Why aren’t brands jumping all over Authorship Markup?

Posted on March 21, 2013 6:21 pm by | Blogging | Brands | Google+ | Search

During a Google search today, I was struck by how few of the results from brand sites included Authorship Markup—a Google feature based on an HTML 5 feature that indicates the author—in their content.

To be fair, I don’t see much use of Authorship Markup for individual bloggers in search results, either. Those you expect to have implemented the Google search enhancement have done so, like Chris Brogan, as shown here:

Chris Brogan's Authorship Data

While Chris, Geoff Livingston and the others whose rel=author information was included in search results were the exception, it was even rarer to find a brand blog that had taken the steps to include this information in their listings on a search engine results page (SERP). In fact, I perused at least 30 highly regarded corporate blogs and found only one—Southwest Airlines—whose rel=author information appeared in SERPs:

Southwest's Authorship Data

The marketers responsible for these blogs may feel like they have other priorities demanding their attention. I suspect, however, that most simply haven’t heard of Authorship Markup while others have dismissed it as unimportant or just too damn geeky.

Considering that it takes just a few minutes to claim authorship, bloggers and brands should be on this like magnets on a refrigerator. All you need is a Google+ account, an about page containing information about the author, and the ability to follow some simple instructions.

As you can see from the Chris Brogan example, claiming authorship adds a few elements to a search engine result for content you’ve authored. Your Google+ profile picture appears beside the post, as does a link to your Google+ account and a link to more that you’ve written (making it a lot easier for people to find more that you’ve written):

Authorship Markup makes it easy for people to find more of your content

The rationale for individual bloggers to add authorship credentials to their posts is easy to grasp. First, your image alongside your post in search engine results, which makes your item pop off the page compared to other imageless listings. Equally important, it establishes you as the owner of your content. It’ll be harder for ne’er-do-wells to steal your content. Google will recognize that your content is yours, regardless of where it shows up. And Google is working to ensure content from recognized authors ranks higher than other material.

But what about brands?

Some brands’ authors are anonymous. It’s possible to establish the brand as an author if you want to go down that road. (You’d use the rel=publisher rather than rel=author.) It’s better, though, to single out authors by name. It’s easier for customers to relate real people than with logo-themed avatars. Some of the best social activity from brands comes from recognizable people like Scott Monty (Ford), Lionel Menchaca (Dell) and Frank Eliason (Citi).

Multi-author blogs aren’t a problem, either, since Google’s authorship markup scheme accommodates multiple authors. You’ll have to jump through a few extra hoops, but it’ll take only a few extra minutes.

Some brands resist exposing authors’ names, fearful that these individuals will take their followers and authority with them should they leave the company. I’d be more interested in the value the brand can extract from them while they’re here, but there are ways to protect the brand from a departing employee.

You could, for example, establish a dedicated “about” page for each of your authors (the markup requires that you link to an author about page) and use an author name unique to their employment, so the content they produce for the brand while employed stays with the company after they leave.

The advantages of complying with Google’s authorship ownership scheme are considerable for brands, which can apply authorship to blogs, white papers, biographies, reviews, Q&As, podcasts (the show notes, not the audio file). Being associated with subject matter experts and thought leaders can’t hurt a brand, and marketers won’t complain about better positioning in search results.

Establishing authorship is simple enough that every brand with authored content should get on it. There are plenty of resources to help you through the mechanics of Authorship Markup. The one I followed—this post by Rick DeJarnette over on SearchEngineLand —does the best job I’ve seen explaining the process. It worked for me the first time I tried it, based on the validation process I followed:

Shel's Authorship Markup validated by Google

Incidentally, RavenTools has produced a useful ultimate list of relauthor resources. It’s a good resource for learning more.



  • 1.Hi Shel,

    I bet it's because many people are wary of investing time into developing content for Google (much like the time they invested in pruning RSS feeds using Google Reader, they do not want Google to pull the rug out from under their feet after it has harvested and mined all the related personal data / corporate information).

    Also: Isn't this yet another gimmick that will predominantly exploited by spammers and Google/SEO hackers? Is there any verification process? How many authors will show up named Justin Bieber or Bill Gates? How will the Google user be able to pick the person they actually feel is a credible resource? Are there any security measures in place that a brand is truly the one that is responsible for Viagra, Apple Computers, Citibank, etc.?

    In my opinion, this "authorship" scheme is a solution that has already been solved many years ago: It should be a no-brainer to figure out that at holtz.com the person/company listed in the whois record is responsible for all the information published at the website. To me, the "authorship" scheme is simply a waste of time (and other resources which could be put to better use).

  • 2.Interesting, but Authorship is relatively new so it may be too early to assess the shelf-life of this product. It's probably not helpful that the marketplace is sobering up to the fate of any Google product that doesn't get traction or falls off the A List.

    Joel Don | March 2013

  • 3.Joel, I understand your point, but Authorship Markup has been around since 2011. There's no serious commitment to it required; it took me less than 5 minutes to set mine up, and if Google decides to "sunset" it, it's no great loss of time (and certainly not money), but in the meantime, it'll boost my search results and introduce my other work to those who discover me because of my elevated and more visible (due to the thumbnail image) search listing. For me, it's a no-brainer.

    Shel Holtz | March 2013

  • 4.Hi Shel, good piece. Damned if I know why more folks aren't doing this. For those who want a non-geeky step-by-step, here's a guide I put together:


    JD Lasica | March 2013 | Near Shel

  • 5.There is so much to learn about SERPs and most people focus on content. As it is often said, content is king without realizing that authorship to a content is essential, too. It is a simple step that has a substantial impact on the site.

    Dallas SEO Geek | April 2013

  • 6.It's an odd thing that people don't implement authorship when they know about it.

    Maybe they don't believe that it has much of an impact, but I think that the more you comply with Google's best practices the more chance you have of getting more traffic from Google.

    SEO Surrey | June 2013 | Surrey

  • 7.Hey! I came across your post a few months ago and it really got me thinking. It then inspired me to do a little research and write my own, maybe you'd like to check it out http://www.jeffbullas.com/2013/10/01/why-arent-more-bloggers-claiming-ownership-of-their-content/

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Joana Ferreira | October 2013 | United Kingdom

  • 8.It's amazing that people don't put to use authorship when they know about it.

    Maybe they don't believe that it has much of an impact, but I think that the more you comply with Google's best practices the more chance you have of getting more traffic from Google. That has been successful since day one.

    San Diego SEO Geek | April 2015 | United States

  • 9.As long as the content is coming from real sources and not spammy then yes it's great. I personally love the Authorship markup idea.

    Taylor Johnson | October 2016

  • 10.Because some posts are not included with schema code that's why people don't implement authorship

    Dallas SEO Experts DevDigs | September 2017 | Dallas Texas USA

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