishes the verification.
And then you can actually apply at that point. You can look this up; just Google it. Google+ brand page verification. There’s a site on Google you can find where you can apply to have your site verified. Which all that happens if you get verification is a little checkmark appears next to the URL on the cover photo of your brand page. Big deal. What does that mean?
We don’t know what that means. But I’m advising all people with brand pages to do it. Because Google wouldn’t have you connecting up if they weren’t doing something with it.
And I’ll just close this part with, here’s the fundamental thing I think they’re at least doing with it for now. And that is Google wants to not only identify who are the real people online and what are they doing, Google wants to identify who are the real brands and what’s the connection.
So having a Google+ profile, making that verified publisher connection, tells Google this is us. This is the real Acme.com. This is our real website.
Martin: Okay. Now we’re going to go a little deeper. Google Authorship is for authors and linking those authors to their content. We’ve got that covered.
You spotted recently that some brand pages were appearing in Google search results as well as if they were authors. Can you explain what happened with that?
Mark: It appeared to be a test. We’ve been seeing there used to be a thing called the rich snippets testing tool. It’s now called the structured data testing tool. It’s a Google page. If you Google structured data testing tool it will be the number one result. It’s a page for testing that you’ve done this kind of schema markup that we’re talking about on your site correctly.
Two of the things it tests is authorship and a verified publisher hookup. If you put the URL of a piece of content that you think you hooked authorship too into that tool and hit preview, you go down to the authorship section and it will tell you, yes, authorship is verified for this page, or no, it’s not. It will also show above that a little example of what it would look like in search results if you got an authorship rich snippet. So you’ll see a profile next to a sample search result. So that we know.
Starting about 4-5 months ago, very curiously, all of a sudden for sites that were hooked up to a Google+ page with that two-way link that we talked about before started seeing an example of a brand rich snippet result, which would be whatever you have as the profile photo of your brand, typically it would be a logo. So you’d see the logo there next to the search result, and instead of saying by Mark Traphagen, it would say, by Virante Search Marketing in X number of Google+ circles.
Well that got everybody very excited. Because it’s Publishership. And months went by and it was nowhere to be found.
This brings us to what you just brought up a moment ago. About two weeks ago, some people that I follow noticed that they were seeing these in their search results. And they started giving out some examples. They were very isolated, just a few brands. And some people could see them; some people couldn’t, but they were definitely there. For about 4 days, there were these Publisher-style results in the search, and then they went away. You can’t find them anywhere now.
When I see that, I know that’s not an accident. Something was going on for 4 days. That’s a test. So Google was testing something with that. And what they’re testing is what do people do when we put these in their search results? Does it result in good things? Do they click more? And when they click, do they stay on that page or do they come right back? Is this enhancing the search results for anybody in any way?
So that means to me they’re at least thinking about doing something with that in a search result in the future. But Google is very, very patient. So don’t expect just because they tested it that you’re going to see it tomorrow.
Martin: Okay. Thank you. Now I’m going to do something, which we’ll see how this goes. Scenarios. Because I know people want to know what to do in their situation.
So let’s run through a few scenarios. I’ll fire them at you. I’m an individual. I’m blogging just using Google+. What do I do?
Mark: Individual blogging just using Google+. You should hook up with Google Authorship. That’s easy.
Martin: And I do that just by having the photo, having the tag, nothing else to be done.
Mark: I said, should. Doesn’t mean -
Martin: No, but if that’s what I wanted in terms of search. That’s an easy one.
The next one, website, quick cap there. So I’ve got a personal blog. It’s just me, and nobody else blogs on it. Quickly recap on what I should do with that.
Mark: You should set up Authorship. So now let me jump in on you and go to this level.
I have an individual site. I’m the only one that creates content there. But it’s also a business site, and I am the brand. So I’m a consultant. Whatever. Mark Traphagen is the brand.
I would in that case then, not only set up authorship but also still set up a Google+ brand page and make that official because I want to claim my name not only as me as a human being, but I want to claim my name with Google as a brand. I want to identify with Google as a brand. I’m using this as a brand. Does that make sense? So I would make that connection as well. That’s the rel=publisher.
Martin: Okay. So let’s go to the next one. I’ve got a business. I have 3 members of staff that are writing content for this business. And we’re going to split this into two things because we’re going to touch on Google Apps with this.
But I’ve got a brand page. What do I do from there?
Mark: Okay. You’ve got a brand page. Make that two-way connection. That’s pretty easy. Link from the Brand Page to your official website. And put a link somewhere on your website back to your Google+ page. You might want to make that prominent. Use a Google+ badge if you want so people will be set up to clickthrough and follow you there. But make that two way connection. Establish that connection first.
Now I would go to each of those employees who is producing content for me, and ask them if they would be willing to be a public face for our business with their content. And if I’m a powerful enough employer, I might require them to do that. But then the next step would be that each of them create a Google+ profile in the ways that we’ve specified and to link them as Contributor to my business site.
And on the business’ blog, we would establish that author page for each of them with a link back to their Google+ profile. So I want their authorship, because I want that personal influence out there working for me.
Here’s why. I know every business has to make their own choices about this, but let me just make this point. Why would you want to do that? I just want to be my brand. I just want to be Acme.com out there. This is fundamental human psychology. People will identify with, follow, believe, and trust a human being long before they will a brand.
The most powerful thing you can do for your business is to have a representative out there. I’m well aware of the risks of that. Martin and I were discussing just before we came on the air a well-known situation here in the United States, a very big brand here called Men’s Wearhouse that for decades was represented on television, in radio ads by the very iconic CEO of the company with a great tagline: You’ll like how you look in my suits.
And a few weeks ago, for reasons internally, the Board booted him out. He’s gone. He was the face of that business. And they lost that overnight. And unfortunately they lost it in a very hostile situation. What do you do with that? I know that there are challenges to that. As a business, you’ve got to weigh this in. You’ve got to be making policy about this. You’ve got to be thinking.
The easiest thing to do would be to bury your head in the sand and say, well because of that risk, we’re not going to have any authors. We’re not going to have anybody personally identified on our site. We’re not going to use Authorship. You can do that. But you’re going to lose competitively a great deal I believe in the future especially.
More and more, Google is going to be valuing the content of individual experts. As the internet gets more and more social, that is going to be a powerful force. I think you’re going to want to make use of it, and you’re going to want to have policies in place for how you’re going to handle that with these individuals.
Martin: I think that following up from what you said, this is new territory. And I think people haven’t necessarily realized quite what the consequence is because it takes an expert to consider, what happens when that person leaves. Because they do leave.
Because it’s not them that have been your content for their brand and then been able to take it wherever they go whatever they happen to do. They’ve done it on behalf of that company potentially. They’re being paid by that company to produce that content.
So one of the questions is, if they wanted to remove the Contributor To link to that website, if they were to leave, for instance, what would be the consequence potentially for the content in search?
Mark: There are several. You’re saying first if the author who’s leaving the company remove the Contributor To link?
Mark: In that scenario, that would instantly break the Authorship. Which all that means is that that content would no longer show up in the search results with that author’s photo and profile associated with it. So whatever benefits that gives you, the things we talked about at the beginning, the increased clickthrough rate, the building of authority, you’d lose that. It wouldn’t remove the result from search. It would still be there.
Now the other thing that you might lose, it’s suspected at this point, because again, I don’t believe that Google is any strong or direct way using Author profiles as a search signal, directly in the search algorithm. But they’ve sure talked about it a lot. They have patents out there describing the way to do that. I think they hope and intend to in the future.
So you’d also be losing, if they implement that, whatever topical authority that author has, you would lose that.
So you still have the content. It can still rank in search, just like the old-fashioned rankings. You would just that authorship connection. So that’s that scenario.
Martin: Okay. Now let’s throw another one in. Because I believe one of the first conversations that people should have, and I will say should, when talking to businesses around Google+ is are you using Apps? Are you using an Enterprise account?
Would you agree that that’s something which could be foundational and which you could then build on?
Mark: I would have to agree because my own company is a Google Apps Enterprise account.
For people who don’t understand what that is, Google has a level of Google Apps, which now most people know as Google Drive and Google Docs. Gmail was tied in. Presentations, all that kind of stuff that you have access to. You have enterprise level. Businesses pay to get your own little private internal version of parts of Google.
So for instance, our internal email really is Gmail. But when you write to me at email@example.com. But virante.com’s email address is actually Google email address. That’s what we’re talking about, using it internally.
Since Google+ came along, each of your employees has a Google Apps account separate from any other Google+ account they might have personally. The day that Google+ came out, I looked, and lo and behold, there are two Mark Traphagen accounts there. There’s Mark Traphagen, my personal Google account, and there’s a Mark Traphagen that’s my Virante Google Apps account.
So here’s where the question comes in, and I know where you’re going with this Martin. The choice now has to be made. Do I start producing content for Virante, my own company, under that Google apps account, which at face value seems to make some sense. I mean, that’s my Virante account. Why wouldn’t I? Or do I do it under my personal account?
Here’s the thing. If you make the choice to do it under the Apps account, and I leave, in the future I’m disconnected from that account. And that means I’m starting from scratch. That’s not good for me as an individual in my own future. And ultimately I don’t think it’s good for the company. Because even though the company I think it works better for us to control it now, if I’m disconnected from that, that means from that point forward, I will not continue to build any authority from that account.
Does that make sense?
Martin: Absolutely. Again, it’s one of these big questions for a company, and internal policies, which is should you (and there’s a lot of shoulds here) start with that and say all of you staff are now going to be using the Apps account that we have. You won’t have a personal profile. You don’t build that up. That’s not where the authority is. You build that up here.
Because then, when they leave, or if they leave, then they’re likely to be cut off from that particular account. The authority drops. And the business essentially will lose and the individual will lose.
Mark: Yeah. That’s the crazy thing about it is in trying to control – I’m sure any company, their first thought would be, well you should be using the internal apps account, because we control that. And businesses, of course, like to control their employees.
What they lose is exactly – you just said it very well. If that employee leaves, it’s natural they’re going to cut them off. Because they have access to all the company’s information, documents for a company. So of course, even if a friendly employee leaves you might change the locks on the office. It’s just a common sense security thing. You’re going to cut off their access to that business account.
As we just said, for the future now they will not be able to build any more authority to that profile. So you lose that.
I think two quick takeaways on this Martin, which I’ll give credit where credit’s due because it’s said so well there. There’s a blog post out there today. People can search for it. It was just published today on Search Engine Watch by Christina Zila called “Breaking up with Your Spokesperson, Men’s Wearhouse Applied to Authorship,” using that same analogy I did earlier. “Breaking up with Your Spokesperson.” Search for that and you’ll find it, I’m sure.
She covers this issue very well. And the two takeaways she has are number one, don’t create a situation where you’re going to have to automatically cut off the relationship with the author who is your employer. Because if they leave on good terms, why not have that good will, that influence, that authority that they’re building up there continue to reflect back on their content on your site?
Martin: Let me dive in on that one then.
Martin: If they’re on an apps account and they’ve been building within that profile and they then leave and they have a personal profile, nothing to do with the business, and they set up the rel=author. And they said as a Contributor To, and they link it back to the site. And the company acknowledges it and puts that two-way link back. What could happen with that?
I’m assuming they don’t have authority on that profile themselves. Can you transfer authority from the company, the enterprise across? No, you can’t.
Mark: People can’t see because we’re -
Martin: No they can’t.
Mark: They don’t see the filmstrip, but I’m nodding my head vigorously no. No, you cannot transfer the authority. And you really have to treat those, if you have more than one Google account, you have to treat each account as being its own person. So you have to think strategically from the beginning, both the company and the individual has to think, what profile do I want to be associated with for the rest of my life?
And I think we’ve already outlined, the company, the temptation is going to be, we want you to use the company profile, the apps profile, because we control that. But the downside of that is these days, very few employees work for you forever. And the reality is the vast majority of employees who part ways with you part under good circumstances. The vast majority.
Why would you not want that person to continue carrying the authority you built with them. It doesn’t harm you in any way. It only can help you coming back. So that’s why I lean toward advising companies that you ought to let the employees, if you’re going to let them represent your business as content creators and as social influencers out there, then you ought to let them do it with their own profile, their personal profile.
And if you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to establish policy. Just like everything. Just like using social media. If a company has, like Scott Monty, a lot of people know him, he’s the social media director for Ford Motor Company. Well Scott is Scott Monty out there, on the internet, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Google+. Everybody knows he’s connected with Ford.
So he works under, when he’s out there being Scott Monty online, he knows the policies that Ford has towards the employee use of social media. They’re not going to govern what he says about his hot dog roast at his house yesterday, but what those policies should govern is any time that he’s speaking about Ford or as a representative of Ford, he should know what his boundaries are. It’s like anything else for that in public relations.
Build those policies now. Let your employees be themselves. But make sure they know the policies of how they represent you in public.
Martin: I think it is new territory, isn’t it Mark? And that advice is great. But that is a philosophical leap for a lot of companies, which is actually you build up your profile, your authority on your own outside of the Enterprise account profile that you have. And you can take that with you, but we continue to get benefit in the Authorship results because you created it and it comes back to our site.
That’s something which – many years ago my degree was Law in Business. And I go back and I look at these things and go wow! This is new technology creating new issues for companies because we don’t know what the solutions are yet.
Mark: But it’s really not. I mean, it is. The technology just makes the problem bigger and faster. It’s always existed. Let’s make it old school, because companies think we can’t deal with this. We’ve been dealing with this it for years.
Let’s say you have an employee who starts to get a reputation speaking on the conference circuit. They go to big conferences. They speak. People like it when they speak. They’re authoritative. People react. It gets business for the company. And they develop leads when they’re at those conferences. So they continue to go out there, and they get invitations to speak at bigger and bigger conferences. And now they get invitations to write books.
Well the company all that time is benefiting from that reputation of that employee being out there. People are seeing them. This is apart from the internet influence. This worked forever, for decades.
Now that employee leaves. He or she is going to continue to benefit from all that, because they made lots of personal contacts out there. They’ve got lots of friends now from all those conferences, people who read their books, whatever it is. So that might make it easy for them to get their next job or move on up or do something else. But all that goodwill they built toward the company all that time is still there. Now in this scenario the company is not saying, we don’t want any of our authors online. We don’t want any of our employees to have authorship. Would they say, we don’t want any of our employees to speak at conferences? We don’t want any of our employees to ever write a book?
It’s really fundamentally the same idea. It’s just people freak out about it because it’s online.
Martin: We’re going to start to wrap up. You’ve given me an idea, because you and I have done adwords work probably since it launched many moons ago. In a way, is there a per-click charge that could potentially emerge for the content that appears in search of these authors after they’ve left the company? I don’t know.
Mark: You mean, like Google?
Martin: No. I’m just thinking. Because you can find out in search how many times a page is being viewed and if it’s coming from a particular source. I just wonder if that’s where the social system will go because there’s a direct benefit to people. It’s just musing really Mark, because I’ve really enjoyed exploring this with you.
Mark: Yeah. There could be. I could foresee a time. I think in the long distance future that online authors are going to become so important, and so important in online marketing in particular for companies that it would be wise for a company to find a way to compensate authors for how much they’re bringing in.
There’s a lot of ways to measure that. One way would be, Google provides author stats. In Webmaster Tools, log in to the Google account that’s used for Authorship, look under Labs, Google provides author stats. You can see every piece of content that Google sees your authorship for, and they will show your stats for.
Like how many times did that show in a search? That’s called impressions. How many times did people clickthrough? What was the clickthrough rate? What was the average position in search results for that? Companies can devise means to look at that and say, authors who get more traffic from their authorship get compensated more, just like a salesperson who makes more sales would.
Martin: Absolutely. Well from a marketing point of view, it is marketing. And if there’s an outcome to the end of that process, a call to action as well, then you can measure that into the funnel too.
Martin: So it wasn’t too wild an idea. I’m glad. Thank you. Well, on that note, than you. It is always a pleasure. And you are somebody who knows his stuff. And that’s why I’ve really enjoyed going into this detail with you. And also I can tell from the comments, everybody, thank you. I’m reading. My hands are free, but I’m coming over. I’m +1′ing your comments. And I can see it all. Thank you.
Also, I’m going to put a post into the Plus Your Business Community, which will have some of this information on, and I’m going to cut and paste some of your comments across into the comments. Andrew, thank you. Brilliant comments. I know there’s a lot of useful things in there from lots of people as well.
So wonderful. Thanks for a great event. Thanks for watching.
Mark: Martin, if people want to post their questions in the Plus Your Business Community, I’ve got some things I need to do immediately after the Hangout here. But I will definitely come back later today and spend some time. And I’d be happy to try and answer questions that people post there. Would that be a good way to handle that?
Martin: That would be fantastic.
Mark: Absolutely. So look for, join Plus Your Business Community. That’s my call to action. And come on over there and post your questions about authorship or any of the things we talked about today, and I promise you I’m going to come back later today and do my best to answer every one of those questions.
Martin: Wonderful. Mark, thank you. Thanks to everyone watching. And I can see from the threads you really enjoyed. So that’s really wonderful. Take care and see you all soon.
Mark: See you all. Thank you.
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