Scott Hanselman

Embrace Authorship - The importance of rel=me and rel=author on your content's SEO and Google

October 28, '11 Comments [29] Posted in Blogging | Musings
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There's a lot of garbage out of there on the internet. I know, I've been writing some on this blog for almost 10 years. ;) One way to let Google and Friends know that you are a real person and are really the writer of something is to use microformats like authorship markup like rel="author" to markup your content.

When you write a blog post, make sure that the rel="author" attribute is on the page with a link back to your "About Me" page or to your Google+ profile. The easiest way is to just include a link like this:

by <a title="Scott Hanselman is on Google+" rel="author" href="http://profiles.google.com/hanselman.scott?rel=author" alt="Google+" title="Google+">Scott Hanselman</a>

But it's not proof enough that you wrote something just to link to a profile. You have to close the loop by linking back to your site from your profile, indicating that the page is about your. This will end up looking like this with a rel="me" attribute:

<a href="http://www.hanselman.com/blog/" rel="me" title="Scott Hanselman">Scott Hanselman</a>

While this isn't a perfect way to guarantee to Google that you actually authored and own some content, it's a good start. Presumably if Google trusts your Profile and your website there is an implied chain of trust. If some spammer decides to programmatically steal your entire site, or even just suck it down with RSS and reblog it, it's now possible for Google to downrank those splogs (spam blogs) or delist them, while simultaneously assigning a higher Page Rank - or Author Rank - to your site.

Alternatively you can have an "author page" or About Me page on your site within the same domain and use rel="author" to point to it. You then use rel="me" to markup links that all point to sites that represent the same person. If you are using rel="author" to point to an About Me page, that page should the include a link with rel="me" that points to your Google Profile.

If this seems confusing, you can use the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to test our your pages and how they might show up if Google decides to trust you.

My site as seen by the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool

The most important part with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool is the Extracted Author info. Does Google successfully extract that you are an author and show those links without  errors or warnings?

My rel="author" markup is error-free

At this point, you know only that Google doesn't think you suck but you have no idea if they will actually use the data. This appears to be where magic pixie dust comes in. You essentially wait a week or two and if it works, when you start Googling for your articles they will start showing up like this in search results:

Googling for Scott Hanselman

Or a specific article, for example:

Googling for Windows 8 Scott Hanselman

Note that Google shows that I'm in some Google+ circles and that there's 31 comments on a G+ post on this blog post.

Aside: This starts to seem a little unbalanced to me, as Google could have looked at my RSS feed or RSS Comments Feed and determined how many actual comments there are on that post on my site. Or, I could include microformat metadata on comments to indicate that they are comments vs. original content. I want the discussion to happen on my blog, not on Google+. Or maybe I want the conversation to happen on Disqus, or on Facebook. It's too bad that Google doesn't support a microformat like rel="comments" (I made that up) so that I might take control of the URL where comments should be left. Maybe I want Twitter or Facebook profiles to be used with rel="author." With the addition of Google+ and the "convenience" of using Google+ for rel="author" and the automatic retrieval of comment metadata, again from Google+, the open markup-based Google The Search Engine plus Google+ The Social Networks becomes a walled garden without choice, like Facebook.

Commentary on openness put aside, the usefulness of rel="author" in the context of Google users and from the perspective of the content author is obvious.

  • Search results that list pages written by actual humans alongside their smiling faces will be more likely to be clicked on.
  • Folks can +1 results directly from the results AND add you, the author, to their Google+ circles.

Of course, I'm not sure what I think about searching Google for the word "phony" and finding my face show up as the result. ;)

What a phony

The task for you, Dear Reader, is to go forth and implement rel="author" for your blogs and content.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Friday, October 28, 2011 6:25:31 AM UTC
Hi Scott,

Nice post but I believe that Google now encourage people to implement the stuff introduced on schema.org. I am not sure that this one is documented there but here is the article schema :

http://schema.org/Article

Here is the blog schema :

http://schema.org/Blog
Friday, October 28, 2011 6:49:37 AM UTC
Tug - According to everything I've read on the subject, I can find nothing that suggests that rel="author" has been replaced yet.
Friday, October 28, 2011 7:03:36 AM UTC
I really dislike how this can be considered at all when talking about people that use content from others as their own.

The idea is fine when people play fair. Citing a blog post from someone else, attribute it to them. But those playing the content stealing game, will still get your content and replace these tags/attributes with their own. Do we really gain anything on the later scenario?

Worst, why would they penalize those who play fair and attribute the content to the original author. Consider you give permission to someone to post a few of your blog posts, you want the content on your site to be the one on searchs, but this shouldn't get their other authored content on other pages penalized. Talk about a mad panda.
Friday, October 28, 2011 7:24:11 AM UTC
@eglasius: I feel that the value of the consumer of the content should be highest. Is it going to be in the readers interest to simply repost original content in another place? Maybe, but only if that place makes it easier to find and/or easier to read.

In most cases writing a small summary or only reposting the start of the article and then linking to the original would be considered much more useful as you now have access to the original source, you can join the original discussion about the topic and you may get more content from that source if it's interesting to you as a user.
Friday, October 28, 2011 7:32:35 AM UTC
Scott - This is really cool then. I will implement this right away.
Friday, October 28, 2011 8:45:14 AM UTC
Hey Scott,
Do you know if this will work with gplus.to? I missed the boat getting a vanity url for my gplus profile page. Its no biggie i could just use the profile id but definately feels better to use a vanity url.
any oideas?
Cheers
Dave
Friday, October 28, 2011 9:31:49 AM UTC
I'm getting so tired of Google.

This once-amazing tool is now turning into a patchwork quilt of hacks and tricks. In my opinion they've lost direction, switched to headless-chicken-mode, and are expecting the content publishers themselves to do too much of their work for them. They should shut down half of the freebee side projects they run (which are hurting small outfits, and half of which don't even work properly any more) and concentrate on getting back on top with a proper search strategy. What we have now feels too much like some Heath-Robinson contraption held together with duct-tape.

We have absolutely zero transparency regarding how they come to their decisions, and considering that they are now the de-facto judge, jury, and executioner of websites, that is pretty scary. Especially as they are often bringing in sweeping reactionary changes that are randomly injuring legitimate enterprises (Panda anyone), while seemingly endorsing content of questionable worth (not to mention their own investments - e.g. YouTube).

Bing: please get your shit together...
Sosh
Friday, October 28, 2011 4:18:57 PM UTC
Microformats, *sigh*.

RDFa is such a better solution from a technical perspective, imho.
Friday, October 28, 2011 4:51:44 PM UTC
Interesting, I'll have to take a look at some of the features search engine providers are offering with regards to microformats and conventions like this, is Bing do anything special with this information?

Also, your first example of an tag has two title attributes :-P
Friday, October 28, 2011 4:57:17 PM UTC
Phil - I don't see how this microformat or ones like it are that different from RDFa, other than the former is more accessible to the populace and easier to implement correctly. RDFa was created in an XHTML world, and is confusing, IMHO. But it's a microformat itself. What are you seeing that's bad about this vs. RDFa?

Sosh - Yep.
Friday, October 28, 2011 8:56:03 PM UTC
Scott - Great article. I've updated the footer on my blog, at SmugMug and linked back from my Google Profile. Thanks for the great instructions as always!

One issue I saw is that in your rel="author" example link above you have specified the title attribute twice; once at the start and then again at the end.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 8:49:55 AM UTC
Don't you still need to fill in this form?

https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHdCLVRwcTlvOWFKQXhNbEgtbE10QVE6MQ&ndplr=1
Sunday, October 30, 2011 4:27:20 PM UTC
cool
Billy
Sunday, October 30, 2011 6:57:48 PM UTC
Hi Scott, Interesting post... I wonder what inspired it! :p
JohnP
Monday, October 31, 2011 9:36:47 AM UTC
Ooook!
So I just add?
< a href="http://[some spam site]" rel="me" title="Scott Hanselman">Scott Hanselman</ a>

*starts filling the net with Scott Hanselman content*
hehe

My point is, are we going towards an authoring war where anyone can make pages (briefly?) appear to belong to someone else?
NNM
Monday, October 31, 2011 11:43:30 AM UTC
Helpful post Scott.

Fyi… The 2011 default WordPress theme (TwentyEleven) has this baked-in from the start.
Monday, October 31, 2011 11:30:58 PM UTC
Scott,

Thanks for the "soon to be relevant for me" information, and, also, for one of the biggest laughs I have had in a while.

When you have a recent blog post "I am a phony, are you?", having your picture appear when searching Google for the word "phony" is your own %#@& fault... ;P

Cheers
Brian Schnackel
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 10:42:50 PM UTC
Great and helpful post! I just got done implementing this on my site and Google+ page!
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 1:14:47 PM UTC
@NNM It requires a link *back* from the Google profile too (this is explained in the post) :-)
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 7:52:29 PM UTC
Thanks. I have been trying to implement this action for several weeks now. For some reason the rel="author" action is not staying in the tag once I save changes...
Wednesday, November 02, 2011 8:20:21 PM UTC
Finally a reason for me to use my Google Plus?
Sunday, November 06, 2011 6:00:59 PM UTC
Is it me or ... ? Seems to be turned off by Google.
Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:12:16 AM UTC
Hi dude. Im done about markup my profile plus 1 this. Anyway wanna to ask, what atribute good for comment in link? rel="comment" ? because i dont want to use rel="nofollow". Thanks for reply. i will back.
Thursday, November 17, 2011 7:15:28 PM UTC
hmmm how long does this take then? i did it in october and its still not showing in search results for my posts? :-(
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 12:46:00 PM UTC
Ditto on what Sosh said.

That is all.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 2:37:50 PM UTC
Scott, is it possible to include an entire website in Google+ profile, so that we don't have to add URLs one by one to the "Contributor To" section?
Monday, April 16, 2012 1:01:33 PM UTC
Hi, my blog already get this Rich Snippet for author information. I'm follow the tutor from Google. It's work so fast.

Regards,
Lelaki Kacak
Friday, July 06, 2012 2:48:22 PM UTC
my gravatar appear after the set up, but after a week it gone nowhere.. why? because I'm not using a real face?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:38:59 AM UTC
Scott,
It seems Google now has a specialized way to verify authorship:

https://plus.google.com/authorship

Reminded me of your post once I saw the link. I already used your tips to show authorship of my http://gurustop.net blog posts long time ago. Thanks BTW!
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.