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Does Google Authorship Matter for SEO?

By James A. Martin, CIO
January 07, 2014 09:06 AM ET

CIO - Is having an active Google+ profile and linking it to the content you post online, an identity-verification process known as Google Authorship, worth the effort?

"Yes," say some search engine optimization (SEO) experts. Among SEO trends anticipated for 2014, it will be "absolutely critical" to invest in your Google+ presence, says Jayson DeMers, founder and CEO of content marketing/social media marketing firm AudienceBloom.

DeMers cites Moz's 2013 SEO ranking factors study, which suggests Google+ is playing an "increasingly significant" role in search engine rankings. "Establishing Google Authorship of your content and tying it to your Google+ account," DeMers says, should be "an immediate area of focus."

"Yes," says Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In his 2013 book, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Schmidt writes about the importance of being a verified, trusted author in the eyes of Google's search engine: "Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results." Schmidt writes. Here"s the kicker: "The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance."

"Not so much," counters Shari Thurow, founder and SEO director of Omni Marketing Interactive and author of When Search Meets Web Usability. "I wish someone would put a gag on Eric Schmidt and shut him up," she joked during a session at September's SES 2013 San Francisco conference.

Thurow says Google+ and Google Authorship aren't necessary to achieve high Google search result rankings and increase click-through rates to your content from search results. She also says Google Authorship tends to elevate people who are better at self-promotion over true subject matter experts, which is who Google Authorship is supposed to showcase.

So what's the fuss about? Here's what you need to know about Google+, Google Authorship, Google Author Rank - which isn't the same thing - and SEO.

The Back Story on Google Authorship and Google Author Rank

Google introduced its Facebook competitor, Google+, in 2011. The same year, it came out with Google Authorship. Link your Google+ profile to your content via Google Authorship, the idea goes, and you help Google verify your identity - and build your brand as a subject matter expert.

Google Authorship adds a thumbnail of your Google+ profile picture to the search result "rich snippet" for your content, such as a bylined blog post:

A rich snippet provides more detail or context than a standard snippet. (Google's Webmaster Tools offers more explanation about rich snippets.) In theory at least, the presence of a person's photo in a rich snippet can encourage searchers to click through to the content, thereby helping it gain more exposure.

In short, Google Authorship tells Google who wrote which articles, says Eric Enge, CEO of digital and content marketing firm Stone Temple Consulting. The biggest known, current benefit to Google Authorship, he adds, is having your picture show up in your content's search results.

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