If you are an early adopter or digital marketer then you have likely hunted down your invite, registered and created a few circles worth of connections on the shiny new social network known as Google+. Google’s latest attempt at social networking has been the talk of most towns since it was first announced less than a month ago. What do I think? In short, I think Google+ is great and can only get better. For the long version I would refer to Jason Falls’ spot on and poignant post from last week.
Now while the hubbub has been all about what Google has been doing in the social networking space, very little attention has been given to some very cool big picture things that they have been up to. Things that could greatly impact all of your content across the web.
Google Authorship Markup
In a blog post on June 7th, Google announced that they were starting something new. They were going to start supporting and recognizing code within web pages that would help them connect authors to the content that they produce. By placing some specified HTML into your web pages and linking properly Google will be able to identify content written by specific authors both on your site and if that same author wrote content elsewhere online. Once identified, Google can start to include author information in search results (see example image below) that links directly back to the author’s Google profile. Additionally, anything linked to that author will show up in the “+1’s” section of their Google profile.
What does this all mean and why should I care?
Although Google hasn’t explained in detail what this means overall, I see a number of important things happening that brands an content marketers need to keep an eye on.
SEO & Author Ranking
Google+ was not the first place that we became familiar with the +1 button. We started seeing the +1 button next to search results. Of course, back then, it didn’t seem to mean much, but we knew they had something up their sleeve. If Google starts to display author information along side search results it will also be able to attribute any corresponding clicks on the +1 as a social endorsement that can be factored into both a page rank and author rank score. Authors that garner a lot of +1’s within search results and when someone clicks a +1 button embedded on the web page itself will likely find their content at the top of search results for specific topics they write about. Google even mentions that they will automatically start to include the authorship markup within Youtube which ultimately means video content can be factored into an author’s rank. It’s also likely that any properly attributed content that is shared socially within Google+ and is actively engaged by audiences there will feed back into this.
In the long run, this can expand in a number of different ways. Anything that is publicly accessible for Google to crawl and index can be a potential data point for them to factor into your author rank. Google can start verifying social and content channels that you link to on your Google Profile so that it can identify which tweets, photos, slide presentations and other public content it should attribute to you.
It could provide unprecedented insight into who is influencing customers on the web by combining Google+ engagement, authorship data, Adwords & Google analytics information to form a more comprehensive picture of your online presence. Services like My mPACT (client) that work to rank influential authors & content creators could possibly tap into future authorship data provided by Google.
How to Take Advantage Now
Although Google hasn’t completely spelled out how everything will fit together just yet, I have a few suggestions of things that you should think about doing as soon as possible.
Set Up Your Google Profile
If you are an author that represents a brand or someone that produces content for many products or services then you need to make sure you have a complete and accurate Google Profile. Head on over here to get started. Pay most attention to filling out the “ABOUT” section of your profile. Take a look at my profile for some ideas. It could use some pruning, but you get the idea. Keep in mind that your profile is where Google is directing those who click on your author information in their search results so include any relevant information for those who want to learn about you and any products, services, or other content channels that you represent. Also add a link to any author pages you have on any of the sites you contribute content to.
The previously mentioned profiles are only for individual people, not businesses or organizations. Google recently mentioned that in as little as 2 weeks they should start opening up the ability for businesses to have a Google Profile. For more information on getting a Google Profile for your business that check out this post.
Add the Author Mark Up
Now that you have your profile you will want to make sure that any blog or web site that you author content has the new authorship mark up set up properly. This is a bit technical so you will probably need help from a web developer to help you get the code into place. Google provided pretty extensive instructions on how to properly add the authorship mark up here. If you don’t have access to all of the blogs/sites where you author content then you might want to talk to the manager/owner of the site. The good things is, by adding the code to most good content management systems (like WordPress for instance) any content that you previously published will get properly attributed when you add the code.
Consider Having an Author About Page on Your Site
Google’s instructions provide specific details, but if the online publication you write for doesn’t have author pages for you and the other authors who contribute then they may want to add them. Not only is it a good way to allow your readers to connect with authors, but it’s also an important element for Google to identify which content you produce. Within Google’s instructions they say:
To identify the author of an article, Google checks for a connection between the content page (such as an article), an author page, and a Google Profile.
- A content page can be any piece of content with an author: a news article, blog post, short story
- An author page is a page about a specific author, on the same domain as the content page.
- A Google Profile is Google’s version of an author page.
In confirming authorship, Google looks for two things:
- Links from the content page to the author page (if the path of links continues to a Google Profile, we can also show Profile information in search results)
- A path of links back from your Google Profile to your content.
Add the +1 Button to Your Content
Now let me preface this by saying that, as of the time of this post, Google’s +1 button implementation needs some work. Its code is inflexible and not without the need for improvement, but it’s easy to plop into your site. Just as you would add the Facebook LIKE button, you should consider adding the +1 button to all posts and strategically to some stand alone content pages. An example of a stand alone page might be a landing page with a white paper or a slide deck presentation. Place a +1 button on the page so visitors can provide a little social endorsement of the content. There is a good chance it will help boost the rank of that page in search results, especially if the rest of that page has targeted keyword rich content. Get instructions and code to add the +1 button to your site here.
The Wrap Up
I anticipate that over the next year we will see a ton of great offerings for brands and customers from Google. I’ve had some conversations with smart folks who have been connecting the dots in some very interesting places. I hope to share some of those discussions down the road, but for now… add me on Google + , share this post and say hello.
On a final note, if you find a colleague or friend who is getting distracted by the new car smell of a new social media tool. Tell him/her to take a stop getting caught up looking at the “finger” or they might miss the “heavenly glory” of something more useful to their bottom line (see video below).
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