The Next Google Ranking Signal: Your Google Profile?

    August 10, 2011
    Chris Crum

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
Chris 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.