Last week on a press trip I discovered that many of my fellow travelers were unaware of the recent changes Google has made to its search results, including the addition of rel=author. Not that I am surprised, as usually we are busy traveling and writing rather than staying up-to-date on technical details and SEO changes such as that. But given the requests for further information that I have received since these conversations, I realized that this knowledge should be shared with a wider audience.
First off, as most of us already know Google searches now include Google+ information and connections. While the benefits of having a Facebook profile have long been obvious, most have overlooked the new necessity of having a Google+ profile. Get One.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person to want to give the G-monster more data. But in this case they already have it and setting up a Google+ profile simply certifies that you really are you…And much more, but I’ll get to that shortly.
Secondly, both more importantly and more recently, is the introduction of three new REL= attribute options for links: rel=author, rel=me, and rel=publisher. These expand the old rel=nofollow and if you are familiar with that history then feel free to skip the SEO paragraph below.
SEO Basics And The “rel” Tag
Part of what determines your search ranking is how many sites link in to yours. That is one reason why YouTube and others dominate the search results, due to the multitude of sites link to them. Many web advocates encourage all individuals to add the rel=nofollow attribute on any links to news articles, photo-sharing sites, Wikipedia pages, etc. Why? Because those massive sites essentially have a monopoly over incoming links, which in turns dramatically boosts their SEO power. This process has been described by some as a way for the individual to try and take the web back. Google is building on that now with these new options, as you will discover below.
Just do not use the rel=nofollow when linking to an individual site or blog, as this defeats its purpose.
<a href="http://plus.google.com/" rel="nofollow" />
Continuing on, Google has integrated these new REL attributes into their search algorithms, which makes it all the more important that you begin implementing them.
What Do These Tags Mean And How Do I Use Them?
The REL attribute should be used in links on your personal blog but also on any other sites that you write for. It is fairly easy to implement — the trick is knowing which tag to use and when. But that is why I am here.
If you wrote it, make sure that the rel=author attribute is included in the link back to your bio. That includes both on your personal blog as well as any other sites you may write for.
As Google explained, rel=author is a way to “connect authors with their content on the web” in an effort to “help people find content from great authors in [Google’s] search results”. Put simply, used correctly this command will verify that you are in fact the author and help improve your SEO. It will also make it easy for others to learn more about you and help protect against anyone copying your writing.
Written By: <a href="http://theholidaze.com/founder" rel="author" />Derek</a>
Example of how the rel=author attribute is added into links.
On Your Personal Site… All content pages should include a link to an author/about page on the same server that uses the rel=author markup, as in the example pictured above. With WordPress this can be done in seconds by adding the link into the Biographical Info field of your profile. If your template does not display the author bio then simply use the WP Biographia plugin. You can see an example of it at the bottom of this page.
When Publishing Elsewhere… The same rules apply as above. If you are submitting an article to a travel site, online magazine, or any other web site with multiple authors, make sure to inquire with the editor if you are unsure whether or not rel=author is in use. (And yes, it is in use on theHoliDaze.com.)
This attribute is intended to link one page about a person to another separate page about the same person. Anytime that you are mentioned by name on a web site, for example in an interview, that link should include rel=me. This affirms that 1) yes, it is really you that they are talking about; and 2) yes, you really did have a say in this even though you are not the author.
Whereas the author tag should always link to an about page, the me tag can be used on a variety of links. But for the purpose of this SEO conversation only one is relevant.
On Your Personal Site… IMPORTANT! Your ‘About Me’ page must include one key link using rel=me. But wait, where should the link point? That page is already about me… To Google+
<a href="http://bit.ly/PYWKxk" rel="me" />Derek's G+</a>
This is why I recommended that all travel bloggers set up their Google+ profile, even if they do not actively post there. Once you have done that you can activate Google Authorship, which permanently links your writing to your profile. Not only does that strengthen your credibility as a writer but it also makes it easier for people and sponsors to connect with you and learn more. It also improves your SEO, something we are all concerned with to varying degrees.
As you can see above, I chose to make a bit.ly shortlink to the About page of my G+ profile rather than the post stream, so that anyone following the link will see my information first instead of a possibly inactive stream. Additionally this way I can see how many people are actually following the link. After that all you have to do is place the link on your About page — just don’t forget to include rel=me.
When Publishing Elsewhere… IMPORTANT! Include links to your blog as well as any other sites that you have written for — including guest posts — in your Google+ profile, under the Contributor section. This will complete the circle.
Part of the Google Authorship markup also includes support for rel=publisher attribute. This feature will only function properly when displayed in the home page and nowhere else. For best results insert the HTML below directly into the head.
<link rel="publisher" href="https://plus.google.com/104590968188321671026/about" />
However, please note that it is not just as simple as slipping this code into the header.php or index.php file of your template. PHP files are used by every page on your site and rel=publisher should only appear on the main page. There is a simple fix though, at least for those of you using WordPress: the AuthorSure plugin. All it takes is a couple seconds and you’ll be completely set up.
In closing, I have seen many of my fellow travel bloggers on Google+ already — that’s right, YOU. Check your profile / page, you should see that I have you in my circles already.
The underlying issue is that many of us created our account a year ago when G+ first opened to the public but then very few ever returned. Do not stress over publishing stuff to G+ every week, just ensure that you have at least properly filled out your profile to make the most of all the benefits it offers. And maybe +1 a page occasionally… hint hint 😉