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You’ve probably seen more and more pictures of writers showing up next to search results.  Google has implemented an Authorship Markup tool that allows writers to identify themselves to the search engine by linking their online works to their Google+ profiles.  This allows for a blog, article, or website to stand out from the crowded search results with a picture of the writer inserted next to its description.

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There are a few ways to implement your Google Authorship (Google’s official instructions here):

Method #1:  Use a verified email address with your Google+ account

If you’re publishing content on the same domain as your email address, you can use this method.  For example, if your email is johndoe@mywebsite.com and you’re blogging on mywebsite.com, then the domains match and you can use the verified email tool.  If not, skip to method #2.

Log in to your Google+ account, and then to verify your email, visit https://plus.google.com/authorship.  Add your matching-domain email address (johndoe@mywebsite.com).  Google will send you a confirmation email, and then add it to your Google+ account’s Work section.

Now, you can just add an Author byline to any content you publish on mywebsite.com.  Simply write “By John Doe”, or “Author: John Doe” in the content, and Google will recognize your name and begin displaying your Google+ photo next to the content in search results.  Every piece of content you publish on that domain going forward will automatically display your photo as long as you add your “By John Doe” author line.

 

Method #2: Link inside your content to your Google+ profile

Often you’ll be publishing content on someone else’s website or domain.  This post, for example, is hosted on InmanNEXT’s website, which I don’t own, and I don’t have an @inman.com email address, so I can’t use the verified email address method.  I’d still like to be recognized by Google as the author, however.

With this method, you’ll simply insert a link to your Google+ profile with a small bit of extra code.  Most authors will link their name with the author code.  For this article, we’ve inserted the following code:

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/101669415833397825384/?rel=author“>Sam DeBord</a>

This makes the name, Sam DeBord, appear as a link. 

“https://plus.google.com/u/0/101669415833397825384/” is just the URL of my Google+ profile.  What turns it into an authorship tag is adding “?rel=author” to the end of it.  Now, Google knows that the Google+ profile being linked to is actually this page’s author’s profile.

The second step in this method is to add a reciprocal link in your Google+ profile to the same domain.  Go to your profile, select “About”, and then in the lower-right box title “Links”, select “Edit”.  Add a new link in the “Contributors to” section.  In this case, I would add “http://next.inman.com” and Save, since that is the website where I’m contributing content.

Now, the Google+ profile says I contribute to the Inman Next website, and the rel=author code within the Inman Next article confirms that an individual article was written by me.  Those specific articles by me will begin to show my picture next to them in search results.

 

What kind of picture should you use for your Google Authorship photo?

Your Google+ profile photo will show up in search results as your Google Author photo.  Obviously, a photo that will draw attention and attract users to click on the content would be best.

Your picture must be a photo of your face.

Logos, products, scenery, or group shots are strongly discouraged by Google.  Not only that, but Google can tell if you don’t upload a picture of your face.  It’s a bit creepy, but Google will scan your photo when you upload it, and will present a warning message to you if it can’t find a face in the photo.  If you disregard that message and post a logo or other photo anyway, it will not displayed as an author photo.  Change the photo back to a person’s face, and it will quickly reappear as your author photo in search results again.

Since the photo needs to be a face, find a very professional photo that shows up well in a small format.  If you just crop yourself out of your last company picnic photo, your traffic results will be as unenticing as your picture.  Make sure the contrast is high, so your face stands out against the background.  Anything more than head and shoulders is likely to be very unrecognizable in the small size of the search result photos.

Cyrus Shepard at SEOMoz had a great post if you’d like to over-analyze your photo for  all of the different ways you can tweak it to get better click-through rates.  In general, to pick the best photo to get more clicks, you need to think about your audience.  For real estate pros, this probably means that a photo which looks authoritative yet also approachable would be a good choice.

 

Will the Google Author picture increase my traffic?

In most cases, having Google Authorship photos will increase the click-through rate of search results.  Pictures stand out and add credibility to the content.  In rare cases, though, there is a possibility that a poorly-chosen picture could actually lessen the credibility of the content it is associated with, and decrease traffic.  Choose your photo wisely.

Google likes to know who its authors are.  There are millions of people publishing content every day, and it seems like there are just as many spammers as real writers.  As you build credibility with your Google+ profile and your author tag, Google will begin to recognize you as a reputable, long-standing content producer.

Google has an associated “Author Rank” that will contribute to higher rankings in the search engine’s results as authors become more recognized.  The credibility that you establish, as more and more content is published under your author tag, allows you to get faster and better search engine placement..   This is a tool that should be adopted by anyone who has a long-term strategy of driving traffic by publishing online content.