As an online writer, you’re always interested in new ways to get traffic, right?
Of course you are. And with good reason.
You’re serious about your craft, you take pride in your content, and you want – in fact deserve – the widest possible audience.
And more traffic means more readers. More subscribers. Maybe even more customers.
So if Google introduced a new feature, designed to help writers just like you to get more traffic, you’d want to know about it.
You certainly wouldn’t thrust your head in the proverbial sand and pretend it didn’t exist. Or stick your fingers in your ears and go “la-la-la” until it went away.
Well, Google has introduced such a feature. And you may even have heard about it already, but are doing your best to ignore it.
It’s called Google Authorship. And you need to get to grips with it right now.
The Embarrassing Problem Google Needed to Solve
Let’s face it; some people on the web are more trusted than others. They produce great content, have gazillions of followers, and when they speak, people listen. They know their stuff and it shows. They reek of authenticity.
People like Leo Babauta, Chris Brogan, Brian Clark and (ahem) Jon Morrow.
Then there are people we don’t trust. It’s not that they’re sleazy (although they might be); we simply don’t know them. They don’t have a track record online or lots of people vouching for them. They might be awesome, they might be shady, but we just don’t know.
So you’ll naturally pay more attention to something Chris Brogan says online (since you’ve been following him for years) rather than something Kris Brogan says (as you don’t know him at all).
But until recently, Google couldn’t tell the difference between Chris and Kris. Quite embarrassing for a company that wants to tell us which content to trust and which to ignore, huh?
Why Google Doesn’t Trust You as a Writer
Before Google Authorship came along, Google had no idea who was responsible for creating the content it indexed. And so it couldn’t work out which authors it could trust.
Of course it knew all about which sites to trust. The authority of a domain has been a core part of Google’s algorithm since the beginning. Which is why a new page on Wikipedia about, say, twerking will automatically get a higher ranking than a page about it on your Auntie Jean’s personal blog (which is a shame because Auntie Jean is one hell of a twerker).
But before Google Authorship, Google was completely unable to distinguish one person from another.
Google saw pages; it didn’t see people.
So a totally respected writer posting on a brand-new blog would get no more credibility in the eyes of Google than a completely unknown author posting on the same blog.
Somewhat unfair, right?
Fortunately, Google Authorship changes this and now writers who create great content are finally getting the credit they deserve.
But it doesn’t happen automatically. And unless you act, you’ll remain forever anonymous and untrusted in the eyes of Google.
How Google Authorship Saves You From Being a Nobody
In a nutshell, Google Authorship allows you to assert ownership of the content you create online. It’s simply a way of putting your hand up (digitally speaking) and declaring, “I wrote this.”
In the past, you could do this informally with a simple credit in the post itself, such as “Written by: Joe Bloggs”.
But we still didn’t know who Joe Bloggs actually was in real life – whether he was a trustworthy professional, a pseudonym for someone else, or even if he was the same Joe Bloggs as the Joe Bloggs who also writes on this other blog over here.
Google Authorship fixes this problem by allowing you to link your identity to every blog post you write.
And suddenly, you’re no longer invisible. Google can see you – and the content you’ve written. Once on the radar, you can start to become someone Google trusts.
Why Google Can Finally Start Respecting You as a Writer
Imagine you’re an experienced writer (and guest blogger) with dozens of posts scattered all over the web.
Until Google Authorship came onto the scene, Google had no way to spot the connection between all of those posts – you. And it had no way to reflect your track record in its rankings.
Sure, it understood that all the content on your own blog was somehow connected (by virtue of it being found on the same domain) and could give everything on that site a rankings boost if that content was good.
But it had no idea that this post over here on your brand new blog, or that one over there on that big, popular blog were also written by you.
In other words, Google had no way to build a full picture of you as an online writer, and no way to reflect your reputation in its rankings.
Before Google Authorship: Your content on different blogs is scattered
Google Authorship changes all that. Google Authorship allows all of that other content to be linked to an individual. It finally puts the author at the center of the content equation.
After Google Authorship: All of your content is linked to your identity
And it’s not just the content that can be tied to an individual. All of the other useful indicators of respect and authority associated with that content – such as backlinks and social shares – can be attached to the author too.
Think about it; Google is finally recognizing for itself what other humans have known for a while – you’re someone worth listening to. And next time you write a post, Google can take all of that history into account when deciding how high it should rank your content in its search results.
Why You Need to Take a Hint from Google
Most of the time Google keeps its methods pretty close to its chest.
In fact, an entire industry has grown up around trying to work out how to drive content to Page 1 of the Google search results. There’s even a seedy black-market in sleazy techniques that try to “game” the algorithm. These sometimes work for a while, but Google always catches up with algorithm updates such as Penguin.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the precise mechanics of the search ranking algorithm, Google Authorship is a rare example of Google saying, “Do this.”
“If you are a trustworthy, respectable writer, do this and we will reward you with the rankings you deserve.”
Of course, the scammers and the black hatters won’t like it because they prefer to remain in the shadows.
But if you are in it for the long run and you’re proud of the content you create, the message from Google is clear: claim ownership of it using Google Authorship.
The Final Killer Reason You’d Be Crazy to Ignore Google Authorship
If you’re still not convinced about Google Authorship, one simple reason should make you think again.
Even if you don’t start using it, your competitors will.
Those people in your industry or niche who are currently on your level in terms of respect, authority and traffic will start to creep ahead. And as time moves on, and Google associates more and more quality content with them – and your quality content remains scattered and (effectively) anonymous – you’ll have a more difficult time catching up.
So if you’re serious about making an impact (and perhaps also a living) online with your writing, do yourself a favor: get intimate with Google Authorship.
How Google Authorship Will Help You Get More Traffic
So you now understand the basic ideas behind Google Authorship and you’re persuaded by the potential benefits.
Authorship allows you to proudly stamp your identity on everything you write online, it shows Google you’re serious about building a strong reputation and it gives you a way to set yourself apart from the less savvy writers operating in your niche.
But what may not yet be clear is exactly how enabling Google Authorship will help drive more traffic to your site (which is why you’re reading Boost Blog Traffic in the first place, right?)
3 Ways Google Authorship Unlocks More Traffic
It’s still early days for Google Authorship, and its full impact will only become clear over time, but enabling Authorship will bring you more traffic in the following three ways:
- Higher click-through rates from search results
- Extra crossover traffic from one post to another
- Better longer-term search rankings for your content
So let’s look at each in more detail and explain the rationale for believing each will result – directly or indirectly – from Google Authorship.
1. Higher click-through rates
With Authorship correctly configured, you give Google the opportunity to add what it callsrich snippets to your content in its search results.
Rich snippets are a way of enhancing Google’s search results pages with additional information to help users decide whether each result is relevant to them. These snippets cover a wide range of different types of information, but to see an example, try typing the name of your favorite dish – e.g., “Pad Thai” – into Google.
Example of a rich snippet-enabled recipe
You should notice that for some of the results, Google appears to be aware the result is a recipe so it presents some extra information, like the number of reviews the recipe’s received and a star rating from other users.
But rich snippets can also display additional information about the author of the content behind the search result. This metadata is made possible by Google Authorship, so results can also include a photo of the author, the number of people in their Google+ circles (more on Google+ later) and a link to their main Google+ profile.
The following is an example search showing results with rich snippets generated from Authorship information:
Google search results showing author rich snippets
As you can see, results with the rich snippets stand out compared to the others.
Having your name and photo next to a search result boosts your credibility and authority (particularly if you have a good number of followers on Google+) and increases the chances that people will click your link instead of someone else’s.
In fact, some studies report that rich snippets can improve click-through rates by up to 150% and even more conservative reports suggest 35% more traffic with Authorship enabled.
And even if someone doesn’t click through the first time around, the more familiar they become with your image cropping up in search results, the more likely they are to click next time.
And more click-throughs means more traffic. Which is what you want, right?
2. Extra crossover traffic
This one’s a little more subtle, but by prominently featuring your author information in the search results, Google is effectively helping people discover more content written by you.
I call this crossover traffic because it occurs as a result of readers crossing over from one instance of your content to another. Think of it as a sideways step that takes them from the post they originally found to others that might also be of interest.
This all happens via the author’s Google+ profile, which is linked no less than three times from a rich snippet-enabled result.
An authorship-enabled result links to your Google+ profile in three places
Just one click takes the reader from the search results page to your Google+ profile where they can do the following:
- See your latest Google+ updates, including any links to recent blog posts.
- Learn more about you via your About page, which – if you’re smart – will include links to your most popular posts.
Both expose readers to more content written by you – content they may not have found without Google Authorship.
And if they like what you’re writing and sharing, they’ll likely add you to their Google+ circles. This means your updates will appear in their streams, once again putting more of your content where they can see it and click on it.
Which again, in the long run, means more traffic.
3. Better search rankings
While some quick traffic wins arise from Authorship, the most exciting possibility is that Google will at some point start using it to influence search rankings. And that’s exactly where most experts are convinced things are going.
That’s because Google’s core mission is to continue to improve the quality of the search results it returns for any given query. And Authorship allows it to do just that.
Let’s see how.
Why Google Wants to Promote Your Content (But Can’t)
If high-quality content exists on the public web which is genuinely relevant to a particular query, Google wants to show it. In fact, Google is desperate to show it because that’s Google’s fundamental purpose – to connect users with the most relevant content available.
So what’s currently stopping it from highlighting your awesome content?
Simple – it doesn’t trust your content enough. At least, not yet.
Since Google isn’t smart enough to work out how good your content is for itself, it needs hard evidence to demonstrate that others trust your content. Historically that meant you needed lots of backlinks, or at least that you had published your content on a domain with lots of authority.
But what if your content doesn’t have lots of links (yet) and your domain doesn’t have lots of authority (yet)? Before Authorship, you were in trouble (unless you were writing on an obscure topic with little or no competition) because Google would largely ignore you.
Not all topics have fierce competition
However, claiming authorship of your content now allows Google to infer that your latest blog post is valuable by factoring in the other posts you’ve written in the past. So if it knows that this new post over here is written by the same guy who wrote a post that went viral over at that other big blog, then it could easily give that post a boost in the search rankings.
Now, it won’t happen overnight. Google is understandably cautious about updates to its search algorithm. But by establishing Authorship for your content, you’re laying the groundwork. You’ll be ready for the changes when they come.
And as long as your writing is valued by its audience, we believe that content with Authorship enabled will ultimately rank better than content without, because Authorship enables a whole new layer of supporting evidence – proof that your content is trustworthy.
And of course, improved rankings means your content is returned for more searches and gets more clicks.
Which equals more traffic!
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:
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:
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:
- Click the You+ button that appears when you click the “grid” icon in the top-right corner of the screen.
- Go directly to this page.
Either way, you should see this page:
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 snippetsand for authors this means your name and photo:
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:
- Link your Google+ profile (your identity) to your blog.
- 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.
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:
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:
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.
Scroll down your About page until you find the Links panel and click “Edit” at the bottom of the panel.
Editing the Links on your profile
Find the “Contributor to” section and click “Add custom link.”
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., “Boost Blog Traffic.”
- URL: put the base URL for your site, e.g., “boostblogtraffic.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”
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:
You may also see a letter and a number in the middle of the URL, for example:
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.
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.
Next, type “WordPress SEO” in the search box and click the “Search Plugins” button.
Then, find “WordPress SEO by Yoast” in the results (it should be at the top), click “Install Now” and then click “Yes” to confirm.
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:
Then find your own user profile in the list (the one you use to write the posts on your blog) and click “Edit.”
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.
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:
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”.
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.
Setting a Google+ Publisher Page in the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin
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.
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:
Preview of example result with rich snippets
Let’s look at the various sections.
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:
If something’s not quite right, you’ll see this:
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:
This means it can’t find any valid markup at all.
Assuming you’re using the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin, do the following:
- 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).
- 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
How to Boost Your Author Rank – The New Secret Sauce for Better Rankings
You understand the ideas behind Google Authorship and the potential benefits for you as a traffic-hungry blogger. You also know how to configure Authorship for your blog and may have already set it up using our recommended plugin.
So now it’s simply a case of sitting back and waiting for the traffic to roll in, right?
Well, not exactly. Asserting authorship over your content certainly gives you a short-term advantage over bloggers who haven’t done so yet, but that advantage won’t last for long. And what about those other writers who’ve already seen the light and have started claiming their content – how will you get ahead of them?
The true value of Google Authorship is that it paves the way for you to earn better search rankings for your content in the future. But to make that happen, you’ll need to startplaying a bigger game as a writer.
It’s a bit like having a membership to an exclusive gym. While you’ll experience some benefits simply by virtue of being a member (like a flashy membership card and a branded T-shirt), unless you actually visit the gym and start pumping some of that iron, everyone else in the club will kick your butt with ease.
It’s the same with Google Authorship. Unless you start exploiting its full potential, Authorship is just another way to get left behind.
How Google Will Decide If You Deserve Better Rankings
Since anyone online can implement Google Authorship, simply being a member of the Authorship club is no guarantee to Google that you’re a writer worth listening to. Because as time moves on, even the pedestrian and mediocre bloggers will catch on and start establishing authorship on their boring, forgettable blogs too.
So Google still needs a way to determine who’s worth listening to and who deserves to be trusted. In other words, it needs a way to separate the movers-and-shakers from the losers and fakers.
And the answer is Author Rank.
What is Author Rank?
The first thing to know about Author Rank is that it doesn’t exist. At least, not officially.
Author Rank is simply the name given by the SEO community to the idea that Google will start to measure the authority (read: reputation, reliability, trustworthiness, etc.) of individual authors.
Informally, someone who’s written lots of valuable content and is widely recognized as asubject expert would be expected to have a higher Author Rank than someone who has written far less content, or whose content has been largely ignored by others (i.e., few backlinks, shares, tweets, etc.).
The basic idea is that writers with a high Author Rank will ultimately get better search rankings for their content than writers with a low Author Rank.
And of course, better search rankings means more traffic for the content you create.
Why Author Rank is the Stuff of Legend
The reason Author Rank doesn’t officially exist is that much of the speculation is based on a patent filed by Google in 2007 for Agent Rank which describes (in rather dry, technical language) how “the identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search rankings.”
And while no evidence exists that Google is using any measure of author authority right now to influence search results, most experts firmly believe that’s where they are headed.
To better understand Author Rank (without struggling through the patent), it’s helpful to draw a comparison with another Google authority metric – PageRank.
Author Rank is PageRank for Authors
PageRank has been part of the Google ranking algorithm since the start (in fact, its name is reputedly an in-joke which refers to Google co-founder Larry Page). PageRank measures the authority of an individual webpage and is determined by the number of links to that page and the authority of those linking pages.
So what PageRank does for webpages, Author Rank does for web authors. Simple!
And in the same way that Google uses PageRank (among lots of other factors) to determine how high a page appears in its search results for a particular query, we believe they will also start to use the Author Rank of the person who wrote it.
So, the higher your Author Rank, the better your search rankings. At least that’s the theory.
How will Author Rank be calculated?
While the patent doesn’t dictate a specific implementation of Agent Rank, by looking at it in the context of Google Authorship and Google+, we can make some educated guesses about what is likely to influence your Author Rank score.
And at a high level, it boils down to two main factors:
- The authority of your content
- Your authority as an individual
Or, more precisely:
- The authority of all content linked via Authorship to your Google+ profile
- The authority of your Google+ profile within the Google+ ecosystem
Now, measuring content authority is something Google’s been doing for years – it’s the basis of its search algorithm.
And while the idea of measuring an individual’s authority is a little newer, we can once again make some educated guesses about how Google might choose to do it.
Both of these factors give us some strong clues about how you might go about improving your Author Rank over time.
How to Write Your Way to Higher Author Rank
In many respects, Author Rank will likely build upon Google’s existing ranking factors. This means that all of the normal best practices around optimizing your content for SEO still apply.
The key difference is an additional halo effect, which means content that already ranks well on its own merit will also boost the authority of its author, which in turn could be used to increase the rankings of other content by the same author.
The complete list of factors that Google uses to rank content and how much weight each contributes to the ranking are a closely guarded secret, but the following are three high-level factors that are widely accepted to most influence the ranking of a webpage:
- Domain-level authority: the number (and authority) of external links to the host domain
- Page-level authority: the links to the page itself and the relevance of anchor text on those links
- On page factors: this relates to the actual content, including keyword usage, topic focus, etc.
If you can find a way to help your content perform better in these areas, you’ll likely have found a way to boost your Author Rank too.
3 Smart Content Tactics to Boost Your Author Rank
Since your Author Rank is intimately linked to the authority of your content, what can you do as a writer to increase your score?
The following are some specific tactics that should start pushing your Author Rank in the right direction:
Tactic #1: Create Valuable Content People Want to Link to
Despite numerous changes in the Google algorithm over the years, links still reign supreme.
While countless sites have been punished by Google updates such as Penguin for using underhand methods to get more links to their (mostly) low-quality content, the only links that Google truly loves (and will always love) are natural links to high-quality content that deserves a wider audience.
Yes, you also need to promote your content to make sure it gets the links it deserves, but your marketing is only as good as the content it ultimately promotes.
So write great content that your audience will love and that stands the test of time.
Of course, writing awesome content is easier said than done, but the following posts will help you get there:
- How to Be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers
- The Brain-Dead Simple but Astonishingly Effective Way to Become a Better Writer
- An Open Letter to All the Bloggers Cluttering the Web with Forgettable Content
This tactic is great because it will work wherever your content appears – on your own blog or elsewhere – as long as you’ve claimed your content using Google Authorship.
Which brings us neatly to our next tactic.
Tactic #2: Write Guest Posts for High-Authority Blogs
When you’re starting out, the quality of your content doesn’t matter – your blog and its domain will have low authority.
The traditional advice is to knuckle down and keep writing, slowly building your audience organically until you finally build enough momentum to break out of the close orbit of your own blog. This meant accepting the harsh reality of writing reams of content almost nobody sees, simply because you don’t have an audience yet.
So you keep patiently plugging away until you finally hit upon the holy grail of organic blogging, a post that goes viral and brings you a raft of new traffic.
That approach does work. Sometimes. But it takes a long time (maybe years) to get results, and most bloggers give up through sheer frustration before that ever happens.
However, a smart alternative approach is to borrow the authority of another domain by writing high-quality guest posts. This means writing a blog post (usually for free) for a popular blog in your niche and linking back to your own blog (and of course your Google+ profile) within the post itself.
This should be great for Author Rank for a number of reasons:
- Content published on a popular blog will automatically inherit some of the authority associated with that domain, which may have taken many years to establish.
- A blog with a large, pre-existing audience is much more likely to attract the organic links that Google primarily uses to measure the importance of your content.
- Putting your content in front of a large audience is also more likely to create the social signals (such as retweets, Facebook shares, etc.) that many believe Google is starting to incorporate into its ranking algorithm.
But remember, guest blogging can only boost your Author Rank if you’ve configured Google Authorship – otherwise Google won’t know who deserves the credit.
Tactic #3: Write Focused, Keyword-Savvy Content
Stuffing your content with the keywords you want to rank for was once common practice. And it worked for a while. But the result was unnatural-sounding blog posts that looked like someone with a rather limited vocabulary wrote them.
Google algorithm updates like Penguin penalized this practice on the basis that it created a poor user experience. (As it turns out, content written for robots isn’t much fun for humans to read!)
So fortunately, keyword stuffing is mostly a thing of the past. Yet, the specific words you use in your content are still important.
Google has been working hard on a technology called semantic search, which tries to understand the meaning behind your content. And as a result, Google is getting better at working out which topics you write about.
So although you don’t need to obsess over keywords, you do need to use the same broad terms that your audience uses to talk about your topic so Google can easily match their queries to your content.
And make sure that your posts have a clear focus – don’t try to cover too many topics in a single post.
In fact, sticking to a narrow set of topics for all your writing is likely to be good for Author Rank too because Google has publicly said it wants to be able to give a rankings boost to “subject authorities.”
And it stands the test of common sense too. If you’re looking for help with a problem, who would you rather speak to, a Jack of all trades (or topics), or a black-belt ninja master of just one or two?
Bonus Tactic: Write more content!
As long as you can maintain the quality levels and keep producing valuable content that people want to link to (see Tactic #1), more content is definitely better.
Think about it; the person who’s written 100 awesome posts on their topic deserves to carry more weight with Google than the guy who’s written 10, right?
But quality is paramount. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
If you’ve got a good posting rhythm on your own blog, then use this tactic as an excuse to do more guest blogging.
A Simple Blueprint for Boosting Your Author Rank Using Google+
Based on our earlier predictions around what factors will influence Author Rank inside Google+, your main objective becomes simple: increase the number of interactions with high-authority users in your niche.
However, it’s no good frantically sharing and giving +1s (the Google+ equivalent of a like) everything your heroes write, hoping it will magically boost your Author Rank – that’s a bit desperate and, well, a little creepy. Your heroes must reciprocate.
In other words, you need to start building genuine relationships with Google+ heavy hitters who are active in your niche.
Let’s take a look at a simple blueprint for doing just that. Even if you’re already active on Google+, don’t skip the early stages, because you may have missed something important.
Phase #1: Establish a Minimum Viable Presence on Google+
Since you’re ultimately looking to build relationships on Google+, you need to make sure that any early impressions of you are positive. The last thing you want when new people check out your profile is for them to think they’ve wandered into a virtual ghost town.
So this first phase is about doing some simple tasks to build your basic Google+ presence so that it’s working for you and not against you. It also involves establishing a baseline of regular activity to keep your Google+ presence current.
However, remember that this is a minimum viable presence. It needs to pass a cursory inspection. Putting in lots of work is pointless at this stage – few people will notice since few have you on their radar (yet).
So focus your initial efforts on the following:
a) Enhance your basic profile
Assuming you’ve uploaded a rich snippets-friendly profile photo and selected (or uploaded) a professional-looking cover image, the most important thing to focus on is the Story section.
The Story is the most prominent section on your About page and consists of three main elements:
- Bragging rights
The Tagline is possibly the most important item, as it is shown beneath your name on your hovercard – the floating panel that appears when someone mouses over a link to your Google+ profile.
Google+ Hovercard showing user’s tagline
People can add you to their circles directly from the hovercard, so your tagline plays an important role. Think of it as your Google+ elevator pitch. In just a few words, explain who you are and why it matters to them.
The following are some example taglines from popular Google+ users:
- The world’s only lovable technology journalist – Mike Elgan
- Web series creator, gamer, slight misanthrope – Felicia Day
- Co-founder of WordPress, Founder of Automattic – Matt Mullenweg
The Tagline is also important because the text is used in the excerpt shown on the results page when your profile appears in a Google search.
The Introduction is your opportunity to explain who you are at greater length. It’s a freeform text section and you can include custom formatting and even external links. Make sure you mention your specific areas of expertise to help visitors know if you’re relevant to their interests.
You can also link to your blog and even some of your most popular posts.
For a good example of a Google+ user who’s made full use of their Introduction section, check out Gabriel Vasile:
The Bragging Rights section allows you to include some fun or interesting detail about yourself.
b) Add some key influencers to your circles
Next, add some of the main influencers in your niche to your Circles. In fact, you could create a new circle called “Influencers” or “Heavy Hitters” specifically for that purpose.
Adding some influential users to your Circles is important for two reasons:
- A selection of the people in your circles is displayed on both your About and Posts pages, so it’s important to have something there. (Having some well-known faces in your niche won’t hurt your credibility either.)
- Updates from these people will start appearing in your stream, which will help you keep track of what your target influencers are up to on Google+. It will be useful in a moment for another reason too.
For the big names already on your mental hit list, just type them into the “Search for people, pages or posts” box at the top of the Google+ interface to find their user profiles:
c) Create a daily routine of simple updates
In addition to getting your profile information in order, you should start posting regular updates so that when other users visit your Posts page (which is often the first page they will land on), they will see some current activity.
So share some content you think your audience will find interesting. And don’t simply post plain links; make sure you add a little personality by including a short comment to add some context.
Your homepage stream should now feature updates from the influencers you’ve circled, so that should give you some ideas for content to share.
Of course, if you write content for your own blog on a regular basis, it’s a no-brainer to post that too.
Again, you don’t have to go crazy here. Just 15 minutes once or twice a day will keep the “lights on” for your Google+ presence – while you start building some long-term momentum in Phase 2.
d) Start advertising your Google+ presence
This one’s simple, but now that your minimum viable presence is in place, start telling people about it:
- Make sure you have a Google+ link on your blog next to your other social media links.
- Include a link in the author bio of any guest posts you write for other blogs.
- Add a Google+ link to your email signature and to the signatures of any forums you regularly post to.
Phase #2: Become a Visible and Valued Member of the Google+ Community
So you now have a Google+ presence that won’t embarrass the hell out of you if someone new stops by.
However, you still likely have zero visibility within the community.
It’s as if you’ve moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. You’ve brushed your hair and cleaned your teeth and put on some nice clothes, just on the off chance that someone stops by. They probably won’t, but if they do, you’re ready.
This second phase is about getting out into the Google+ community and starting to make more of an impact.
You’re still not actively going after the big players at this point, but you are making some low-level connections with your peers and building your confidence.
You should do the following in this phase:
a) Join relevant Google+ communities and be helpful to others
Google+ Communities are virtual gathering places within Google+ that focus on a specific topic.
For instance, check out the Google Authorship and Author Rank community.
Google+ Communities are a great place to start meeting and engaging with other users around the topics that interest you.
You can find relevant communities by browsing or searching here (you need to be logged into your Google+ account).
The best way to get noticed in a community is to be genuinely helpful to others. Whatever your level of knowledge and experience of a subject, you will always encounter people who know a little less than you.
But before you jump in with both feet, spend a few days as a casual observer so that you get used to the typical discussions in the community and can identify the most prominent members.
Once you’re comfortable, do the following to build your profile within the community:
- Study the responses from the community moderators and then answer basic questions from new members to save the moderators some time.
- Share genuinely relevant content with the community – and remember to keep a healthy ratio between your content and content from others (e.g., 1-to-4).
- Comment intelligently on posts by the community moderators and make sure you’re visible to them and to other active members of the community.
A good mindset here is to ask, “What can I do to help this community and its members?” rather than to think “How can I get noticed?”
If the moderators seem like a good match for your heavy hitters list, be sure to add them to your power circle.
As you become more of a familiar face in a handful of communities, you should also find that people start adding you to their circles, thus growing your following. (And don’t be miserly with returning the favor – you can always remove people from your circles if the content they post is not of interest.)
b) Interact with other users’ content
You should now have a regular flow of updates in your home stream from the users you added to your circles – the heavy hitters and the users you’ve added from the communities where you’ve been active.
It’s time to become a little active by interacting with other users via the content they post to their profiles.
The following are some ways you can interact with someone else’s post on Google+:
- Give it a +1. Others may see your +1s, so Google’s advice is that you should only give something a +1 if you are happy sharing your recommendation with the world.
- Share it, which re-posts it to your home stream and allows people in your circles to see it too. Remember to add a little commentary of your own to set the context for your audience.
- Leave a comment. Try to be positive and bring something new to the conversation.
In general, focus your efforts on those users who have higher follower counts (although this is an overly simplistic measure of influence) or those who seem very active (i.e., rising Google+ stars).
The aim here is to raise your profile and to encourage a little reciprocation. However, you’re not expecting to get a response from the heavy hitters just yet, just giving them a few opportunities to notice you exist.
c) Become a content curator and creator
In Phase 1 you were doing some basic sharing of other users’ content, primarily as a simple way to get some fresh content in your home stream.
But as your follower count starts to grow, more people can see any updates you post.
So it’s time to start publishing more valuable content to your profile.
Start by finding content that has not been widely shared within your community. Look outside of Google+, or find interesting content in less obvious communities within Google+ to share with your followers.
Also start writing original posts within Google+ itself. These are longer-form updates that have self-contained value. You can think of them as being somewhere between the micro-update of a tweet and a full-length blog post.
Use these posts to share your views and provide valuable how-to information on your core topics. You can add hashtags to flag the specific topic, but Google is actually starting to add these automatically so you don’t need to worry too much about this.
Google+ post showing hashtag
Although we don’t recommend posting reams of original content directly on Google+ (see below), doing so has some advantages. For instance, most experts believe that these native posts will get indexed by Google almost immediately since they are created at source, and certainly Google+ posts are becoming a familiar sight in normal search results.
Some writers are using Google+ posts as a way to test out ideas in short form and then expanding on those that connect with their audience in a longer post on their main blog.
Phase #3: Actively Build Connections with Google+ Influencers
By now you have a solid presence on Google+ and you have built a modest – but certainly not embarrassing – following by:
- participating in Google+ communities
- interacting with other users through their content
- curating and creating valuable content of your own
It’s now time to set your sights on some of the bigger Google+ players in your niche.
a) Deepen your list of Google+ targets
Your initial list of influential targets was a good starting point, but it’s time to expand it. This means adding any important top-level influencers you may have missed first time around, but also adding a little depth by looking at the next tier down.
What do I mean by that?
Depending on your niche, some of the big names may be a little too big to realistically connect with directly at this stage. They receive a lot of interactions from other users and you’ll struggle to be heard above the noise.
So the trick is to find other influencers – with more influence than you but less than your main targets – who are in your target’s circles and add them to your hit list.
A simple way to do that is to go to your primary targets’ profile pages and see whose content they are sharing. Chances are these people will already be in their circles and they’ll already have some degree of trust between the two of them.
If you can connect with these middleweight influencers, it will help your credibility when approaching the main targets.
To find these important connectors you can also use a neat feature built into Google+ called Ripples, which shows how a post is shared from one group to another. Read a great post about using it to find influencers here.
b) Engage with your targets’ content
This builds upon the activity from Phase 2 (giving +1s, sharing and leaving comments on other users’ content), but this time it’s a more concerted effort to get the attention of your key influencers. Start with the second-tier influencers and gradually work your way up to the top dogs.
As you work at this you should start to see signs that an influencer has noticed you, for example:
- They reply to or +1 one of your comments on their content.
- They mention you in directly in a post using the +Username shortcut.
- They add you to their circles.
Take your time with this process. Don’t +1, comment on and share everything they post – you’ll look like a crazy stalker.
Instead, use the following simple guidelines:
- +1 a post if you find it genuinely useful or cool.
- Comment when you have something of value to bring to the conversation.
- Share when it will genuinely be of interest to your audience and you can put it into context for them.
How else can you get the attention of your influencers?
The following are some other ideas to get on the radar of a valuable target:
- Write a Google+ post that builds upon one of their recent posts or ideas, and mentions them directly. (You can mention another user by using the plus notation, e.g., +Glen Long will reference me).
- If they run a Google+ Hangout on a relevant topic, do your best to attend and find opportunities to ask intelligent questions. Take notice of who else on the Hangout appears to have a relationship with your target and add them to your influencer list.
- Try to connect with them outside of Google+ – by pitching a guest post for their blog, for example.
Weeks of patient interaction may be necessary to get on the radar of some of your contacts. But before focusing on the biggest names, make sure you have had meaningful interactions with some of the second-tier people that they follow. Ideally you want to be added to their circles so that if they share your content, it is visible to your primary targets.
c) Actively engage with your target
By now you should have had some contact with a number of the key influencers on your list. And while the interactions were primarily in one direction (from you to them), you’ve hopefully received positive signs that they’ve noticed you in some small way.
So it’s now time to start moving slowly away from the periphery of their Google+ network and toward the center.
This means raising the stakes and expecting a little more from your interactions. The distinction here is making small offers or requests that require a response from your target.
You have numerous ways to do this, but the following are a few ideas:
- Ask them directly to share one of your posts; briefly explaining why you feel their audience would love it.
- Create something useful or simply cool for them to share with their audience, such as a shareable image featuring a quote from them, or a cheat sheet based on one of their most popular posts.
- Ask for an introduction to another Google+ user in their network.
- Share something fun or interesting that ties in with their personal interests and ask what they think.
- Ask a question about a product or service they offer (but only it’s something you truly might buy).
- Ask them for a short quote on a topic that you will include in an upcoming blog or Google+ post.
- Ask for a recommendation of a product, service, or book relating to a topic of shared interest.
- Make a direct offer of help – for instance, you could help moderate a community they run.
If you don’t get a response on your first approach, don’t worry. Revert to generous interaction with your target’s content and try a direct approach again a little further down the line.
When you do get a response, build these small interactions over time into a genuine relationship.
Why Author Rank May Still Be a Hoax (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)
While Google Authorship is very much a reality, truthfully most of what is understood about Author Rank is enthusiastic speculation.
Only Google insiders really know exactly how Author Rank will be calculated in practice or how any score will ultimately affect the ranking of a specific webpage written by a given author for a particular search term.
A persuasive (though simplistic) argument says that for Google to introduce Google Authorship without using it to enable author-aware search rankings at some point in the future makes little sense.
But a small chance still remains that Author Rank could turn out to be a hoax. A nice idea that Google never intended to actually implement, or an early experiment that didn’t work out and will never fully see the light of day.
The most likely situation right now is that Author Rank exists in some experimental form within the walls of Google’s laboratories but is still evolving and has yet to be rolled out into its public search algorithm.
But even if Author Rank turns out to be a complete myth – unlikely but still possible – the important thing to remember is this:
It doesn’t matter. Not one bit.
It doesn’t matter, because all of the tactics we’ve described for improving your theoretical Author Rank will boost your practical authority (and ultimately your search rankings and traffic) anyway.
Try to wrap your head around that.
If Author Rank proves to be a myth and your track record as a writer doesn’t directly affect the ranking of your content in search, these practices will end up giving you more traffic anyway.
Firstly, the recommended tactics for raising your content authority outside Google+ are simply smart practice for any online writer who wants to get better search rankings and more traffic.
Secondly, being active on Google+ and building long-term relationships with key influencers in your niche will lead to better rankings and more traffic anyway:
- When a Google+ heavy hitter shares your content, you’ll get direct traffic from their followers and more re-shares, which act as social signals to Google that your content is valuable.
- The halo effect of being associated with more influential users will help you build your own following more quickly, and your Google+ profile becomes an increasingly valuable channel for promoting your latest content.
- Your native Google+ content will start appearing in Google, drawing new people to you and ultimately to your content, wherever it may exist.
So the message is clear – taking measures to boost your Author Rank is a smart move for online writers even if Author Rank doesn’t exist.
The Future-Proof Guide to Getting More Traffic as a Writer
We’ve covered a lot of ground, so let’s recap.
Google Authorship is a reality. It’s easy to configure (if you follow our instructions) and writers who have already done so are being rewarded with more traffic due to higher click-throughs on their rich snippet-enabled search results.
But the true value of Google Authorship is that it lays the foundation for things to come.
Author Rank is the popular name for a mechanism that would allow Google to use author authority to influence search engine rankings. And while the implementation of Author Rank is not a cast-iron certainty, few in the SEO community would bet against it.
So where does this leave the search-savvy online writer wondering exactly where to focus his or her efforts to get more traffic for their content in the future?
4 Content Trends You Can’t Ignore (and What You Must Do to Thrive)
Looking at current trends, let’s make some predictions about the future of content and try to draw some useful conclusions.
#1 Google will get even better at gauging the quality of your content
Google is obsessed with content quality. Algorithm updates such as Panda have helped it weed out the poorest content, however it still relies on external indicators, such as backlinks, to spot the best.
But as time goes on, Google will start to use other indicators such as social signals – i.e., numbers of tweets, shares, +1s, etc. – to more accurately measure the value of your content.
So anything but the best content will struggle to rank well in Google Search. Low-grade content will be filtered out early on and higher quality content will need to earn its place via the approval of its audience.
#2 Google will gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of your content
For a long time Google has relied heavily on keywords to gain a superficial understanding of what your content is about. But eventually it wants to understand what your content actually means.
The key to this is semantic search, where queries are matched to relevant content not simply according to the specific keywords used, but based on a model of what they mean in context.
Consequently, Google will get much better at understanding the topics you write about online, not just the keywords you use. And they have said that they want to be able to give subject authorities a ranking boost for relevant queries.
#3 Your reputation as a writer will become an increasingly valuable asset
Guest blogging – writing for someone else’s blog as an external contributor – has long been a great way to drive relevant traffic directly to your own blog.
But due to the increase of low-quality guest posts (the blogging equivalent of spam), Google is now committed to cracking down on this practice.
This means that popular sites keen to preserve (and enhance) their search rankings will become much more fussy about what – and whom – they publish. So your track record as a writer will be vital when landing valuable guest blogging opportunities.
#4 Google+ will become the essential social network for content creators
The growth of Google+ has been impressive, but despite its success, it still plays second fiddle – at least in terms of public perception – to its older siblings Facebook and Twitter.
However, Google+ will soon be the de facto choice of social networks for serious content creators. And while ignoring Facebook might be viewed as a valid tactical decision, failing to exploit Google+ will be seen as sheer madness.
Some reasons include:
- As Google starts using social signals to measure content authority, it’s only natural that signals occurring within Google+ will carry significant weight – and signals from known influencers on Google+ will carry more weight still.
- Content posted “natively” within Google+ is easy for Google to index and will likely show up in search results before content posted outside the network.
- Personalized search (where users see custom search results based on their profile and search history) can give content a boost if endorsed by people in the user’s network.
10 Simple Steps to Jumpstart Your Success as an Online Writer
With all this information, knowing where to start can be a challenge, so use the following 10 simple steps – most taking 5 minutes or less – to set you on your way:
- Get on Google+. If you haven’t done so already, create your basic profile, and be sure to upload a “clear and recognizable” photo of yourself to allow rich snippets.
- Enhance your profile. Add detail to your About page under Story and be sure to tell us which subjects you specialize in. Remember to create a compelling Tagline.
- Add a Google+ link to your blog. Add your Google+ link to the list of social media links on your blog. Add it to your email signature too.
- Configure Google Authorship. Install the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin and be sure to add your blog’s URL to your Contributor to list on your Google+ profile.
- Claim your guest posts. If you’ve written for other blogs, make a list of your best posts and email the blog owners asking them to update your byline with your authorship link.
- Circle 10 influencers in your niche. You can search for recommended users by topic and add them to your circles. And while you’re at it, why not add me and Jon?
- Post a link. Link to your latest blog post, or to a favorite post elsewhere on the web so your posts page doesn’t look so empty. If you’re short on ideas, post a link to this guide.
- Engage with other users. Find an interesting post in your stream and +1 it, share it or leave a comment.
- Join a community. Find a Google+ community related to one of your main topics, join it and post a quick introduction for other members.
- Create a Google+ post. Share your thoughts on a topic by creating a native post. If you’re feeling adventurous include some custom formatting and a hashtag.
So that’s it! You now have everything you need to prepare for the content revolution to come.
Are You Ready for the Authorship Revolution?
It won’t happen overnight, but there’s little doubt we’re moving towards a more author-centric world. And that’s great news for writers who are committed to working at the top of their game and creating original, valuable content that serves the most pressing needs and desires of their audience.
And the rest? Those writers who prize quantity over quality and see content as a necessary evil for getting the search rankings they crave?
Who cares? They’ll be irrelevant soon anyway.
Time to get started!
About the Author: Glen Long is the Managing Editor of Boost Blog Traffic and gets to work with some of the best writers on the web. He’s also the Assistant Instructor on Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging Apprenticeship Program, where he helps students get published on some of the biggest blogs in the world. If you’d like him to critique your writing, clickhere.
Many thanks to Mark Traphagen for his valuable input on the first draft of this guide. Mark is Senior Online Director of Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting and also runs the Google Authorship & Author Rank community on Google+.
The Epic List of Google Authorship, Author Rank and Google+ Resources
Google Authorship is a huge development for online writers. Some will want to set it up and forget about it; others will want to dive into the detail. The following resources will allow you to learn as much – or as little – as you want:
- Google Authorship Page – the official Google+ Page for Google Authorship, complete with a brief overview and prompt (if you’re logged in) to set it up
- Authorship – Inside Search – a breakdown of the main features of Google Authorship in the wider context of Google Search
- Authorship Markup [VIDEO] – a discussion of rel=”author” markup by Matt Cutts and Othar Hansson from Google
Configuring Google Authorship
Our guide describes one of the easiest and most robust ways to configure Google Authorship for your WordPress blog, but there are other mechanisms (and other platforms) you might want to use instead. The follow resources will tell you what you need to know to set it up:
- Author information in search results – the official instructions from Google describing the two main mechanisms for setting up Authorship
- The Definitive Guide To Google Authorship Markup – a comprehensive guide from Search Engine Land that covers all the available mechanisms for establishing authorship and includes some useful diagrams explaining the core concepts
- Ultimate Guide to Google Authorship – another thorough guide to setting up Authorship, which also includes instructions for Blogger and Tumblr
- Google Authorship and 4 Free WordPress Plugins – another overview of Authorship but this one also includes 4 alternative plugins (in place of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin) for easily claiming your content
Configuration Instructions for Popular WordPress Frameworks
Our instructions should work for any WordPress blog, but if you don’t want to use a plugin, or prefer instructions more specific to your precise setup, use the following framework-specific instructions:
- Claim Google Authorship for Your WordPress Website in 3 Easy Steps – a guide to setting up Authorship from the guys behind the Genesis framework
- How to Set Up Google Authorship with Thesis – a page from the Thesis User Guide that explains how to configure Google Authorship for both single author and multi-author blogs
- How to Add Google Authorship to Headway Themes – a short and sweet post that gives Google Authorship instructions for the popular Headway theme
Troubleshooting Google Authorship
Google Authorship can sometimes be a little tricky to set up. The following additional resources will help you troubleshoot your configuration and get it working quickly:
- Google Structured Data Testing Tool – this tool from Google detects structured data markup and allows you to test that Authorship is configured correctly for a given URL
- Author information not appearing – a list from Google of things to check if your author information is not appearing as expected
- Infographic: How To Troubleshoot Google Authorship Issues, A Step-By-Step Flowchart – a useful flowchart on Search Engine Land (by Janet Driscoll Miller ofMarketing Mojo) with a systematic approach for troubleshooting any issues
Google Authorship Discussion
If you want to get help with configuration issues, or simply discuss the latest theories about where Google Authorship is going, check out the following places:
- Google Authorship & Author Rank Community on Google+ – this is a popular and active community run by Mark Traphagen covering various topics related to Authorship and Author Rank
- Structured Data Forum – a support forum within Google Webmaster Central answering questions about structured data, which includes Google Authorship
Author Rank is the much-anticipated mechanism behind better search rankings for online writers. Authorship might make you visible to Google, but Author Rank is what will determine your clout as a writer. Expand your knowledge of Author Rank with the following resources:
While epic, ours is certainly not the first online guide to Author Rank. The following resources are among those that led the way and will also help you cement your understanding of the key concepts:
- What is Author Rank? – Blind Five Year Old – this discussion of Author Rank and its possible impact is from 2012 but it’s still a great overview of the concept
- Understanding Google’s Author Rank and How to Use it in Your Content Marketing – a thorough background to Author Rank from Content Verve together with some tips for boosting it with content marketing
- The Writer’s Author Rank Cheat Sheet – a concise overview from Copyblogger of Author Rank and some great tips for boosting your authority as a writer
Author Rank Tactics
For more Author Rank-boosting tactics, or an alternative take on some of those we cover in this guide, take a look at the following resources:
- The Author Rank Building Machine [INFOGRAPHIC] – a cool animated infographic from Vertical Measures showing the various elements (content, link building, social factors) that are likely to contribute to building your Author Rank
- Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+ – Copyblogger’s resident Authorship and Author Rank expert Demian Farnworth gives you seven tactics for boosting your authority on Google+
- 9 Ways to Maximize AuthorRank – Focus on People, Not Metrics – great post from Search Engine Watch about boosting Author Rank by leveraging social connections
- Author Rank: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dominating Search with Content Marketing – a detailed guide from Quick Sprout’s Neil Patel with specific tactics for improving search rankings by building your authority
- Author Rank and Guest Blogging [SlideShare] – a deck of slides focusing on one specific tactic for building Author Rank – guest blogging
Author Rank Tools
Since Author Rank is in its early stages, few tools are available. However, the following may help give some indication of an individual author’s authority, at least relative to other authors:
- Author Rank Tool – this experimental tool from Virante calculates a pseudo-Author Rank score based on the content linked to the user’s Google+ profile via Authorship. It does not currently include any measure of authority due to the user’s actions within Google+.
Google+ is the backbone of Google Authorship but it’s also an important social network in its own right. Succeeding as a writer online means thriving on Google+, and the following resources should help you do just that:
The following resources are a selection of Google’s own documentation for its social network:
- Google+ homepage – this is the entry point to Google+, where new users can set up their profile
- Getting started on Google+ – a simple overview to the main steps for creating a Google+ profile
- Google+ Features – a more detailed and feature-oriented view of Google+
- Google+ Help – the official Google help page on Google+, covering every aspect of Google+ from a tour of the main features to details about security
Beginner’s Guides to Google+
Google+ is a mature platform with a wide range of features. These guides will help you learn the basics as quickly as possible:
- Google+ beginner’s guide: nine ways to get started on the social network – a breezy introduction to Google+ from The Telegraph online
- The Beginner’s Guide to Google+ – a more in-depth guide with lots of helpful visuals from Mashable
- Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Google+ – a highly readable introduction to Google+ from Scott Buehler
- 50 Things to Do on Google+ Right Now – a great list of suggestions for things to try on Google+ to get you started from Rick Eliason
- Google+ Glossary of Terms – a fun list of common Google+ terms (plus a few new ones) from Martin Shervington
Advanced Guides to Google+
If you already have a good working knowledge of Google+, these more advanced resources should help take your skills to the next level:
- Guide to Google+ – a comprehensive collection of Google+ related resources over at WordTracker Academy
- Google+ Quickstarter – a free (registration required) collection of excellent Google+ resources from Plus Your Business including 90 minutes of video
- 5 Google+ Tips for Advanced Users – five lesser known tips for more advanced users including useful advice on privacy settings and analytics
- The Google+ Cheatsheet Is a Quick Reference To Using Google+ – this quick reference guide includes a handy list of codes that allow you to add basic formatting – such as bold, italic and strike through – to your posts
Content Creation on Google+
Google+ is a content platform in its own right and the smart writer will include some native posts in their content mix. Here’s how to do it right:
- The Art of Writing Great Google+ Posts – Demian Farnworth’s guide on Copyblogger about creating original content directly in Google+ (and here’s a post about why you still need your own blog)
- The Anatomy of a Perfect Google+ Post – a description of the seven essential elements for creating the perfect Google+ post
- Google+ as a Storytelling Platform – this post by Chris Brogan is from 2011 but still has some great ideas on posting content to Google+ including an example editorial calendar
- 6 Ways a Formatted Google+ Post Will Increase Engagement and Interest – discussion of how you can use some basic formatting within your Google+ posts to create better engagement and sharing.
Just as Facebook allows you to create a page for your brand or business that is distinct from your personal profile, Google+ has Pages:
- About Google+ Pages – a basic overview of the purpose of Google+ Pages and the five main categories of Pages
- Get started with Google+ pages – step-by-step instructions for setting up a new Google+ Page for your brand or business from Google
- 10 Brands with Great Google+ Pages – take inspiration from these brands who are killing it with their Google+ Pages
Google’s Publisher markup does for businesses what its Authorship markup does for individuals by allowing you to link your business website to your Google+ Page:
- Learn how to link a Google+ page to your website – a description of how to link your brand or business Google+ Page to your official website using rel=”publisher” markup
- Google + Business – Google’s official introduction to Google+ Pages for businesses
Google+ Communities are places where users can gather around a common interest to share content, plan events and simply connect with like-minded people:
- Google+ Communities – the official home page for Google+ Communities
- Creating a Google+ Community – a Google+ Help which gives a more functional overview of Communities and describes the four main community types
- Google+ Communities FAQ – a list of common questions about Communities together with answers from Google
- Google+ Communities: A Beginner’s Guide – a basic overview from Mashable of the main features of Google+ Communities
- Google Plus Communities – Complete User Guide – a more detailed guide from Martin Shervington about creating and running a Google+ community with some great tips for keeping the community active and engaged
Google+ Hangouts allow group conversations between Google+ users. They support not just text-based messaging with emoji and photo posting, but also live video chat with up to nine other people:
- Google+ Hangouts – the official home page for Google+ Hangouts
- Google+ Hangouts – Learn More – feature list for Google+ Hangouts from Google
- Ultimate Guide to Google Hangouts – another great guide from Martin Shervington
Google+ for Specific Groups
Different types of people will use Google+ in different ways. The following resources provide targeted advice for various groups:
Google+ for Small Businesses and Startups
- The Small Business Guide to Google+ – a helpful flowchart from Simply Business explaining how small businesses can get the most out of Google+
- Infographic: Google+ for Business – a detailed infographic by BlueGlass (via Chris Brogan) showing how businesses can exploit the Google+ platform
Google+ for Writers and Authors
- How to Use Google+ as an Author Platform – great blog post from Write to Done with concrete tactics for authors to build a platform on Google+
- 6 Reasons Google+ Beats Facebook for Author Platform Building – Jane Friedman presents a strong case for Google+ being the superior social platform for authors
- Google Plus For Authors [VIDEO] – Joanna Penn interviews Google+ heavyweight Evo Terra about how authors new to Google+ can make the most of the platform
Google+ for Freelancers
- Hot Google+ Tips for Freelancers – 10 tips from Freelance Folder to help freelancers to thrive on Google+
- The Benefits of a Google+ Account for Freelance Writers – a quick overview of benefits from Freelance Punch
- The Best Google+ Communities for Freelance Writers – a list of Google+ communities compiled by John Soares specifically of interest to freelance writers
Google+ for Creative Types
- A Google+ Guide for Photographers: Storage, Editing, Sharing- a detailed, multi-page guide to Google+ for photographers from The Next Web
- 10 Things Every Designer Should Do With Google+ – great post from Top Design Magazine with lots of specific ideas for designers on Google+
- The Musician’s Guide to Google+ – a guide for musicians from Music Think Tank with tips for creating a Google+ Band Page to engage with fans
- The Stunning Potential of Google+ for Filmmakers – post from The Black and Blue which explains how Google+ could change the way freelance filmmakers work
- The Food Blogger’s Guide to Google+ – a detailed introduction to Google+ for food bloggers from Irvin Lin of Eat The Love
If you want to keep up-to-date with all things Google+, check out the following sites which have categories dedicated to the platform:
- Google+ stories on Mashable
- Google+ posts on Search Engine Land
- Google+ stories on Social Media Examiner
The following communities are great places to discuss Google+ with other users: