Howdy, my fellow SEOers! Today, Search Engine Academy is doing something a little different. We’ve interviewed Mark Traphagen, the Director of Digital Outreach at Virante, an online marketing firm located in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina to find out about Google Authorship.

Google Authorship Expert - Mark Traphagen Mark is one of the moderators of the Google Authorship & Author Rank Google Plus community. He was one of the early adopters of Google Authorship, and has seen the positive impact it has for thought leaders in their respective industries. I approached Mark about doing an interview with Search Engine Academy on Google Authorship, and since he was cool with it, I came up with seven questions about Google Authorship for Mark to answer.

So, without further ado, take it away, Mark!

What did you think when you first read about Google Authorship? What was it initially about Google Authorship that led you to incorporate it?

Soon after I got into blogging (around 2005) I became fascinated with the whole subject of personal influence and branding. As the social web developed, I observed that people would listen to and trust an individual much more quickly than they would a corporate brand. I became convinced that content creation tied to an identifiable individual could provide a powerful competitive advantage. Google Authorship appeared to offer an opportunity to put that plan on steroids, as my name and photo next to search results for my content would continually reinforce my personal brand.

How soon did you see positive results from incorporating Google Authorship for yourself?

I have to admit it was quite a thrill when I first started seeing my author photo in search results in late 2011. Anyone who creates content with the purpose of influencing or attracting others is excited to see his or her creation show up high in Google Search, but seeing your own face right there on the mighty front page of Google is pretty heady stuff. But the real excitement came when we noticed a sharp increase in our organic traffic.

In your opinion, what is the single biggest benefit of incorporating Google Authorship?

The most tangible benefit is the higher click-through rates that Authorship results typically get, but to me the bigger benefit is the powerful reinforcement of your personal brand and authority in a field. People tend to search a lot within a narrow range of topics, and if you are producing authoritative content on those topics, they’re going to start seeing your face a lot in Google. I like to tell the story of the time I was at a major conference a few months ago and a guy grabbed me by the shoulders in a hallway and stated at me like he knew me. “I’ve got it!” he finally exclaimed. “You’re all over my search results!”

Why do you think Google Authorship is being confused with Author Rank, which is not a ranking factor yet, if ever?

Google Authorship and Author Rank are both things that a lot of people have heard about, but we have to remember that most people don’t spend as much time reading about and studying the topic as some of us do. Author Rank is the idea that Google may at some point use the data they can see about how people interact with the content of an author as a ranking factor in search results. It’s based on a series of Google patents from several years ago, along with some occasional hints from Google representative that it’s something they might do “some day; at some point.”

I think people talk more about Author Rank, or even assume that it is in effect, because they wish it were a reality. It’s a very attractive idea, having trusted content creators helping to improve the quality of search results. And I think some people assume that Google is so powerful, anything they talk about they can instantly do. But there are a number of technical hurdles that have to be overcome before Google would allow such a signal to have major effect on its precious search rankings. For example, sentiment is still difficult for machines to judge. A lot of people may be talking about or linking to a particular author, but if most of them are saying something bad about him, that shouldn’t be a positive signal!

Could you explain for our readers the difference between Google Authorship and the “rel=publisher?”

At the simplest level, Google Authorship (identified with the schema markup tag rel=”author”) is for individuals to identify their content across the web with their personal Google+ profile, while a rel=”publisher” link is meant to confirm a verified relationship with a site’s Google+ brand page. Only the Authorship connection is qualified to produce the Authorship rich snippet search result (the author’s photo and name on a result for her content). The rel=”publisher” link allows Google to verify a brand page as “official,” enables the aggregation of +1 numbers from both the web site and brand page, and can qualify a brand to get a rich media “Knowledge Graph” result in the Google Search sidebar.

When should a new website/web writer implement Google Authorship?

Immediately! There is nothing hindering anyone who creates content anywhere on the web from linking it with Google Authorship. Fundamentally, you just link from your content (or site author page) to your Google+ profile (preferably with a rel=”author” tag attached) and link back to the site from the Contributor To section of your G+ profile. The only other qualification is that you must have a clear face photo for your G+ profile image. Newer authors should be aware that it can take some time before your photo starts showing in search, and Google doesn’t guarantee that it will always show. Increased engagement and interactions with your content, particularly on Google+, seems to help make one’s photo show up sooner and more often.

Finally, do you have any thoughts about the future benefits or search engine optimization implications for Google Authorship?

I still firmly believe that Google will eventually find a way to have enough confidence in the signals it gets from Authorship data to use it as a major ranking signal. In the meantime, all those using Authorship now can be building up a history of positive signals so that when Author Rank kicks in, they will be ahead of the pack. In the meantime, there are still very strong benefits from the increased click-through rates as people’s eyes are drawn to a face on the search page, and the opportunity to build and reinforce your personal authority in a topical range.

So there you have it, gentle SEO reader. What are you waiting for? Set up your Google Plus profile, then incorporate Google Authorship and begin reaping the benefits of standing out in the SERPs a little more!

Until next time, keep it between the ditches as always, umkay?

Best to you,