For authors who write blogs, articles or just have plain old websites, understanding these tags and their association to a Google Plus profile can be confusing to say the least. In my attempt toward comprehension, it seemed every lesson had slightly different variations on the same theme, sort of like the Gospel’s account of Christ’s life but on a smaller scale. Even watching top brass, Matt Cutts and Othar Hansson, explain in a 10-minute low budget whiteboard video presentation–there seems to be something… uh, lacking. Hey Othar, I need a telescope and a degree in handwriting to read your scribbles. (And I thought my videos were lame.)
For sites and blogs with single authors, it’s extremely important to jump through the rel=author hoop for verifying webpages to your Google Plus profile page. The tag, rel=author, defines authorship. Okay, so what’s in it for me, you might ask? Answer: your photo may get listed next to the search results of your page, may being the operative word. Aha, that’s what this is all about: getting your smiling mug on page one so surfers will click your link!
This tag can feel elusive especially since Google seems to continually tweak their instructions on how to make it, but it simply means that anyone who is a contributor to a website or blog and also has a Google Plus profile can follow a few steps to make Google aware of the connection. Since they’re the king of global internet search, as soon as I learned of this feature I raced to all of my sites and added the ?rel=author code (though not correctly the first time).
How do rel=me and rel=author tags get inserted? There are actually a few ways to accomplish the connection and then one main way to check that it’s working. The first thing you’ll need to do is create a Google Plus account with a recognizable face shot as your main profile image. Sorry, no dogs, family reunions or animations for the main profile photo.
On your Google Plus profile page (click your name from the home page), you can Edit to insert information about yourself, upload photos/video, as well as add URL links for websites and other social media profiles. When Editing, notice the section that says Contributor To where you can add the URL for all of your websites and blogs. It’s most common to use the “About me” page of your sites, or you could use the Home page. For newbies, I recommend copying and pasting the URL from another browser tab to confirm the URL is spelled correctly. Once that is done, you need to go to the corresponding “About me” or Home page of your websites/blogs and input your Google Plus profile URL followed by the tag, ?rel=author. For example, my G+ profile URL is https://plus.google.com/117850331447734054313/ so when I add the rel=author tag, my G+ profile link could be any of the following and even a few more variations:
Notice if you click on either of the latter links they direct you to the same G+ page, https://plus.google.com/117850331447734054313/.
These tags can go anywhere on the site that is crawled, even invisibly to visitors like in the <head> section:
Of course, in all of the above examples you’ll need to substitute your profile number and profile name where I have inserted mine.
This rel=author tag can be added to the <head> section, or a sidebar widget (like a G+ badge) or to signature text, or to the footer, pretty much anywhere. My form of overkill was to add some everywhere just to be on the safe side. All that really matters is the “Contributor To” links point from your Google Plus Profile page to your websites, and the rel=author tags from your sites point back to your Google Profile page. That’s how Google sees the connection and verifies that you are both the webmaster and person behind the Google Plus profile.
Next you can check your work to see if the link is being recognized by Google by visiting the Rich Snippets Testing Tool – http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets. Enter the URL address and click the Preview button. If you see your profile photo and a green line that says, “Verified: Authorship markup is verified for this page,” then you’ve got it and it should appear as this image below. If not, you can redo the previous steps or try some other methods.
Now, what about this rel=me business? Fortunately, all 10 of my sites were verified (I’ll explain below) without even adding rel=me, so this tag still feels elusive and delivers some of the more varied explanations by the experts. (However, rel=me has been around for quite some time as an element of XFN, which is a solution for identity consolidation.) From the consensus, rel=me seems most important for people who contribute to websites but are not the sole contributors to the sites, or for active bloggers who post with the rel=me tag that points to their “About me” page which points to Google Profile page. Confused? Perfect, you must be paying attention.
The ?rel=me tag can be used from any article and ultimately points back to the Google Plus Profile even if indirectly. If you post an article on another site and have an “author bio” on that site, your post can contain a rel=author tag that links to your “author bio” page that links with rel=me back to your Google Plus Profile (as in <a rel=”me” href=”https://plus.google.com/117850331447734054313/”>). Hence Google sees the connection has been made. Good for bloggers who write multiple posts pointing to their own “About me” page or writers who moonlight and have an “author bio” page at someone else’s site. Still confused? It’s okay; I was too. Support for this from Google can be found here – http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1229920.
Google has recently added an email version to verify for those of us who still don’t quite get it:
Sign in to your Google profile.
Click Edit profile.
On the right-hand side, click the Contributor to box, and add all the sites you write for.
Next, click the Work box.
Click the New contact info box (the last in the list, and type the email address you use for the sites you write for.
In the list to the left of the email address you just added, click Email.
Click Save, and then click Done editing.
Repeat for every email address you want to add.
On your profile, click Verify next to the email address you just added.
Once you’ve finished and also Verified Authorship Markup with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, fill out this form to complete the procedure – https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHdCLVRwcTlvOWFKQXhNbEgtbE10QVE6MQ&ndplr=1.
In my opinion, this could be a whole lot easier because Google has long perfected the method of verifying that we are webmasters of our sites by simply giving us a unique ID to insert in the site with either meta data or html code and then click the verify button at Webmaster Central. Boom, done, it proves we’re the webmaster. Couldn’t this be how they do our “Contributor To” option? Google could simply generate a long and unique ID number for our Google Plus “Contributor To” page. Then we could simply add that unique ID (or hyperlink to it for invisibility sake) to any article, blog post or website that we contribute to and tah-dah. If our “Contributor To” ID is unique, and since we’re the only ones who can Edit that section for adding the sites that we contribute to… then anywhere we put that ID and also add the site to our “Contributor List” would solve this problem. My solution is similar to what they’re doing, just with a few less steps involved, namely eliminating the need for both rel=author and rel=me. Hopefully this solution would also eliminate a lot of rel=wtf?
What are your thoughts?