We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count.
So how are author photos changing?
The announcement means that the author photo in most Google search results will no longer display. Up until now, if you verified your authorship through Google+ and Google chose to display it, you may or may not have seen your author photo display to the left of Google search results along with your Circle Count. It was always a little hit and miss and sometimes it would show your image, other times it wouldn’t.
In the future, Google only plans to display the Author Name in the search snippet. Goodbye author photo and Circle Count.
Here’s a screenshot showing how the search results looked before and after the author photo and Circle Count have been removed.
Authors names still appear in search results The authors name remains as a click through link to their Google+ profile page
Rankings don’t change Authorship didn’t have any bearing on your search rankings, just how the listing looked. Your rankings will remain the same
Rules for verifying authorship are still the same Nothings changing in the way you set up or verify your website & Google+ authorship.
Is Google Authorship still worth doing?
We imagine that for many, having your author photo displayed alongside your listing was the be all and end all of Google Authorship and now that your author photo has been removed, the number of sites verifying Google Authorship will drop.
Even with the photos removed we still think that it is worth while going to the trouble of setting up authorship as you still get a click through link to your Google+ profile and who doesn’t want to see their name show up alongside your search listing?
And who knows what Google might have in store for us in the future. Maybe author photos might make an appearance again or authorship may play a bigger part in listings so we still advise all of our customers to spend the time and get Google Authorship set up.
But the Author Photos are still there!
Hold on one minute…
It seems that Google has only removed the Author photo from external sites listings.
The decision by Google to remove authorship images applies only to external sites, like yours and mine. Google+ posts are still showing the author photo for logged in users.
This news is huge and Google+ has all of a sudden become very very important to SEO. But before you rush over to your Google+ account and start posting there are few caveats. Firstly you have to be logged in to Google and viewing personalised results. But hey, this applies to anyone who has a Google account and logs in. So that’s anyone who uses Webmaster Tools, Google Docs, Google Calendar etc etc. But, and here’s the downside to this. These authorship results displaying an author photo are based on your personal Google+ network so only posts related to your search query by people in your Google+ network will display the author photo in the search results.
Even with these limitations this is still huge and shows how much importance Google+ plays. So, if you haven’t got a Google+ page and don’t post to it regularly… What are you waiting for?
Are Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) the be all and end all of your SEO campaign? Are you obsessed with that No1 spot? Always checking to see if you’ve moved up a slot for your chosen keywords? Are you overjoyed when you move up a spot and slide into depression when your ranking slips?
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Like you, we probably spend far too much time worrying about where we rank and not enough effort creating good quality referral links.
Well maybe it’s time to ease off and think about referral links?
Referral links, or backlinks are, according to some industry experts, the most important factor in SEO. A link to your site basically means that someone has said “hey, this content is interesting enough for me to want to link to it”. A link from a good quality referring site is probably worth more than a hit on a search engine.
For example, say you were running a website selling aquatic shrimp and Pets at Home added a link to you on their site. The benefits of that referral link are huge and you may get more conversions to sales than if you showed up in a search on Google for “shrimp for aquarium”.
Similarly, visitors referred from your local Aqaurium shop’s website might spend more than someone who found your website on Google because the referring website lends authority to your site.
So will any referral link do?
You are looking for links from good quality, trusted websites that are relevant to your content. One thousand links from automotive sites will not do your shrimp business any good! Ten links from relevant websites are worth far more. So much more since on the 22nd of May 2013, Google rolled out Penguin 2.0, an update to their search and ranking algorithm which penalised unnatural & manipulative inbound links.
What this means is that Google is targeting businesses who have been building huge numbers of links from non-relevant or poor quality sites. Companies across the world who had been employing SEO agencies or an intern to spam links to their website suddenly saw their sites being penalised and losing ranking.
What makes a poor referral link?
Links on poor quality sites
Sites that aren’t relevant to your business or content
Keyword rich links
overly optimised links
How do I check my referral links and how do I know if I’m being penalised?
Log into your Google Webmaster Tools and in the left hand menu select Select Search Traffic and then Manual Actions (we’ve written a blog post about this before: Has Google penalised my website?) If you don’t see anything then you are ok. If you do then you need to look into the issue further.
An excellent site for checking your backlinks is ahrefs.com it’s free for up to 5 searches a day and gives you a wealth of information about who is linking to your site.
The free version only gives you so much information on backlinks but you can quickly see which domains are linking to you and their domain rank which is a score of how trusted they are. If you spot a lot of links from untrustworthy sites then it’s time to try and get rid of them.
Google Webmaster Tools also shows referring links but we find the ahrefs.com website to provide more indepth information and to be easier to use.
What makes a good referral link and how do I get them?
You should be thinking of referral links as sources of traffic and not just a way of improving your search ranking. If your content is interesting enough, the referral may get picked up by other sites, syndicated and repeated on Social Media sites, all adding to the potential traffic.
Write good quality, relevant and preferably unique (but this can often be difficult) content on specific topics that people will be searching for and wanting to read. Then you want to share this on Social Media sites: Tweet about it, Post on Facebook, add it to StumbleUpon and post on Google+.
It’s no longer about link building but earning links…
Long, informative posts are now seeing benefits since Google’s ‘In-Depth Articles’ Algorithm Update a few weeks back which is boosting in-depth content so it may be worth writing longer posts between 1000-2000 words.
You should also consider some way of allowing others to quickly and easily share this on their favourite Social Media sites. We use the Flare Plugin but others are available and these make it easy for readers to quickly share your content which has the benefit of increasing your audience and also creating referral links!
Within a month of writing more content we have seen our traffic rocket as our articles get picked up by other sites and the number of referral links increases. As an additional benefit we have also seen our organic search traffic rocket by 250% and that’s not to be sniffed at.
Now when we log in to Google Analytics our traffic sources pie chart is starting to look a lot more healthy but there’s still work to be done on increasing the referral traffic. But at least we don’t have to worry so much if we drop a spot in the search results pages as our referral traffic is now providing 34% of our total traffic.
Hummingbird – Google announce their new search Algorithm
A day before their 15th Birthday, Google went back to their roots – literally.
In the garage where Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the world’s largest search engine, Google announced a handful of new changes including a major update to their search algorithm called “Hummingbird”.
The new Hummingbird algorithm, which has been in place for nearly a month, affects 90% of all searches said Amit Singhal, senior VP at Google.
So what is Google Hummingbird?
Despite many questions from the audience on just how does Hummingbird work, Google avoided getting too technical.
What they did say, and kept repeating, was that this was the biggest overhaul to their engine since their 2010 “Caffeine” update. Caffeine provided 50 percent fresher results for web searches than their last index (see Google Caffeine Blog post), and that the Hummingbird algorithm focuses on more advanced search queries rather than parsing searches word by word.
The new algorithm is designed to accommodate questions on par with what someone might ask a friend rather than the usual short keyword query we are used to.
For example, rather than “web design innerleithen” users may now search for “are there any web design companies in innerleithen?”
Google summise that internet users are becoming more comfortable with searching and move beyond the one or two word searches or short directed terms eg: “web +design +innerleithen”, and users will begin to type real questions into search engines. Google aim to be the first to accommodate this and provide good quality results.
How will Google Hummingbird affect me?
Well, Google silently pushed Hummingbird out a few weeks back so if you haven’t noticed any large spikes or drops in traffic already then the answer is it won’t!
And finally, if you’d like to remind yourself how Google looked back in 1998 then search Google for “Google in 1998” or click here to go directly back in time. It’s amazing how little it’s changed since then but then why change something that works.
Well, sit back and relax as we are going to run you through the basics of what Google Authorship is, how to link your Google+ account to your blog and how to use rel=”author”.
What is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship is a way to link content you create on your or others websites and blogs with your Google+ profile using a rel=”author” tag. You become the author whether you post on your site or another blog.
It allows you to extend your credibility to your content and is amazingly powerful.
Top 3 benefits of verifying your Google Authorship
1) SEO benefits of Authorship
Content is King and Google loves good quality content. Authors of good quality content who generate traffic and social buzz will develop an Author Ranking which will give a boost to all the content they write. Note Author Ranking is not the same as Google Authorship. Author Ranking is where, over time you build up a ranking as an expert in your industry who writes good quality, relevant content that people read and link to.
2) Improved engagement between you and your audience Your company shouldn’t be a faceless corporation and customers love to deal with real people and your website or blog shouldn’t be any different.
3) Name awareness/Industry Expert Google Authorship allows you, the person to be the author and as time goes on and as you continue to write good quality content, you may become an industry expert.
Ok… enough already, you’re sold! Why don’t we just get on and tell you how to add Google Authorship to your page….
Setting up Google Authorship
Your first step is to create a Google+ profile. We hear lots of people saying “We don’t get Google+” or “it’s useless, there’s nobody there” but we love it. Ok it isn’t Facebook but it isn’t trying to be.
The key to Google+ is to join communities related to your interests. For example we belong to and contribute to several communities related to WordPress, Genesis Framework, PHP and Search Engine Optimisation and it is now our go source for tips, hints and answers when we are stuck.
Anyway, we digress. Let’s move on to setting up a Google+ profile.
How do I set up Google+ page?
The first step is to join Google+. If you have an existing Google account (Gmail, Google docs, Google Webmaster Tools, etc) then you already have a basic stub account you can use.
Browse to https://profiles.google.com/ login with your username and password. If you don’t have an account you can create one. If you can, make sure to use an email address on the same domain as your website or blog. It makes the whole process much easier. For example for us our website domain is digitalessence.net so we would use an email like email@example.com.
When prompted, upload a clear facial headshot for your profile. Don’t use art, cartoons etc. make sure your image is at least 250×250 pixels or it will fail the upload.
Once you are happy, click next step and then Continue to Google+. Continue to fill out your profile and add communities or people you might know and follow through the hints and tutorial as Google shows you how to use Google+
In the meantime, Google will have sent you a verification email. Make sure you click the link in this email and verify your account so that Google knows you are legitimate.
How to set up Google Authorship in Google+
Now you have your page set up it’s time to set up your Google Authorship.
On the left hand side of the Google+ page, hover over the Home > icon under the Google+ logo and your dashboard will slide out. Select Profile.
At the top of the screen just above your default cover image (you can change this later) select About and scroll down to the links Section and click Edit
Now from the Links section, select Contributor to > Add custom link
NOTE: Don’t use this ID, it is ours and will add us as a contributor to your site!
Keep this safe for now as we are going to use this in a Meta data tag on your site.
You can optionally complete all the other sections of your Google+ profile to include your location, occupation and other information. While these details aren’t required for Google Authorship, we are sure they add some credence to your reputation.
Now we move on to your website.
How to set up Google Authorship on your website or blog
The methods for adding the next step depends on the type of website you have.
Firstly, make sure you have an author mentioned on your site. Something like “Written By…” and then your name. If you are using WordPress this is added automatically.
The name in your byline should match the your Google+ name exactly. If you have a hyphen in your Google+ name then use it in your website byline. Make sure the names are identical!
Open up your website html files in your favourite text editor and search for the <head> tag.
You want to place the code between the opening <head> and closing </head> tags. There will more than likely already be a few other meta tags there so just pop it in. Anywhere between the two head tags is good.
Substituting your Google+ url and ID for ours. Please do make sure you enter your 21 digit ID and not ours or it won’t work!
Here’s an example of our rel=author code in place.
WordPress using the Genesis Framework
If you are using WordPress with the Genesis Framework then as with most things, this is going to be very easy to do!
Just add your Google+ url to your user profile in WordPress by clicking on Users > Your profile, scroll down to Contact Info > Google+ and past the full url into the text box and press save.
Simples. But that’s why we use Genesis and you should too.
To confirm this has worked you can view the source of an individual post or page and look for the rel=”author” tag and it should show as per the example code above.
Testing your Google Authorship
Ok, so you’ve worked your way through all of these steps and we know you are itching to see if it works but please be patient. You will not see your avatar or image showing up in the Google search results for at least a couple of days. But don’t despair, there is a way you can test all your hard work and make sure that at least your Google Authorship set up and rel=”author” tag are correct.
Click on the link to the tool and enter your website url into the text field and click PREVIEW. You should see something similar to this:
Once this is all set up you will see your profile headshot, name and number of Google+ circles you appear in alongside all of your search results. Give Google at least a couple of days to show this in the search results as it’s not instant. But if you have followed our instructions and have tested everything with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool then you will show up.
Troubleshooting Google Authorship
Ok, so you have been through our post and it just isn’t working for you and you are scratching your head wondering where you went wrong.
Firstly what does the Google Tool say? Are there any clues as to what you’ve missed out? If not then let’s run through this checklist and make sure everything is ticked…
You’ve set up a Google+ profile
You uploaded a profile picture with a recognisable headshot
Your pages/posts have an author byline containing your full name exactly as it shows in your Google+ profile
You’ve added your blog or website to the Contributor section in your profile
Have you verified your email? *
Have you connected your content to Google+ by adding the rel=author tag?
Is your Google+ profile set to public?
Have you tested your page in the Google Tool?
* Confirming your email address is just an alternate verification method, and only works for sites on which you have a domain email address.
If all your answers are yes then you are all set up and you just need to wait a few days for Google to pick up on the changes.
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