Is Google’s Rel=Author Tag Important? Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone, But Yes. A Big Yes!

by mjtaylor on September 27, 2012

Google Authorship Confers Trust and Conveys  Traffic

I’m not sure that implementing Google’s rel=authortag has any effect on a website’s rank today – though I suspect it might — but it certainly can mean an increase in traffic – not to mention the nice vanity boost to see your face in the SERPs for the first time.

In an article posted today by Matt McGee in SearchEngineLand (Google Confirms Hidden Benefit Of Authorship: Bonus Links After A Back-Button Click)
McGee says links to more articles are added to the author’s links if a user spends at least two minutes on a site before returning to the SERPs.

more tag on authorship results

Tarry for two minutes or more on my site before returning to the SERPs and Google will add more links to the More by M.-J. Taylor links.

Google didn’t reveal the the length of time a user must tarry on your page before extra links are added – that was McGee’s own testing, but he does quote Google as saying:

“If a user visits an article by an author and it seems like they’d be interested in finding more articles by this author, when they click the “Back” button to return to the results page, we’ll show more results by that author.”

Oddly that quote is not indexed on google.com but perhaps it came from insider communication. In any case, both McGee’s article and yesterday’s post by AJ Kohn Reading May Influence AuthorRank  lay out the details if you want to understand more about the links that are added.

A Picture Next To A Google Listing Conveys Trust

The photo next to a listing in the SERPs also tends to improve the “clickability” of that page . A photo of an author confers Google’s credibility, but just as important as Google’s estimate, I think it creates trust because a face with a name makes us feel as though we know at least something about the person – and certainly more than some text with no photo. And there’s simply the “human” factor: if you like my face, you’ll be more inclined to want to read what I have to say.

So, I am betting that while the tag may not be part of the algorithm now, authored text will become a ranking factor in the not too distant future. It just makes sense that Google will make this very social tag a part of the algorithm if it hasn’t already. But is that picture worth a thousand clicks?

How Much of a Traffic Boost does Rel=Author Provide?

Tests on rich snippets suggest a lot more traffic can result from an “authored” result versus a plain old listing — tests show  click through rates (CTR) jump anywhere from from 30%  How To Get A 30% Increase In CTR With Structured Markup to to 150%: How Rich Snippets Can Improve your CTR. In that latter test, the author was looking at restaurant reviews and recipes marked up with rich snippets and not authored markup, but the lesson remains the same – a picture is worth a thousand words if not quite that many more clicks.

Rel=Author Tag Is Also A Smart Move For Google+

When Google made it a lot easier (last June) to add the rel=author tag to any article you publish they integrated the tag with Google+ and made it critical for bloggers to use the search giant’s social network. That’s a big plus for Google+.

It’s not just my site where this matters – as I build up my guest post profile and include my Google+ profile in the author box, those posts will have at least greater clickability, and will probably contribute to Google’s assessment of my authority. As an SEO copywriter, I love that! Most of the content I write is for clients, and doesn’t carry my name. But my desire to write with my own name attached just got a whole lot more interesting.

I also offer to post a Google profile link for any guest bloggers – it can’t hurt to have them add my site as a place they contribute in their Google+ profile.

The Credibility of the Company I Keep

Another reason that photo confers credibility is that it puts me in the company of other known authors. Of all the other author photos in the link building line up below, mine is probably the least known name – but suddenly, I’m in very good company — Joost de Valk of Yoast, Kristi Hines  and Sujan Patel are my new best friends. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them more often in the SERPs.

I like the company I keep!

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