The Next Google Ranking Signal: Your Google Profile?

By: Chris Crum - August 10, 2011

Long story short: if you’re looking to help your search engine rankings, you might need a Google Profile (the backbone of Google+).

Who you are as an individual is becoming more important in search ranking. Is this the right way to go for search? Share your thoughts.

As previously reported, Google has a new series of tutorial videos, and in a new one, Google’s Matt Cutts and Othar Hansson discuss “authorship markup”.

Google announced this back in June saying it is “experimenting ” with using the data to help people find content from authors in search results.

In the new video, Cutts asks, “Will people get higher rankings? Is there a rankings boost for rel=’author’?”

Hansson then replies, “It’s obviously early days, so we hope to use this information and any information as a ranking signal at Google. In this case, we want to get information on credibility of authors from all kinds of sources, and eventually use it in ranking. We’re only experimenting with that now. Who knows where it will go?”

For the time being, what you get, he explains, is your photo showing up next to your results. The idea is to show photos next to results. That’s the goal with this project, he says.

“If people believe it’s a good idea, you know, using HTML5 hopefully might help Google and any other search engine figure out more about content on the web, and what’s trustworthy and what’s less trustworthy over time,” says Cutts.

Given the emphasis Google has been putting on trustworthy content (see Panda update), it’s easy to imagine this not only becoming a ranking signal, but a significant one.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting. You have to have a Google Profile to use it. Kind of like Google+. Another interesting strategy to get people using Google’s new social network, no? And while still managing to keep things search-related. Well played, Google.

When the authorship markup is used, it leads to an author photo being displayed in Google search results when applicable. For example, if I write an article and that article appears in search results, it would come with a picture of me (from my Google Profile) next to it, and that would link to my Google profile. So, as an added bonus for Google, this will greatly increase the visibility of the Google Profile, and no doubt contribute to further growth of not only Google profiles, but Google+.

The Google Profile does actually keep the feature from being abused though. “To make sure that I can’t start writing nonsense and attributing it to Matt…you have to link back from your Google Profile to the site,” explains Hansson. “You need to control both endpoints basically.”

To use the markup on a single author site, you basically just need to:

1. On every post, add a link somewhere on the page pointing to your Google Profile (more visibility for Google Profiles)

2. On that link, add an attribute rel=”author”

3. The link can go in the footer or the header or wherever you can make it work.

4. You can wrap it around an image if you want.

If you have multiple authors on the site, like each author’s post to that author’s Google Profile. “That could be as simple as just at the bottom of each post, have the author actually insert a link themselves, with this attribute on it,” says Hansson. “Another thing that a lot of sites have, is…author bios.”

Link the bio to the author’s bio page, add rel=author on the links to the bio, and from the bio page add rel=”me” links to the Google Profile, and link the Google Profile back to that page.

“This obviously requires authors to make Profiles, and it requires webmasters to do the markup,” says Hansson.

Cutts says they’re trying to work with CMS manufacturers so that individual people don’t’ have to do all the work if they don’t want to.

For more detailed instructions on how to implement authorship markup, see Webmaster Tools help.

By the way, Google has been pretty weird with authors lately, though this is unrelated to the authorship markup discussed here, as far as I can tell.

Should authorship markup in this form be a significant ranking factor? Tell us what you think.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • Bloggerdreams

    What can I say? Google has been giving itself a lot of liberty pretending that it was all geared towards quality. My question is isn’t Google delving little by little into peoples privacy?

    Furthermore, I agree with the fact that authors should be rewarded for their hard work but then how are we going to be sure that misuse will not crop up here? For instance, a person writes about things happening in his country and he wants the world to know about it as we have been witnessing these days concerning human right abuses all over the world. His picture shows up in the search. Isn’t he or she going to be in danger that way? I was just thinking loud.

    • FS eBiz

      You thinking good my friend, but I think that you don’t need then put author. Google don’t say that is Must.

      Anyway this article is Great!

    • Chris Crum

      If you have a Google Profile, and i you use Picasa, you might want to double check your share settings on photos/videos if you’re worried about privacy.

    • David Gerard

      Google is so INCREDIBLY keen on getting people’s wallet-names (their “social” strategy with G+) that they’re willing to compromise the search results to get it.

  • Rika Susan

    Good article, Chris. I can imagine that the authorship markup and a Google profile will play an important role in search down the line. If this can help to pull quality content to the top, that’s okay with me.

  • Rosalie

    absolutely NOT! I don’t want the search engines showing me what they THINK I want. I need to see all matches and decide for myself what is relevant.

    • Chris Crum

      Well, you can still click though pages of results.

  • Sidra Vitale

    This forces me to get a Google profile in order to stop potential abuse (by ‘controlling both endpoints’). Why would I want a system like that? I get that Google wants trustworthy content out there to show up in search engines, but this puts it all on me, when all I want to do, and all I should have to NEED to do, is post to my blog.

    The issue here isn’t that if I want to do this I can, but that if I don’t, I can’t just ignore it completely. It’s not all or nothing, it’s all or half. That pisses me off.

  • Erik

    And what if you let your father make a profile with his 100.000 employees company and let you use it for your freshly started one man company?

    • Chris Crum

      Google doesn’t even want more than one person to share a profile.

  • Diane England, Ph.D.

    As someone who writes about mental health topics and has the credentials required by law to guide people with such issues, I would be happy to see more attention paid to my credentials. It is annoying when I discover that someone has taken one of my articles and posted it without even stating that I am the author–never mind not including a back-link to the appropriate website as they are required to do in those cases where they even have permission to use such an article. (I have four websites—and two have a number of articles). It is also obvious from reading what some people write that they have no understanding of the different personality disorders, for example. So, it bothers me when they recieve high reanking since, I suspect, they were hoping to have high ranking sites that lead to ads that pay well–from the pharmaceutical companies and treatment centers, for instance. Well, I want to get helpful information out there to people in emotional pain–and in the case of PTSD and relationships, to promote my self-help book. Since it was designated one of the “BEST BOOKS OF 2009″ by “Library Journal,” I know I have credibility as a researcher and writer–not only as a mental health professional. So yes, I want a high ranking and would definitely prefer not be beat out by people who have taken content from people like myself and then, managed to get ranked higher because of their superior SEO knowledge. And indeed, I have talked with some other people who have put lots of effort into their work and can’t believe how it is stolen–despite copyright laws which so many obviously either don’t understand or care about. It is so disheartening. That all said, I despise searching through a bunch of junk myself. So I say, keep on keeping on, Google. However, you can skip the picture.

    • Chris Crum

      We’ve written on the topic of non experts ranking over experts a few times. It can be frustrating.

      • Murat

        Another important addition from me. I believe there should be human editorial processes alongwith Google algorithms especially on health topics. There are many people “still” can rank on let’s say for example on phrase “cancer treatment methods” without any knowledge on the topic with re-write or collection of articles simply thanks to huge number of automated forum, article backlinks. Can you imagine such information with mistakes lead in important decisions of people who seek solutions to their health problems?

  • rougerdeluffy

    oh , and thanks for information

  • Lojas Online

    Very good this article

    A question.

    The page needs to be written in HTML5?

    (Google tradutor)

    • Chris Crum

      From Google’s Help Center:

      Authorship markup uses the rel attribute (part of the open HTML5 standard) in links to indicate the relationship between a content page and an author page.

      • Market Secrets Blogger

        Well then when should the “rel=me” attribute come into effect because that part wasnt explained deep enough?

  • Kerri Knox, RN

    Google continuously states that the most important thing to do to get high rankings is to create quality, unique content that people get good value from, then they go and do things like this that are totally obscure and take a bunch of knowledge and time to do- further eliminating sites that have great content, but that may not have technical knowledge.

    It’s hard enough to get other websites to publish your articles, let alone have them put a ‘rel’ attribute, a link back to your Google profile, a link to your site and a picture of you up on their site. Seems ridiculous to me. I have excellent articles all over the internet and now it seems that these articles will now have less ‘juice’ because the webmaster is certainly not going to go back and put ‘rel’ attributes on my article.

    Just another way to make websites too technical for the average person to understand and create, taking focus off of creating good content in favor of knowing technical ‘tricks’..

  • Dave

    first thing when i watched this video was to check out Matt’s site to see if he uses it. which if you search on google for “matt cutts” you see that his profile image shows up, which means he is using it.

    maybe im missing something but this is the href he uses

    rel=”author” href=””

    I thought it was supposed to point to his google profile?

  • eric

    What about web design firms who don’t want competitors to track their clients, even though we can through backlinks? Will I be penalized with lower rankings because I don’t want my few clients found in my profile by bigger competitors? Can we use a logo instead of a picture (this is a question for the non-pretty people)?

    • Market Secrets Blogger

      The logo instead of a pic idea might actuallt be better for branding purposes…only way to test it out is to upload your logo image where you would otherwise upload a personal pic, do all the rel linking stuff, then see if your logo shows up in search results as well as how long it stays there.

  • Yuwanda Black

    As a freelance writer, author and self-publisher whose stuff is stolen all the time, I like this idea. But, the idea of Google having so much access (ie, controlling both “endpoints”) is kind of scary. It feels like you HAVE to have a Google profile in order to rank well.

    I haven’t hopped on Google+ yet, but now, it’s looking like I finally gotta get on that bandwagon.

  • Chris

    It all seems too fragmented to work on a wide scale and with a few too many contingencies. So a) you need a Google profile b) you need to use the rel=”author” attribute c) you need to have control over the source code to use the rel author attribute. So that pretty much confines it to blogs and bloggers who are aware of this. On most websites content writers aren’t the coders anyway.

    Even if all CMS manufacturers and blogging platforms take up adding authorship links as a feature wholesale, you’re still relying on people being meticulous enough to fill in these details. In reality you’ll get partial takeup and then only partial usage and the quality/trustworthiness of content will depend on algos that look at factors such as how complete someone’s Google Profile is (in a similar way that Google places operates) – that’s not an indicator of quality content, but one of either the extent someone has bought into Google+, how anal they are or how much they know about playing the system.

    Moreover, businesses bigger than one man affairs certainly don’t want their content associated with a staff member’s, or worse an external contractor’s, social media profile over which they don’t have any control.

    This has too many points of failure to be far reaching and too many risks to encourage widespread take up. In those instances where the person is the brand then fine, but they already have their credibility and trustworthiness without rel = author pointing at Google+ or whatever so the whole exercise just seems like a combination of vanity and blind optimism to me on Google’s part.

  • puamana

    I think this is an issue of privacy violation. If google goes this route, you will be ‘required’ to have a google profile and account, and you will have no control over how all personal information will be used by google (or their marketing partners). If they were willing to setup a separate ‘author’ profile, it might work, but making it a requirement for high ranking? Talk about gaming the system. It’s like holding a gun to your head. Cooperate or die.

    • Market Secrets Blogger

      But we do still have control over what we put inside our profiles and accounts 😉

  • Jim Byrd

    I really don’t like where Google is heading. First, Minneapolis has well over 4,000 restaurants but when I do a search they try filling up my screen with individual restaurants. Do they intend to list all 4,000 according to how popular they are? or maybe just the top 100 so my organic searches are buried 10-pages deep?

    Now they want my personal information to be able to “like” a particular business. I am so ready for a new SE that I started using Giga Blast,

    They really don’t seem to have enough to do at Google so they come up with crap like this. I’d like to see them get rid of Ad sites that has only minimal information and lots of frigging ads. They may have tried but it seems they are giving up and trying this to see if they can generate better results.

    Of course, there is already an industry built around this latest fiasco of Google +1 to create even more spammy websites.

  • Gabrielle

    More manipulation from the Master Manipulator to exploit us further to increase their advertising dollars.

    This whole social media marketing is a farce as a universal way of business. It is not conducive for all industries or businesses and their customers. To think, act like and enforce it to create a cultural shift is beyond annoying.

    A better question is how can we push back to stop this nonsense?

  • Murat

    Ok, take an average person who is very good writer without any knowledge of rel=nofollow or new rel=author. Google wants everyone to become HTML tagging masters. Their aim is to fill a href links with at least 10 tags in next 5 years so that we will all spend most of our time tweaking tags instead of writing :))

  • New Movement Media

    I believe the way Google is trying to implement this idea into search can be useful in finding out what is credible and relevant in search. This will give credit to the specific person writing the content and make search more social.

  • Tom

    Those bastards at Google have still not found out that the Internet is more than academic papers and personal blogs.

    Starting as an indexing service for academic papers and basing popularity on the number of times a professor was quoted got us chasing our tails to get backlinks. The result was massive internet pollution with useless link catalog sites with the only purpose of satisfying Google.

    With the emergence of blogs, they started focusing on how often pages change, how many new pages are added, and a whole range of other things that again increased the proportion of shit on the internet.

    I run a small one-man company providing services in the real world. People find me when they need me, so I do not have followers who need me to repeat myself every friggin day on a blog to get a positive impression of the service I provide. A large portion of my business is word of mouth in the real world, because my target group is between 50 and 65 years old, so very few of them have their own blogs where they would put a link to my site.

    Instead of polluting the internet, I am spending a lot of money on Google AdWords to make up for being outranked in natural results by companies that are not more honest, do not provide better service, are not more informative or customer oriented, but have the resources to kiss the ass of all the latest “fads by Google”. If I wanted better ranking it would take time away from serving my customers so it is a lower cost for me to pay Google than spending my time polluting the internet or paying someone to do it for me.

    The Google+ author preference is the latest “fad by Google” and will help those who pollute the internet to satisfy Google the most, will create extra work for those running a blog or a news site while disadvantaging everybody else who do not run a blog, a news site, or a social media site.

    Google has been on a slippery slope for a long time, because they have lost track of what people need while fortifying their position as the great dictator. Just like Google, Facebook is a necessary evil (less than 10% of my target customers have a FB profile). I am sure Facebook is busy preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Google as this whole issue is blackmailing people to buy into the Google+ thing – clear abuse of their market position.

  • stephen

    Google should stick to content. Not who I am…What’s next? Credit reports and background check to see if you are a reliable source? Don’t laugh…It’s coming in the next year…Along with putting values on education, past job history and even if you have acceptable blogs….Watch out citizens…this is a very subtle use of your private info….

  • http://Auothershipvideo stephen

    Kind of a comical post…..Keep a watch on what google is doing. They have a real tendency to censorship…..

  • Israel Rothman
  • Israel Rothman

    Oh! b2b? like Google search: b2b home business? LOL

    Most of you would not know viral if it bit you in the ass!

  • Darryl Manco

    I have started using the referenced features. The profile pictures show up next my website, and that profile links back to the site. Each account held has a profile. It reenforces content and context meaning. Great article as I took advantage of the G+ on my personal site to tie together the loop of information.

  • authorship

    Your authorship perhaps Google can try this themselves they are the SECRET POLICE of the Internet and NO BUDDY can talk to a REAL person at Google they are ALL Hiding under the GOOOOGLE VAIL. Claiming ” Who knows where it will go?” They want to be able to track every person on this planet and supply your INFO to the US Government FBI and home land security. The Obama Administration’s “Secret Law” to Spy on Americans

  • Dusan

    What’s to stop creative, determined people from creating a profile for each niche they’re interested in, taking somebody else’s article (content) reworking it a bit, posting it under their assumed name? Oh, yeah, none of the shady characters can create a fake Google account!

    And once there are 10 people who’ve gotten all your articles and published them under their names, and the names come with a nice, trustworthy photo that doesn’t represent them, how does Google determine original author? And will it not show (at all) any of the copies?

    Perhaps Google’s at it for reasons broader than the stated ones?

    Just thinking aloud.

  • cleaning company seo

    sounds like total bs to me and more ways to try to convince people to join google+. I vote that we will never hear about this again .

  • Moin Shaikh

    As far as i think, google’s this new initiative will lead to elimination of in genuine and spam content from the web or atleast from the SERP itself.

  • Truth

    Let’s build something NEW It’s a NEW search engine.

  • Market Secrets Blogger

    Oh great, yet one more act of worship to give to the altar of Mighty G :rolleyes:

    Im guessing the wordpress plugins mentioned will take care of this though. However I am wondering if the goog profile and g+ profile are interrelated and also if the link back from goog profile counts as a powerful backlink?

  • archie

    This is another ‘gotcha’ for spotty teenagers, which I am not.

    When I was a spotty teenager, I would be cautious about giving this amount of real data anyhow, so it would be a fantasy production, making the whole damn thing actually pointless in the first place.

    Those idiots in the video must be rejects from the BBC playschool children’s programme, either way they are patronising idiots.

    Verdict: stuff it where the sun doth not shine.

  • Koozai Mike

    If this is true it raises an issue of how new authors wanting to make a name for themselves can stand out. Whilst it’s great for the ‘guru’s of the world to be top, hopefully Google won’t neglect the underdog authors who make equally good arguments.

  • your watcher

    I read post and all comments….. I feel this…. search engine’s including Google, follows the rule of WWW organization,

    In last 38 days, Google PR 3 time update, I have many snapshot of when Google PR showing have PR 9 and facebook have 10.

    Google now playing with user’s….. and change the user agent, indexer work.

  • nilfisk c120

    Interesting as I read a post a couple days back on the WF from someone doing some keyword research and the site in the #1 position apparently was so bad that he couldn’t work out why it was there.

    One thing he noticed was the site had a backlink from google and presumed it was from a google profile and this was the only reason he could think of of why it was ranking in #1.

    I suppose if that’s what google wants then we will have to follow. Seems like they have us by the short and curlys every time.

    • moonlight

      No, we don’t have to just do what G wants. They can take this new plot and shove it. I will not be displaying my personal “who I am” on this dangerous internet.

      My site is on the top of page one of the three major search engines for my keywords without that +1 thing or a profile. Just good solid and honest SEO.

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    Such a good thing.It contain many important information for everyone.
    I really like it.
    Thank You

  • Lionel Bachmann

    This seems to be a sly way of Google getting more people to make Google profile pages. By saying that it can help in rankings, SEOs will no doubt be the first ones on the bandwagon. It’s nice that there is two way linking to keep others from attributing nonsense to someone else, but why is a Google profile required?

    • moonlight

      Not this SEO. Potential clients will know my credibility by simply calling and talking to me on the phone. I explain my services, show my work and offer they can call existing clients who have given me permission for them to do so. I don’t need G’s nod for that.

      I will not be filling out any profile.

  • Michael Wilbraham

    I see nothing wrong with a small avatar appearing next to the search results, they’re showing up there already. For me…it kinda adds a sort of credibility that the site owner/author is real and it can contribute to the trust building relationship.

    It is a bit of a schlep building out the profile though, specially if you want to use a different picture for a different website, depending on the niche you may be marketing in!

    • Ginger Rushing

      What is the guarantee that the picute is actually the person who wrote the article? In this world where sex and beauty sell, why not hire a model and make yourself look really good. It will happen!

  • Truth


  • Bill

    We all hate spam and we all get frustrated when we search the web only to be inundated with junk.

    But in Google’s attempt to control the internet and improve quality, they’re also squashing the entrepreneurial spirit, and essentially dictating what we can and cannot do on the internet.

    The idea that two people can run the same search and get different results based on their pervious activity is unnerving.

    One of the beautiful aspects of the internet is the ability to find information! But, now Google is dictating what information we find. That’s “big brother!”

    That’s a dictatorship telling its subjects what it can and cannot learn.

    Another exciting aspect of the internet is it’s ability to level the playing field. Theoretically in the beginning, anybody could access the internet, work hard and develop a business. An individual could actually compete against large corporations which had deep advertising pockets.

    Google is creating a system where a staff of SEO strategists is necessary to manuvere through the Google quagmire. Instead of being able to start a business on a shoestring, thanks to Google, an internet start-up will need the capital investment that a brick and mortar business needs.

    Then there’s the Google arrogance. With a wave of their magic wand, whole businesses are destroyed, and they feel no responsibility what-so-ever.

    As for this new move to better identify who people are on the internet. Though I understand the argument for in favor of it. I also see it as a means to again, dictate who can play in Googles game. Again, they’re catering to the well funded, seasoned businesses.

    I know of an online marketer who uses pen names. One, being that of a female, while he is “male.” The articles are well researched and rich in content, and thoughtfully written. How will he be able to continue to provide relevant content?

    Look what happened to the news business when media control has been whittled down to just a few mega players. Have you watched local or national news lately – not much news. A lot of self promoting, and fluff. And the news that does filter through is heavily tainted with the political views of the owners of the parent media company.

    I think Google is too big and too powerful. They are systematically attempting to squelch individualism, creativity and entrepreneurialism.

    • Ginger Rushing

      Completely agree with your post. Google is indeed turning the Internet into the Wal-Mart and Home Depot of the world. It is increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete. Once good content and a site with proper SEO was he key, now there is just too much junk to keep up with. I hate the personalized search results and I wish they would give you an option of using that or not. On top of most of us not being able to compete with the BIG companies with PPC, they are now allowed to create copy cat sites with duplicate content to hog the first pages. Creating 200 different URLS, all linking to each other with the same exact content should not allow them to take all the good spots from the “legitimate” sites. I wish someone could explain to me why Google allows this to happen. What we don’t need is more “tricks” from Google that dicriminate against small businesses. I am a small business and I like to buy from other small businesses, it is becoming harder and harder to find them in. Between he copy cats and the bogus shopping sites, shopping online is becoming more and more frustrating for the consumer. SOcial media my help with Brand recognition, but I do not believe it drives traffic to retail sites enough to make it worth all the work.

  • Ted and Mark


    Why can’t Google make it easy for everyone if they want information on the author? I am sure a lot of people are not going to bother because there is code involved.

    I know Google want sites and reports that are legitimate and give good information to the visitors who are searching for that search term but I do think they over complicate things at times.

  • Michelle

    It does take a lot of work doing all these profiles and keeping everything up to date, and as I said in a previous comment, Google would have been better off focusing on the -1 strategy to get rid of the rubbish links rather than trying to show popularity. Isn’t it enough when a blog has hundreds of comments, pages and visitors, doesn’t that show credibility!

  • Mads

    Happy to have my Google+ profile 😉

  • LG

    Another plot by google to get even more information on us?

    I don’t know about that but if it helps my site rank better than I think why not try it and see what happens.

    Google definitely helps giving us so much information when it comes to keyword research etc so I suppose it’s a bit of give and take.

  • Gal

    Google’s using its search weight to drive traffic to itself big time and site owners who don’t use professional help will take yet another step backwards.

  • adult seo

    Im thinking that google lose time with this crap…

  • Samantha

    This is very interesting, I am curious how this will all pan out! So, essentially, anyone who does not adhere to these rules can expect their google listings to just disappear?

  • IT Jobs UK

    So how does this affect the websites of big corporations who have a whole team of people running the website. Would they get penalty if they don’t have a brand/company Google profile to link to as author?

  • queue

    They ruined internet and made it muddy once by inventing page rank
    concept and cappy ideas like link building.

    Now they are inventing again. Oh my God.

  • Shomara

    These two dont give you a follow up link and I feel its very hard to get people to come to your site through these sites.

  • magento experts

    m not understanding google’s algorithm…some day shows more pages indexed and the next day less….
    they are playing with people

  • javed

    hi to all..this world is for wealthy peoples.00923366471147