Posted 20th May 2014 | By ExtraMile

Last week I was lucky enough to attend SMX London, an Advanced SEO conference in London, attracting all the very biggest names in the industry.

It was such an insightful few days, with much emphasis being put on the importance of user experience, valuable content and the evolving face of the Google SERP. Instead of bombarding you with my key take aways from the conference, let's look at something simple and actionable that everyone with an interest in SEO or blogging should be implementing, but that is often forgotten: Google+ authorship.

What is Google+ authorship and why is it important?

Authorship is a form of microdata that gives meaning to your web content. In this case, it lets Google know that a blog post or article has been written by a specific person, who may be an expert in their field. Google can infer this by the number of articles that the author has written, the number of blogs they feature in, the Google communities that they frequent, and the number of followers that they have. While Google has specified that authorship will not directly affect your rankings, there is much evidence to show that it will increase the click-through-rate of your content. The mark-up helps your articles to look more inviting and, most importantly, to stand out from the crowd. It also allows you to build up your authority as an online writer.

Microdata enhances user experience

Google+ authorship is just one form of the increasingly important SEO feature of microdata. If your website features products, events, recipes, job postings, music and much more, there is a way of optimising these elements in the code to be more search engine friendly.

As search engines compete to become more user-friendly, we'll be seeing more and more interesting features introduced. Russia's top search engine Yandex is making waves in the realm of interactive snippets: book an optician's appointment or check in for your flight on the search engine page itself!

Let's get back to basics...

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Key steps to setting up your Google + authorship:

1. Create a Google+ account for yourself using your domain name address.
E.g. I would have to make sure that my ExtraMile email is listed as an email address in my account settings. If you already have a Google+ account set up using a personal email address, you can add your professional email to your Google+ account settings, but just make sure you verify it.

2. Add a photo to your Google+ profile
Make sure it's a headshot, not a company logo or group photo, Google's pretty good at recognising these things.

3. Edit your contributor settings
Go to the 'About' page on your Google+ profile (Home>Profile>About) and scroll down to Links. Edit this section and add a custom link. E.g: Label: ExtraMile Communications Ltd, URL: http://www.extramilecommunications.com

4. Add your Google+ profile link to your CMS
You may need to add a plug-in to your website to enable Google+ authorship. For Joomla!, we tend to use 'SD Google Authorship'. Then add yourself as a contact, via the 'Contacts' component. Sync your contact profile with your user profile in 'Publishing Options'. Then add your Google+ profile URL (should look something like this: https://plus.google.com/u/0/11467974631902) as your 'Website' in 'Contact Details'.

5. Finally, test it!
Enter one of your recent or historic blog posts into the Google Structured Data Testing Tool, and if you've followed all the steps correctly, hey presto! Your face will be appearing on Google rankings in no time at all!

Tips:
• Choose a photo where your head is facing/tilting towards the right. You'll get a higher click-through-rate!
• Get your metadata right: there's no point in setting up your authorship then providing a dull description of your blog post.
• Make an effort to spruce up your Google+ profile. We know Google+ is a social networking desert compared to Facebook and Twitter, but adding friends and colleagues will make your authorship listing look much more authoritative.

Written by Annabel Ross, SEO Specialist at ExtraMile Communications.

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people's creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member's take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.

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