Why Businesses Should Take Google Plus & Authorship Seriously

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Google Plus has been around for some time now, but many people I speak to are still unsure of why it is important for their online businesses and/or branding, or how to go about using Google plus to their advantage.

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In a response to a recent question on SEOmoz MOZ (You know they rebranded, right?), one of the suggestions I made was regarding getting a Google Author link from a guest post.

PremioOscar‘, who started the thread, sent me a PM on Moz, asking for more info on Google Plus), so I thought I would write a quick post for hom here on my new blog!

Most people are aware that Google+ is Google’s latest step into the world of social media. Previous attempts at social media by Google were pretty rubbish (like Google wave!) and pretty much fell off a cliff.

Don’t let that make you feel Google+ will go the same route though, things are very different this time around, and G+ should be given a place in any digital marketing strategy. One very important reason is the possible effect that gaining authority status as a Google Plus author may have on your website’s organic search rankings.

Let’s take a look at the HOW part of Google Plus first, then move on to WHY

First off, Google+ can to be thought of as having 3 different aspects (in a way)

  1. The ‘social networking’ side of Google+
  2. The Google Plus Local page
  3. The Google Authorship side of Google+

Google Plus as a social network

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Looking at the social networking side of things, Google Plus is similar to Facebook – It serves as a social network where you can post links, images and video to your profile. Videos get embedded in your profile, in a similar way to Facebook, and others can comment on your Google Plus posts. Equally, you can comment on other peoples posts.

Another way this is similar to Facebook, is that you can have a Google Plus personal account, and a Google Plus business page.

One way the Google Plus differs from Facebook, is how easy it is to segment people you follow (have in your circles).

In Google Plus, you can create different ‘circles’, and add people you want to follow to those circles. For example, one might create a ‘circle’ called ‘Industry Professionals’, one for ‘Customers’, and one for ‘Suppliers’.

When adding a post to your profile, you can then select which circles to share your update with – and only those selected will be able to see your update (unless you leave ‘Public’ as an option, then it goes public!).

People DO get notified that you have added them to a circle, but the DO NOT get informed what the name of that circle is – So if you added a competitor to a circle called ‘Competitors to track’, they would be notifed that you added them to a circle, but not what you called that circle.

Joining Google Plus, adding relevant people to circles, and joining in discussions both on your profile, other peoples posts, and also in Google Plus Communities are all great ways of getting the ball rolling with Google Plus.

 

Google Plus Local

Google Local Business Centre renamed to Google Places (in 2010), was renamed Google Plus Local, and merged into the Google Plus system.

In short, this is Google’s local business listing, and can help businesses appear in the search results for location specific queries (or based on IP data Google can show this for queries that don’t include a location trigger). Users can leave reviews of businesses, and G+ Local page owners can upload images, add videos, and lots of other business information, like opening hours.

 

Google Authorship

Arguably one of the most important elements to Google Plus, Google authorship allows people that publish content online to claim authorship of that content, no matter whether that be on their own website, or an external one.

 How to Claim Google Authorship

There is more than one way to claim authorship of your content with Google, but as this is a short post, I’ll just give one way.

 

Google Authorship – Step One

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First, edit your Google Plus profile (this HAS to be a personal profile.. Company pages can claim ‘publisher’ status of content, but more on that later, for authorship a personal profile is needed). Add the domain of the website you are contributing to in the ‘Contributor to’ section of the ‘Links’ box, on the ‘About’ page of your Google Plus profile.

 

Google Authorship – Step Two

Next, link FROM the content your produce on the domain, TO your Google+ profile. Taking the URL to my own Google Plus profile as an example (Hey folks – feel free to connect with me on G+ whilst you are there, I don’t bite!!);

https://plus.google.com/u/0/115592665633365192905/

The link given in the href, will be:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/115592665633365192905/?rel=author

Here is an example of the link:
HOW-TO-claim-Google-Authorship

If you use WordPress, there are lots of plugins for this, to save you adding the link manually.

google-plus-authorship-example-google-serps

Once everything is in place, head over to Google’s rich snippets preview tool to see if you have everything set-up correctly. If you do, then you should soon start to see your image, and a link to your Google Plus account showing in the Google SERPS, like in the image on the right (click to enlarge):

Why Google Plus Authorship Matters

As well as the usual benefits that a popular social media network can bring (relevant visits from the communities, and also increased branding, achieved by joining in with the community, sharing interesting content, commenting on worthwhile posts by others, and also sharing your own content), Google may also be using Google Plus authorship as part of it’s ranking algorithm.

Many SEO’s believe that Google Plus authorship actually relates to ‘Agent Rank’, a patent submitted by Google several years ago, which talks about assigning an ‘agent’ with content:

…associating one of the agents with one or more of the content items; and assigning a score to a first agent of the multiple agents, wherein the score is based upon the content items associated with the first agent by the digital signatures.

Whether Google Plus authorship IS ‘Agent Rank’ or whether it uses part of the technology the Agent Rank patent was filed to protect, is to some extent conjecture and disagreements exist in the SEO world.

However; the similarities are stark!

Google plus authorship allows authors (agents?) to claim authorship of a content item (article, YouTube video, etc). It is widely believed that the authority of the author may increase the Google rankings of the content they produce. Here is another snippet from the patent:

…Not all references, however, are necessarily of equal significance. For example, a reference by another agent with a high reputational score is of greater significance than a reference by another agent with a low reputational score.

Thus, the reputation of a particular agent, and therefore the reputational score assigned to the particular agent, should depend not just on the number of references to the content signed by the particular agent, but on the importance of the referring documents and other agents.

This implies a recursive definition: the reputation of a particular agent is a function of the reputation of the content and agents which refer to it.

In short, being an active member of Google Plus, claiming authorship of all your online content, getting published on other related industry authority websites (and claiming authorship status for those articles), and allowing other experts to post on your own blog, could help to improve your Google Plus authority status, and help your website’s future.

There are many more techniques that could help to improve your Google Authorship authority, but this post is long enough already!

Of course, as important as Google+ & G+ authorship is, there is little point in thrashing around on Google+ in isolation… Like all good digital marketing techniques, this work should be carried out as part of a unified, well planned and measured on-going strategy.

I will leave with a recent quote from Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, that may further convince you of the importance of Google Authorship…

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. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

Source of the quote on Wall Street Journal.

Thanks again to PremioOscar for inspiring this post with his question!

What are YOUR thoughts on Google Plus? Is it a part of your online strategy, or do you hate it? Comment below!

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4 responses to “Why Businesses Should Take Google Plus & Authorship Seriously”

  1. Google Authorship and Rich Snippet go hand in hand especially when one of your pages gets ranked on page one of Google and your http://bit.ly/RichSnippet shows up right next to your awesome content post

    • Avatar for Mike Gracia Mike Gracia says:

      Completely agree Neil – Rich snippets author details are great! In fact, structured data on the whole is usually a great thing to have – from authorship images through to events markup for training days etc 😉

  2. Hello Mike

    There seems to be a split of opinion between people who advise

    A.authorship only on posts.

    B.authorship on everything you do online including pages.

    Wondered what your opinion was?

    Colin

    Ps came to this though the G + authorship community page

    • Avatar for Mike Gracia Mike Gracia says:

      Hi Colin, thanks fro your comment & question. The G+ authorship community page is great, isn’t it!

      This is a very interesting question that you raise Colin, and one that there often isn’t a hard & fast rule for.

      As you rightfully point out, there is some anecdotal evidence that authorship on product pages can have a negative effect on click through rates in the SERPS. Indeed, someone posted in Google+ that they found a few variables may have been at play with what they saw, from whether there are other results in the SERPS that have a G+ author photo, to the position of the result in the SERPS (The theory being that if they were at the no.1 slot, the listing may have been mistaked from a PPC advert).

      Others simply feel that having a face on a page that is listing a product simply doesn’t look very professional.

      My personal opinion? It’s too early to draw any conclusions in terms of do ‘x’ for product pages, and ‘y’ for opinion based content. What I suspect is that as G+ authorship becomes more prominent, and as it is known more in the wider community (rather than just in the digital marketing and blogger fraternity!), people will become more accustomed to seeing it everywhere.

      My advice on what to do at the moment would be to test it… Benchmark the SERPS of a page, and the average hits to that page (landing page), as well as benchmarking via other means (WMT etc), then apply authorship mark-up, and measure the difference. Ideally I would do this to a small selection of pages as a controlled test.

      I’d hazard a guess that this will be different for different industries… Having a clear photo of a happy person next to a beauty product or raw-food recipe cookbook sales page may work well, however having a photo next to a product page that sells a service where the customer would be expecting to deal with a large team may indeed luck less appealing.

      Like most new features, I’d recommend heavy testing – there are just too many variables at play to take anyone else’s opinion as a hard/fast rule 😉

      Colin, hope that gives some food for thought… Sorry it wasn’t a yes/no answer!

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