Why would you want to implement Google Authorship on your ecommerce site?
Maybe because …
- You heard it’s good for SEO.
- You heard that you needed to do it.
- You just really want to see your picture in the search results pages.
Whatever the reason, it is important to understand what authorship is and isn’t, when and where to use it, and how to implement it.
What is Authorship?
Google Authorship, at its core, is the pairing of online content with a real author. This verified identity becomes a key piece of data that is associated with the content. Google may choose to display a snippet with the author’s name, photo, and perhaps more in the search results when things are properly set up.
It is important to note that it is Google’s choice whether this snippet displays or not. Authorship can be properly set up without the snippet displaying. In fact, Google notably reduced the number of author snippets in results back in December.
While the author snippet in the search results is often identified as the sign of authorship, the usefulness of authorship goes much deeper and the benefits are much greater.
The Purpose of Authorship
It is important to understand what the purpose of authorship is. Ultimately, it is a way for Google to continue to improve its search results and keep you coming back to them as the trusted source for search. Authorship helps them in their longstanding battle against spam in their results.
Authorship is also a key piece in the transition to semantic search as it establishes identity, builds trust and authority in users, and makes connections between entities. Authoritative authors will actually do a lot of work for Google by writing valuable content themselves and validating that of others. Those articles that have received votes of confidence will rank higher in the results as they will provide a good experience for the associated search intents.
As search moves more and more from a network of websites to a network of people with interconnected relationships, authorship, trust, and authority will be increasingly important.
Benefits of Authorship
Setting up authorship certainly comes with some advantages. Here are a few:
- Increases click through rate when the author snippet is displayed
- Claims your original content
- Builds up your trust and authority as an author
A Note about Author Rank
It is important to note that I did not mention that authorship directly impacts your rankings. The theoretical concept of Author Rank — that it would be a piece of the Google algorithm that would actually influence an author’s article performance in search results — is not fully (or even at all?) in play at the moment. Arguments abound about its current role, but it seems impact is still limited. That said, most agree that this is where search is headed (which is supported by Google patents) and it is really just a matter of time. This is a very complex endeavor and it appears that Google wants to be sure to get it right.
To be clear: Author rank and Google Authorship — although related — are distinct concepts and should not be considered the same thing.
While there may not be a direct benefit currently, it will likely bring the indirect benefits of increased click through rates, greater engagement, and more social shares, which should ultimately impact your visibility.
When and Where to Use Authorship
Authorship should be tied to something that has been authored. Obvious, I know. But the key is that the content should be something valuable (whether opinion, instructions, research, analysis, or otherwise) and contain some unique insights that they have contributed.
Keeping that in mind, a blog page is a prime example of content that should be tied to an author. On the other hand, a product page does not. It is much more data driven and does not really demonstrate an author’s work or perspective. As such, Google has clearly discouraged you from using authorship on a product page. I recommend listening.
Ecommerce Store Authorship Recommendations
As there is very little information available for how and where to implement Google Authorship on hosted ecommerce platforms such as Volusion or Bigcommerce, I have synthesized things for your ecommerce site.
Here are my general recommendations for where to implement authorship on your store.
Use it here:
- Blog posts
- Articles offering analysis (i.e., analysis of a problem that your product solves)
- Product comparisons that include commentary by an author
- How-to articles written with commentary by an individual
Don’t use it here:
- Product pages
- Category pages
- User manuals
- Home or search pages
- Blog roll-up pages
Key Mistake to Avoid
Given the information I have shared above, it is very important not to add a default author to all of your pages. For ecommerce platforms, such as Volusion (which has a universal template file), it would be tempting to add the author straight into the template. Do not add authorship straight into your template where it will appear on every page.
A Few More Tips
- Use articles written by one author. Multiple authors are not supported at this time.
- Include the author’s full name on each authored page.
- Use a real person as the author.
Ecommerce Authorship Implementation
Ready to implement authorship? There are two key steps: (1) Author link on your site and (2) Google+ Contributor link. Together these serve to validate that you are indeed the author of the content.
Step 1: Setting up the author link to a Google+ profile on your store
We recommend adding either a byline or brief bio into your authorship content in order to point to the author’s profile. Either method will work Regardless of how or where you add it, the key is the rel=”author” attribute in the link.
At the top of your article, add the following code, using your unique URL and name, of course:
<p>written by <a href="https://plus.google.com/+ScottWilliamsC7/" rel="author">Scott Williams</a></p>
Author Bio Method
At the bottom of your article, add something like the following code, using your unique URL and name:
<p>Scott Williams is the Technical Marketing Manager at Convergent7. You can find him on <a href="https://plus.google.com/+ScottWilliamsC7/" rel="author">Google+</a> and on <a href="https://twitter.com/scottdeveloper">Twitter</a>.</p>
Step 2: Setting up the Contributor link from your Google+ profile
You can add the reciprocal link back to your site from your Google+ profile page. Here’s how:
- Login to your Google+ account and go to your profile page
- In the About section, click on the “Edit” link for the Links section
- Under “Contributor to” click on “Add custom link”
- Enter your the URL of your store where the content is published
- Click save
That’s it! Now you can focus on publishing great content.
(Optional) Step 3: Want to Verify your Setup?
As the setup does not automatically trigger the snippet in the search results, you may understandably be concerned about proper implementation. Fortunately, you can verify that you markup is correct. Follow these instructions to validate what we have just done.
- Go to Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool
- Add the URL you want to test (make sure it is a content page with authorship) and click “Preview”
- Review the results. They should look something like the screenshot below.
Other Considerations & Questions
How Does Rel=Publisher Come into Play?
As much of the content on your online store does not fit the bill for authorship, you can look at using rel=publisher as well. While the concepts of authorship and publisher are similar, they are also quite different.
Rel=publisher is similar in that it is a way for a site to connect its content with its Google+ profile page. In a way, it’s authorship for businesses. That said, Google has not done much with this yet. There are no snippets for standard searches.
However, brand searches can produce a nice snippet when connected. Also, given that we are still in the early stages, I would expect that it will play somewhat of a greater role in the future. At the very least, it further establishes the relationship between your site and your G+ profile page.
Recommendation: it is worth the time to implement rel=publisher into your ecommerce template.
What if I would prefer to use our business profile?
You cannot have a business as the author of a post. It needs to be an individual.
I would typically recommend setting up an author to be the face of the company or the spokesperson who would do most of the writing. Of course, you could have multiple authors that all write for the company as well.
If you don’t want to mix your personal and corporate G+ accounts you can either leverage the power of Google Plus Circles to ensure that you share your personal items with just the right people. The other way to accomplish that would be to have 2 separate accounts (work and personal) with the business profile linked for authorship.
Can I have multiple authors for a single post?
No. You cannot currently have multiple authors for a single post. While this may be available in the future, for now make sure you only have one author byline per page.