Liar pictureSo I found an interesting video that you may or may not have seen, but doing research for has opened my eyes to a few things Google is trying to do.

I’ve included the video (like the skin? Traffic Player, baby) and you may want to fast-forward to about 55 seconds in.

Um…did you catch that? You might need to re-start the video so it plays at the right spot – but the key line was when Matt Cutts asked Othar Hansson if the ‘rel=author’ tag would be used for ranking purposes, the answer was:

Yes, REL = Author Will Be Used as a Ranking Signal

To quote them properly,

Matt: “Will people get a higher rankings, is there a rankings boost for ‘rel=author’?”

Othar: “…we hope to use this information and any information as a ranking signal at Google…in this case we’d want to get information on the credibility of authors, from all kinds of sources, and eventually we’ll use that in ranking.  We’re only experimenting with that now, who knows where it will go?”

This is around the beginning of the video around 0:50-1:22.  And here you may have thought it was simply ‘cool’ to get your author profile pic in the SERPs…well…it is when it works…

If you’re not familiar, the rel=author is an HTML tag you’d put to signal to Google that you’re the author of said piece.  The way it works is pretty simple.  In your Google Plus account, or Google Profile, you’d link to the website in question.

Check the ‘This Page is … about me’ option (I forget if it says, ‘especially’ or ‘specifically’).

On the page you’ve authored, you’d link back to your G+ profile with something like this:

<a href=”” rel=”author” target=”blank”>This is James</a>

Notice it’s a reciprocal link, but a good reciprocal link. Make sure it’s right by taking a peek at what Google thinks of your markup, at Google’s Rich Snippets tool (so named because Richard G. Snippets liked HTML markup like nobody’s bidness).

If things checked out, then you should hope to see your profile picture next to your listings…

Google Rich Snippets Tool

But of course it’s not a guarantee.  Like for me.  For some reason.  Not that I haven’t tried and tested just peachy keen…no hard feelin’s, Google.  It’s all good.

Why rel=author Markup Matters

Any benefit in rankings is something to consider – and if you can rank for a term or not rank for a term due to credibility or lack thereof, then I think you can easily surmise where the web spam team is headed or hopes to head in the not-so-distant future.

Links you can spam.

Social media you can spam (uh – so long as Google didn’t control the social media platform, that is…).

But credibility?  Not so fast…well…OK…maybe not so fast.

But you see where this is headed, at least – and I think the writing’s on the wall for gaming the system (and not because of my new book).

At the very least, you can see that Google is now interested in tying your authorship and identity to your websites – now let me ask you something.  Do you think that down the road, all things being equal, you’re climbing in rankings…

And it’s just you and the top 10 sites in Google.  You’ve got up to spot #11 maybe with software or whatnot, mashing out links – but the top 10 spots all have these fancy pants author profile pictures next to their listing…

First off, if all things were equal – you might not actually crack the top 10.  Granted, there are a lot of ranking signals – this is just one of them – but for the sake of argument, if all things were equal, then you might not penetrate the sacred first page.

Let’s say you do manage to storm the top 10.  You make it to page 1…but you’re the only website without a profile picture next to it.

From a human perspective – 9 out of 10 sites have an eye-grabbing picture of a real human next to their listing.  But your site?  It has something lacking.  No author profile pic…

I’m guessing that you won’t see as much click through as your savvy competitors.  Just a thought.  What do you think?  Does this impact your marketing any?

Let me know, I’ll be out pushing my new WordPress SEO book  so I might be quiet here for a while.

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