Update: as of August 28th, 2014, Google has pulled Authorship from its search results. But fear not, digital marketers- you can still show authority in Google search without authorship, and here's how.
You've seen it yourself- the little headshot to the left of some of your search results (also known as a rich snippet), putting a face to the name of the author whose blog post is showing up in your search results. To the uninitiated eye, this thumbnail-sized picture may just be a decorative element, giving an ordinary search result a little extra pizzazz and maybe enticing a few more clicks on aesthetic appeal alone. This thought process is on the right track, but the truth is, having authorship on Google is about way more than just making search results prettier.
Before you read any more of this post, take a couple of minutes to learn how to add Google authorship to your website if you haven't already. I'll wait.
Now that you're set up for success, here's a rundown of the benefits you're getting with Google authorship:
Increased Click-Through Rates
At DTC, we love being able to see a measurable difference in our work- and adding Google authorship to your website does just that by causing increased click-through rates. One study found that setting up Google authorship increased click-through rates 38%.
Google authorship markup also increases your click-through rates by, simply enough, giving your audience more places to click. Check out the screenshot below:
Everything that's circled in red (besides the links to the blog post) is a link that a viewer can click. Clicking on our fearless leader's headshot and/or his name brings you to a page of search results featuring more blog posts written by George, while clicking on his Google+ circles leads you to his Google+ profile page. More opportunities to click through lead to more click throughs.
Also, heat maps show that people's eyes are drawn to pictures and other rich snippets before anything else, further increasing visibility and click-through rates. People like pictures, and having the author's image in Google search results is a small but powerful way to increase your click-through rates.
Claim Your Content
Many content marketing strategies today rely on content scraping, but with Google authorship for your website, the original author's post is rocketed up to the top of search results over content scrapers. Having a verified Google profile for your authorship decreases the chances of your content being plagiarized or getting spun by other sites without proper attribution.
Increase Authority and Trust
Seeing a headshot and a Google+ profile is a trust signal. For your audience, seeing a headshot next to a blog article reinforces the fact that the content came from a human being who put thought, effort, and time into the post- it's like the opposite of when you see the default "egg" profile picture on a Twitter account and assume it's a spambot. For very specific keywords especially, you'll start to build your authority within your target audience the more you show up in their long-tail keyword searches.
Also, if you have a strong Google+ following, that will add to your perceived expertise and further encourage viewers to click on your particular link. This credibility also crosses over to guest posts and comments, as your Google profile accompanies you when you venture on to other websites to leave sage comments or post informative content.
Now, this is not to say it's as easy as slapping a selfie on your Google profile and expecting your click-through-rates to shoot through the roof. Cyrus Shepard of Moz proved this with "How Optimizing My Ugly Google+ Pic Increased Free Traffic 35%." By somewhat obsessively testing various profile pictures, Shepard found that a professional head shot encouraged more clicks than an amateurish, cheap-looking Photobooth snapshot- his testing showed that people seem to prefer more authoritative pictures.
Also, avoid using your company's logo as your profile picture; doing so can prevent your authorship from showing up as a rich snippet in results; plus, as Ann Smarty concisely puts it in this article, "people are more willing to follow people."
Five minutes and a professional headshot- that's all it takes to increase your "face" value with Google authorship. What are you waiting for?