Google Authorship is part of Google's strategy of moving from an anonymous web to a web with identity, giving web users help with distinguishing spammers from authors with credibility and ultimately improving search results for everyone (except spammers).
Google Authorship associates a specific author's content with his or her Google profile, and it's why you now see more search results with author thumbnails to the left and just below links. It allows authors to claim authorship of their work, and it benefits web publishers, too.
How Google Authorship Works
With the goal of supplying search engine users with trustworthy and relevant results, Google has started implementing AuthorRank to establish the trustworthiness of online authors. It not only lets writers claim their content, it allows search engine users to find other content by a trusted author. Setting up Google Authorship doesn't require a user to be active on Google+ (though it's a good idea to be), but it does require a writer to set up an account and create a profile. Google recently confirmed that if a user returns to search results after spending a predetermined length of time reading an author-tagged search result, Google adds three additional links to similar articles from the same author below the link the user originally clicked on. As you might guess, this is great for authors and publishers.
Why Google Authorship Benefits Authors
Besides having their thumbnail photo appear next to links in search engine results, authors tend to experience much higher numbers of clicks than they did before the thumbnail appeared next to the links. In some cases, the number of clicks increased by 150%! By using Google Authorship, authors benefit from improved search engine results rankings, individual recognition, and personal "brand" development. As AuthorRank becomes more important, writers should benefit from broader recognition and more opportunities to be influential in their field.
Why Google Authorship Benefits Publishers
The thumbnail pictures, sometimes known as "social annotations," receive strong user attention, according to "heat maps" of user eye engagement on search engine results pages. Even if a result isn't in the top spot, the thumbnails pull attention down the page to at least the fourth or fifth position. Furthermore, a socially annotated result receives longer and more intense attention than other results. This drawing of the eye to the thumbnail holds true even if there are visual video search results at the top of the page. No longer does a link to your site's content have to appear at the top of the search results to draw significant attention, because social annotations draw attention to wherever the result is on the results page, and that means more traffic to your site.
How to Set Up Google Authorship on Your Site
The first step in setting up Google Authorship is for the author to verify their email address on Google+. If possible, use an email address with the same domain name as your website. The second step is for the author to link from his or her Google+ profile to content by clicking on the "Contributor to" section of the "About" page of his or her Google+ profile. The author can link to a bio page on a site or directly to content. The third step is linking from the content to the author's Google+ profile. From the "about the author" block or the author's byline, the author links to his or her Google+ profile, adding the string "rel=author" into the link for content or "rel=me" for a bio page. If you want to be walked through the process, you can start here.
Whether you're a writer or a web publisher, setting up Google Authorship for your site is smart. Over time, it should improve audience development, increase site traffic, and for monetized sites, effect healthier revenue development. Google has made it clear that authorship will play an increasingly important role in how they determine how to rank some types of content in search results.
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