How to make sense of the rel author attribute (authorship markup made easy)

Authorship markup is one of the hottest topics in SEO at the moment and more of our clients are asking us for advice on the topic so here is your quick start guide that’s got all the must-know information and the actions you should be taking.

What is it?

Google introduced authorship markup back in June – they describe it as “a way to connect authors with their content on the web“. Originally it only supported same domain relationships but with the birth of Google+ it truly does link authors with their content all over the net.

It is designed to help Google find great content by great authors as it effectively links all the great stuff together – it’s bound to have an impact at some point on the ranking of a particular page. Matt Cutts coined the term ‘AuthorRank’ to describe the concept that allows writers to tag themselves to give Google a nudge that the content is authentic – authorship markup is bound to help Google beat the scraper sites but this is yet to fully take hold.

How can it help?

  • It helps you ‘claim’ your content
  • It encourages a more authoritative web – helps the experts get rewarded for their work
  • For the time being at least it will give your content a boosted clickthrough rate because your pages will stand out with a nice little thumbnail next to them
  • It might improve rankings over time

How important is it?

When Google announced it originally, I marked it down just as something ‘to watch’ because when it originally only supported same domain relationships, I couldn’t really see the point BUT now that it allows you to tag yourself as the author of content across the web it has become much more interesting and in my mind, far more powerful.

As with most innovations in SEO – it’s impact probably isn’t going to be felt for a while yet but it is something I would certainly be mindful of and if you have the resource and the inclination, I would be implementing this on your website or blog. It’s pretty easy to get to grips with…

How do I do it/use it?

  • First, get yourself a Google Profile – Update your Google Profile with places you contribute content regularly. For the whole authorship markup work, you need to link your profile and your websites.

The simplest way to claim content is to add a byline to every page containing the rel=”author” attribute, for example:

About<a rel=”author” href=”http://plus.google.com/105917631392215948327/”>James Agate</a>

This definitely isn’t the most practical long term so if your blog has an author box or something similar that adds a byline to each post of content page then finding a way of automatically implementing the rel=”author” attribute is obviously much more scalable.

Google has also said that you can link to an author or about page on the same website and then have that page link out to the profile. This provides a quick way of claiming credit of all the articles you have written for a website. Google is looking for the following relationship/link flow…

  1. Article links to author page on same domain
  2. Author page links to Google Profile
  3. Google Profile links back to author page

This relationship visualised

You can add further context to your about or author page by adding the rel=”me” attribute which tells Google that other pages around the web are also about you. It’s a good idea to include links to your social network profiles and about/author pages on other websites.

Thankfully if you use the best publishing platform in the whole wide world…WordPress then everything (as usual) is really easy to implement. If your website does run WordPress then take a look at Yoast’s guide to rel=”author” on WordPress – he’s got some great advice on quickly and easily implementing authorship markup.

How do I know I’ve done it right?

Use Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool to check you’ve got authorship markup implemented correctly – don’t panic if you don’t see author attribution in search results all the time as Google has said it is a feature that is being rolled out slowly.

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