Why aren’t brands jumping all over Authorship Markup?2013-03-21
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:
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:
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):
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:
Incidentally, RavenTools has produced a useful ultimate list of relauthor resources. It’s a good resource for learning more.