January 01, 2013

Obtaining "Authorship" for Improved Search Rankings

As most specialists in search engines know, good and original content is important for search rankings.  However, these two elements are sorely lacking when it comes to medically-related articles.

Medicine by its very nature is complex and full of jargon that is difficult for the lay person to understand. Furthermore, even if jargon-free many medically related articles are too ambiguous and often do not answer questions which people specifically search for. So, when a physician takes the time to create an article that is understandable and yet specific enough to answer questions searchers are looking for (it is "good"), such webpages are rewarded with higher rankings.

Problem is, most physicians lack the time to write such "good" medical articles. However, in an attempt to be present on the internet, physicians purchase content from medical publishers including A.D.A.M. Education. The downside with such purchased articles is that many other physicians probably have purchased the same exact content resulting in thousands if not millions of duplicate articles spread throughout the internet. Such duplicate content is punished by lower search rankings... but elevates publisher status given their "authorship" and links that all go back to their main website.

The concept of authorship has been around for awhile, but when Google announced in June 7, 2011 that they will begin to support markup language for identifying authors to their original content, it is important to take heed. After all, Google is by far the most often used search engine. Though nobody knows the algorithm that Google uses to rank webpages, it is safe to assume that Authorship now plays an important factor.

So, what exactly does authorship mean to search engines like Google?

We know that good and original content is important, but there is no quick and easy way to "prove" a given webpage has both elements. Authorship is an attempt to deliberately identify original content and attribute any and all webpages back to the original author regardless of where it is published. Though this system can certainly be gamed, the extra steps required to prove authorship can certainly help cull the duplicate content that inevitably occurs due to not only the selling of published content but also due to websites that scavenge content.

How to Claim Authorship
There's no way easy way to put this, but it's a pain. If the process is too easy, than it becomes worthless as it can be too easily manipulated.

Essentially what is required is a way for Google to verify and establish trust between it and an author’s published content. To participate in this program, two things are required:
  1. A verified digital identify (ie, Google+ profile) that links to your published content
  2. Your published content needs to reference you as the author and link back to the Google+ profile
There are 3 methods to accomplish these two steps from the most complex to the easiest. Regardless of the method, you need to first create a Google+ profile if you do not already have one. In order to create one,
  1. Browse to https://profiles.google.com/.
  2. Sign in to your Google account (or create one if necessary).
  3. When prompted, upload a clear facial, head shot photo to the profile. No abstract art, no cartoons, etc.
  4. Click Continue until Finish appears, and then click Finish.
  5. Click Continue to Google+, click Profile, and then click Edit Profile.
  6. Click About, click Other Profiles, click Add Custom Link, and then add labels and URLs for each of your other social media account profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc. Click Save when done.
  7. When you are done completing your Google+ profile, be sure to click Done Editing
  8. Copy the 21-digit ID number used in the URL of your Google+ profile. You’ll need it.
Now, depending on how you author your content, you will need to use one (or more) of the following methods to complete the authorship verification process.

3-Link Method
This method is ideal for a website that you have complete control over including permission rights to make source code edits and all webpages share the same domain name. Basic HTML programming knowledge is needed.

1. Create your author webpage if you do not already have one (example).
2. On this author webpage, create a link to your Google+ profile. Make sure you use the anchor text "Google+" without the quotes.
3. In the tag code for the Google+ link, add the anchor tag attribute rel="me". The following is an example of such tag source code (be sure to use your own 21-digit Google+ profile ID number):

a href="https://plus.google.com/111111111111111111111" rel="me"

4. In each content page that you authored that has the SAME domain name as your author biography webpage, edit the existing link to your biography page by adding the anchor tag attribute rel="author". The following is an example:

a href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/authorpageURL" rel="author"

5. In your Google+ profile, click Edit Profile, and then click Other Profiles.
6. Click Add Custom Link, and then add a label and the full URL for the author biography page.
7. Click Save when done, and then click Done Editing.
8. Verify authorship markup language with Google (see Validating section below).

2-Link Method
This method is best when you author content on a website that you do NOT have complete control over. However, author credit is allowed for which you have permission to edit.

1. Within the author credit, create a link to your Google+ profile. Make sure you use the anchor text "Google+" without the quotes.
2. In the tag code for the Google+ link, add the anchor tag attribute rel="author". The following is an example of such tag source code (be sure to use your own 21-digit, Google+ profile ID number):

a href="https://plus.google.com/111111111111111111111?rel="author"

3. In your Google+ profile, click Edit Profile, and then click Contributor To
4. Click Add Custom Link, and then add a label with full URL for the publishing site’s home page.
5. Click Save when done, and then click Done Editing.
6. Verify authorship markup language with Google (see Validating section below).

Email Verification Method
This method is applicable when the author has absolutely no control over the code. However, this method can be used even if permission rights to make code changes is present. The downside is that you expose to the world your email address.

In order for this method to work, however, the content page you author must include an author byline that starts with the word “By ” followed by the exact same author name used in the Google+ profile.
Also, the author name must be linked to an email address that uses the same domain name as the site hosting the content.

1. Browse to https://plus.google.com/authorship
2. In step 4, enter your email address used in your author byline and click Signup For Authorship.
3. Look for a verification email from Google sent to that email address. Once received, click the link within the email to verify you own the email address. Google will then automatically add the verified email address to the Work section of your Google+ profile. It will also add a link to the domain name used in the email address in the profile’s Contributor to section.
4. Verify authorship markup language with Google (see Validating section below).

Validating Authorship with Google
Once you have completed authorship claim by one of the above 3 methods, you now need to check that Google recognizes and verifies your authorship for the content you have produced.

1. Browse to the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool page.
2. Type (or paste) the URL of a webpage you authored and click Preview.
3. Review the results for errors.

If all works well, you will see something that looks like this:

So there you have it... Good luck!

More Info:
Author information in search results. Google 11/7/12

Authorship. Google 11/14/11

Authorship markup and web search. Google 6/7/11
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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