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Google Authorship: The Ultimate Guide to Claiming Photographic Attribution in Search

After my recent blog post covering the rise of Google Plus and the reasons why it is pulling in more active users than Twitter, I received a number of questions around Google Authorship. Here is a complete guide on how to set it up and have your name and photo showing in Google Search next to your articles.

What is Google Authorship?

Google Authorship is a feature which allows Google to associate content to an individual person, and display a related headshot and name next to it in Search. You can link content you publish on a specific domain (such as your blog or a website you contribute to) to your Google Plus profile, and Search results will display as in the screenshot below.

what is google authorship


Benefits of Google Authorship

Google created Authorship to allow the correct attribution of content, which means writers can claim which content they have produced and be associated with it visually. It also allows searchers to easily navigate to other content written by the same author, which helps establish credibility and legitimacy around content producers.

It’s widely considered in SEO circles that establishing authorship attribution results in a higher click-through rate: the content stands out within the search page, and there’s also an increase in long-tail clicks since searchers can more easily see your other content.


So how do I claim authorship in Google Search?

Your first step is to create a Google Plus account, if you haven't already done so. There is a straightforward walkthrough to help you set up your profile, so make sure you fill in all the fields and include a good quality photograph, showing your full face (no avatars, logos or arty shots).


Setting up your "Contributor to" links

The next step is to fill in the "Contributor to" section of your Google Plus profile. List all the websites that you are writing for or have contributed to. The images below show the editing panel and what the result will look like.

google authorship contributor editgoogle authorship contributor panel

Insert the link either to the homepage of the site, or to your author page. This should include your bio and a list of all the posts you have written - and don't forget to add any new sites you start writing for. Always ensure that a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content (for example, "By Blaise Grimes-Viort" or that there is a bio present on the page that includes your name), and that this name matches exactly the name on your Google Plus profile.


Verification by email (the easy way)

The easiest way to verify your Google Authorship is by having an email address in your name from the website you are publishing or being published on, i.e. having an email address with the website domain. So if your website is www.emoderation.com, then you can verify an email like [yourname]@emoderation.com by adding it to your list of emails in your Google Plus profile and clicking the link in the confirmation email that is sent. Similarly, if you write for another website, it's worth asking if they can give you access to an personal email address from the actual domain name of the site. You can also verify the email for authorship by following the instructions on the simple Google+ Authorship page.

google plus email

The benefit of verifying in this way is that once you click the confirmation link that is sent to your email to confirm it is yours, the "Contributor to" section of your profile is automatically updated with the relevant website link. You can check that the email addresses are confirmed by the presence of a little tick next to them.


Verification by rel=author tag (the hard way)

Don't have an email address that includes the domain name of the site you are writing for? There is another way. Once you have set up your Google Plus profile, you will need to insert a small piece of code which includes the rel=author tag into every page you have had published in your name. This rel=author tag links up your content with your Google Plus profile and means Google can then verify the relationship and display your attribution in search. This piece of code can be placed anywhere in the content, but the best place to put it is in the sidebar embedded in a Google Plus icon, or hidden in the HTML code of your header or footer, if you can edit it.

The stock code is:Image


which you'll need to edit to include your own personal profile URL. Mine would look like this:



Confirming Google Authorship is working

Google provide a tool called the Google Structured Data Testing Tool which will allow you to check you have set up your Google Authorship successfully. Just drop in the URL to one of your articles on site you have linked following the instructions above, and if it's worked it will show you what should be displaying in Search.

google authorship rich snippet tool

If a part of the set-up wasn't done properly, this tool will display a list of suggestions on what might be missing and how to fix it.


What about Guest Posts? How do I link them to my Google Plus profile?

If you are guest posting across multiple sites, it is highly unlikely that you will either have an email address from those sites or the ability to edit the HTML header code either. So here's a way to claim Authorship for your guest posts. Follow the steps above in the section titles "Verification by rel=author tag", but when you get to the point of needing to insert the rel=author code, insert the following into the HTML of your bio on the website you are guest posting on (or ask the editor or admin to do it):


So, to write 'and you can find him on Google+' which links to my Google+ profile, this is the html I use:


I did this on my SocialMediaToday bio, and this is what it looks like now:

google authorship guest post


Check in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool that everything is working fine:

google authorship rich snippet guest post

Troubleshooting if Google Authorship is still not working

Having spent some time playing - and failing - with this process, here are the top potential issues you might face if your content is not attributed and photo is not displaying in Search.

  1. Authorship is related to people, not businesses. There is a specific tag for linking Google Plus business pages and websites called the rel=publisher tag, which I'll blog about on another day. Make sure you are linking your content with your personal profile, and not your Google Plus brand page.
  2. Authorship requires a correctly proportioned image in your Google+ profile. My original image is on the left below, my new one on the right. Screen-shot-bgvThe original one wasn't displaying because you cannot clearly see my whole face. The one on the right once uploaded was approved and displayed within hours. There is some kind of verification process there, so make sure you have a clear headshot and aren't using a logo.
  3. When adding the html code to your profile in a guest blog, make sure that it is visible on the page and not (as may be the case in a long bio) hidden behind a 'read more>' link.  Edit your bio accordingly.
  4. Only seeing one image of yourself on search page results, when several of your blog posts are listed?  From our observations, Google seem to only serve one author profile image with each page of results.
  5. Don't worry if the Google Structured Data Testing Tool is showing that everything is fine but you can't see yourself in Search immediately. It can take a little while, but it will happen as long as your photo is ok (the testing tool will not flag problems with photos)

Let me know how you get on!

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