How To Establish Yourself As An Author Google Wants To Promote

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This started out as a post titled, ” Your Google Authorship Picture Disappeared… Now What?” and after I started writing it I realized that while the headline was timely with Google’s recent reduction in authorship I wanted to focus on something that would be timeless: How to establish yourself as an author Google wants to promote and one that people love. Which I think will benefit you even more. So, I hope you enjoy.

Google Authorship Picture DisappearedIf your Google authorship photo disappeared from the search results, you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of other people are having the same problem you are right now. Let’s take a closer look at why this may be happening.

Back in October (2013) Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam announced at PubCon in Las Vegas that Google was going to reduce the amount of authorship photos appearing in search results by 10-15 percent.

Here is an excerpt of what Matt said:

“We want to make sure that the people who we show as authors are high quality authors. And so we’re looking at the process of possibly tightening that up. It turns out if we reduce the amount of authorship we are showing by just about 10 or 15 percent, we’re radically able to improve the quality of the authors that we show. Which is another nice signal for those searchers and users who are typing into Google and say, ‘Ah, I see this picture, I see this person is an author. This is something I can trust. This is content that I really want to see.’ So it’s not just going to be about the markup; it’s going to be about the quality of the author.”

In December, Google took action on Matt’s promise. On Dec 11th while trying to solve why one client’s Google authorship photo wasn’t showing up I noticed that there were no authorship photos at all for anyone in the local pack results on Google organic search. Over the next few days/weeks there were a slew of reports of authorship showing up less in search results and reports of people’s authorship photos going MIA (missing in action).

Attack on the Local Pack

The attack on the local pack has been confirmed. Google is still not showing any authorship photos in the local pack area of the search results. Could this possibly allude to things to come? Could Google be making room for publisher mark up which would display an icon/logo of the business in the search results? See comments below for more on this discussion.

So, How much has Authorship been reduced?

Mozcast features is a great tool that tracks how often different search features show up in search results. Below is the history for Authorship showing up in search results for most of Dec.


As you can see there was a reduction in the amount of times Authorship was showing in the SERPs from roughly about 23 percent down to about 20 percent. While many individual authors lost their authorship photo in the search results, Dr. Pete from Moz showed that much of the loss was based on the query (the search term entered in Google). Effectively this is Google saying, “It’s not you, It’s us. We just aren’t ready to commit to showing authorship photos for this particular search query.” While it’s hard to hear those words… what are you going to do?

When it’s not query related… it’s you.

This reduction in authorship has highlighted the importance of establishing one’s authority as an author in their niche. Everyone is asking the question why did some Authors get spared while other authors were shown the way to the guillotine? Well, as you can see in Matt’s announcement, Google wants to make sure that the authors they are showing are “high quality.” Google wants to provide us, its users, with the best experience possible and they are constantly testing different formulas on how to make it the best possible experience. But what do they consider high quality? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

Patterns Emerge

As droves of authors lost their authorship photos one can start to see patterns emerge. Authors with less established authority, history, low quality sites or quality of writing fell quickly while established authors, on trusted websites and or ones writing great content held on firmly to their prized authorship photos.

So, How do you get Google to Like You?

Believe it or not, Google is fairly open with this “magic” formula to not only get Google to want to post your picture on its wall, but to also build a following. The so called “magic” formula isn’t magic at all, it’s a matter of understanding what users want and delivering that to them in your own unique way that keeps their attention and keeps them coming back. Hey look at that. Real marketing. Who knew?

Below are 5 basic principles that every author should know if they’re trying to build their reputation online.

Authorship Ranking Factors 

1 Quality & Depth of Content

Write great content! Easier said than done, right? Writing great content means you have to understand your audience. What questions do they have, what are their problems, what makes them happy or sad, etc. Understanding the demographics and psychographics of your audience can really go a long way to helping you write the type of content that speaks to them.

2 Author Credibility & Quality

Over time, as you become known for writing high quality content Google may see you as an established author on your specific area(s) of expertise (See Google’s patent on “Agent Rank” as it’s pretty detailed on this matter, but a more digestible explanation was written by Bill Slawski) and choose to show you more often when people are searching on that topic. There is a lot of speculation as to whether Google is currently utilizing some form of “Author Rank“, but the simple fact of the matter is that they are already determining which authors to show based on a set of quality factors that they established.

3 Website Credibility & Quality

There are a number of factors that go into a website’s authority and quality when it comes to Google. First, make sure you’re following best practices for your own site. Also, when you get published on other sites think quality over quantity. You should carefully review a site that you’re going to publish content on to make sure that they curate their content carefully and don’t just accept any author with a pulse. The sites you connect yourself with will (if Google implements the theory behind their patent) impact your authority as an author so having a ton of low quality sites won’t do you any good.

4 Search Query

You can be the greatest author in the world and if Google isn’t showing authorship for a certain search query then that’s their prerogative and there’s not anything you can do about it. What you can do, is understand which queries tend to display authorship results and write great content about a topic that will serve your audience. Also, just because your authorship photo doesn’t show up for a search query doesn’t mean that Google won’t count that content towards establishing you as an authoritative author on that topic.

5 Does the Searcher Know the Author? (Basically are you connected on Google+)

This comes into play when the user is logged into Google. If you do a good job at connecting with people on Google+, when they’re logged in and search for content on Google you’re more likely to appear for them because you’re connected. Google feels because of the connection you have with them that the content may be more relevant to you. I tend to agree with them on this topic.

I think you get the idea. It’s extremely important to connect and engage on social networks, but if you’re interested in building your authority as an author than you especially need to be active on Google+. Interact on Google+ with real people in communities, on posts, in comments… any chance you get. Ask and answer questions. Be a resource. Share great content. Promote great content and amazing people. In other words… Give and you shall receive (But give just for the joy of giving… not because you want something in return. My own humble advice.).

Directly from the Horses Mouth… I mean Webmasters Mouth

John Mueller (Sorry John, didn’t mean to refer to you as a horse.), a Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, discusses authorship In this video below and sheds some light on what Google looks at to determine if an author should be shown for a query or not.

Because the above video is rather long I isolated the video above to where John starts talking about authorship. Also, here is what he said as best as I could transcribe it “We use a variety of factors to figure out when we should show that [Referring to Authorship Photo] and one of them is kind of when we can recognize that this author is someone we should show in search in general and another could be whether or not the person searching knows this author so for example if their in their Google+ circles and those kind of things. It’s a variety of things that come together, but if you want to be known as an author of high quality content then all of these things generally try to come together so, you to publish high quality content, you want make sure that your content is published on websites that are known to have high quality content, all of those things kind of naturally come together to let us know that you’re an author of high quality content and also that your users recognize you as someone… an author of high quality content so that it makes sense for us to recommend the content like that.

Note to Self: John mentioned “High Quality Content” 5 times in about a minute of talking. This may be important.

This is Not the End… It’s Just the Beginning.

Google is shaking up the world of authorship and it’s no longer as easy as setting up authorship correctly and then you see your pretty picture in the search results. If you truly want to establish yourself as an author worthy of Google’s admiration it’s important that you create high quality content, that you do this consistently, develop your website’s authority and/or write for websites with high authority and connect/engage with your audience through social networks (especially Google+).

13 thoughts on “How To Establish Yourself As An Author Google Wants To Promote

  1. One last thought… actually a question… and it goes out to Google.

    Goog, (Cuz that’s what I’d call Google if he/she were a person) are you reducing the amount of authorship photos in search results to make way for businesses to get some icon/logo love in the search results via publisher markup? Because that would make sense to me. Especially with you completely removing authorship from the local pack. That tells me that there’s a good chance Google’s making way for publisher markup.

    The structured data testing tool recognizes publisher markup as long as authorship is not on the same page and will show the icon as it would show in search results. A Google Easter egg of sorts. Who knows. Google, do you care to comment? Matt Cutts maybe?

    Any other comments/questions are welcomed.

    1. Let’s call Matt Cutts out on Google+ on his profile! 🙂 Seriously, I’ve heard/seen on the Twittersphere rumors to that effect, that publisher markup might prove to be more “official” representation of a site and that everything you indicated as far as building personal “authorship” remains as the key factors in keeping that ever important photo postage stamp in search.

      I Goog’d (using your short version) “digital marketing consultant portland” and only my page shows up with my “authorship” photo. (That’s odd in of itself, since is just a social media bio/profile page and I simply included a link to it from my Google Plus Profile About section.)

      I then typed a long tail keyword phrase “7 steps to conversion heaven webinar” (unlikely to be searched by anyone, but I just wanted to see if a thumbnail shows) and a Google+ status post for the blog article I wrote, shows my “authorship avatar.” And coincidentally, Kevin, yours shows right above mine. I guess I’m not surprised it does, though, being it’s from Google +.

      Love the Easter egg reveal: so, could one use their photo instead of logo for Google Publisher Markup? 🙂

  2. Getting your authorship image into search results is starting to feel a lot like a popularity contest. That appears to be the point. The best, brightest and accessible authors will have a greater chance of having their image displayed in SERP’s. That one little image might not seem like much, but it influences users to click on the result. Great information!

    1. You’re right on the mark Jason! “The best, brightest and accessible authors will have a greater chance of having their image displayed in SERP’s.” says it well.

  3. Valuable insights! Once again, driving the concept of genuinely writing good stuff for the user, not just the Goog. Build your authorship in a legitimate way! I’ll be keeping an eye out for those local pack logos.

  4. All of this seems like reasonable advice, except . . . I have several colleagues who don’t blog nearly as much as I do, and even when they do, their content isn’t as comprehensive as mine. Yet they have an Authorship photo and I can’t get one. So the theory that relevant, regular, quality content is going to get the coveted Authorship photo over sites that don’t blog or when they do, write trivial posts, just isn’t true in my case. I’ve seen this over and over for my various search terms. Other, less authoritative sites get a photo and yet I don’t, with my extremely high quality content. I’m also active on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Can you explain this?

    1. Hi Arlene, It can be very frustrating when Google says they’re doing one thing and they don’t do that consistently. I did take a quick look at your blog and saw that your posts are very comprehensive and in my humble opinion would definitely warrant Google showing your authorship photo.

      In John’s video he mentions that they are still experimenting with authorship (& this reduction) and that we should expect more changes. Was your authorship photo showing up previously?

      One thing you may do as a test is… it looks like Google’s structured data tool is saying your authorship is set up correctly, but Google has changed the way they recommend setting up authorship (See #2 here Basically instead of using rel=”author” the way you have it they are recommending adding ?rel=author to the end of your url like this a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”. While this shouldn’t be a problem I’ve seen stranger things fix Google’s issues : )

      1. Hi Kevin. Wow! I didn’t expect such a comprehensive answer, and so quickly. Thank you very much, and thanks for the vote of confidence on my content. I will definitely check out the instructions you’ve given. At this point, I’m willing to try anything.

        No, I didn’t have an Authorship photo showing previously. My history is that I converted from an old, very highly ranked, static HTML site to this new WordPress site last September (using the same URL). I didn’t learn about Authorship till early December, and I immediately implemented it, but it seems I may have missed the boat if the cutbacks began on December 11. My colleague, a book designer, did everything the same as me (changed from an old HTML site to a WordPress site, implemented Authorship), but she was just one month earlier than me on everything. She doesn’t blog much, but by the end of November, she had an Authorship photo showing, and it’s still there. This makes me crazy!

        But I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your advice, and I will try this out tomorrow. Thanks again — I’m your newest fan!

        1. Sure. No problem. It could take a couple weeks after the change to know whether it worked or not. Make sure to update me once you get your author photo showing up in search.

  5. Where can I find your detail explanation for new authors to put their profile on Google+, I am ready to put my 6th book on Amazon as an eBook. Titled, “Massive Heart Attack” This is my first attempt at marketing, Thanks!

  6. Thanks Kevin for the info. much appreciated. If any of you are interested in my 6th book, “Massive Heart Attack”. I will be happy to send free of charge a pre-publication copy in the form of PDF. All I ask in return is that you are willing to send me an honest review.

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