Ever since Google+ launched, I’ve sensed some dark undertones and ulterior motives at play. Not to say Google is going against their “Don’t be evil” motto, but there were definitely bigger things in the works.
So far, we’ve seen Google Places get migrated under the Google+ Local roof, essentially forcing brick and mortar businesses to sign up for G+ if they wanted to be found in local results. More and more is being tied to Google+ in an effort to not only promote the social network, but provide better experiences based on real companies and real people.
Did you catch the operative word there?
It has become abundantly clear that Google wants to know you are who you say you are; or wants to know who you are, even when you would prefer not to say. Today, I came across an article on Search Engine Watch reporting that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is claiming that content tied to verified profiles will receive higher rankings. According to an excerpt from his upcoming book, “The New Digital Age,” Schmidt states:
“The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”
Clearly, this will raise all sorts of questions about online privacy and the “fairness” of this stance but the message is clear for companies and brands: In order to future proof your website or blog, you need to prove you are who you say you are.
We’ll start with authorship verification since it has been around for over a year now. At its core, Google Authorship highlights authors and verifies the writers of articles by tying those articles to the author’s Google+ profile. This is also how those author headshots you’ve been seeing in search results are generated.
You can see in the search result snippet above how my Google+ profile picture is featured, along with my name which links to my profile page, how many circles I’m in (I know, it needs work), and a “More by” link which links to a full Google search results page for articles written by yours truly.
How to Do It
The basic goal here from Google’s standpoint is to prove that I wrote this article. To do this, I need to set up my Google+ page and associate it with this blog, then I need to tie this blog back to my Google+ page.
It’s actually quite simple. First, to associate my Google+ page with this blog, Google provides a handy “Contributor to” field in the About section of my profile. All I need to do is include the domain of the blog I write for and I’m halfway home (Note: If the blog is hosted on a subdomain, such as this one, make sure you link to that subdomain rather than the root domain or it won’t work).
There are a few ways you can tie your blog back to your Google+ page. The simplest way is to simply link back to your Google+ page by slightly modifying the link. If you look at the bottom of this post in my bio line, you’ll see my name is linked to my Google+ profile. However, I’ve added ?rel=author to the end of that link to show Google that it is an authorship link.
I could have also accomplished this by adding rel=”author” to the link code or even inserted a meta tag to accomplish the same thing.
The ability for publishers to verify their sites sort of flew under the radar for many webmasters, but it essentially accomplishes the same thing as Google Authorship: prove your website is who it says it is by tying it to your website’s Google+ page.
You don’t get the nifty snippet in search results like you do with Authorship, but they look the same to Google on the back end.
How To Do It
If you have a Google+ page for your company, chances are you already did half the work in this process simply by entering your website URL next to “Website” in your About section.
To tie your site back to your company’s Google+ page, similar to before, simply include a link back to your G+ page (through a “Google+” or image link) with rel=”publisher” added to the link code. According to Google, this link can be added only to your “most significant page,” which is most likely your homepage.
How Do I Test These?
Verifying you have these set up correctly is pretty simple. Just go to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, plug in your URL and click “Preview” (Note: If you aren’t verified, Google gives you the option to verify authorship via email from this tool). If you are verifying authorship markup, you will see verification similar to what is shown below:
As a publisher, you will see:
Lastly, verified publisher Google+ pages feature a small checkmark beside the website beneath the profile picture and within the About section:
Tying It All Together
Lastly, there are ways you can interconnect all of your Google properties, and doing so only further hammers home the message to Google that you have a single, unified web presence.
If you don’t have Google Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics already, I highly recommend you install those. They’re free and give you invaluable data. Google Analytics is installed with a simple tag in the <head> of your website, and Google Webmaster Tools can be verified via that same tag (it can also be verified by uploading an HTML file to your server or with a meta tag).
Once Webmaster Tools is verified, you can associate it with a Google Analytics account by finding your site on your main dashboard, and to the right of the listing you’ll see a “Manage site” drop-down. Click it and select “Google Analytics property.” If your email is an administrator in both Google Webmaster Tools and your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a list of Analytics profiles you can associate your site with.
Lastly, you can associate your Webmaster Tools account with your Google+ page. To do so, once again make sure your email is an administrator for both accounts. Go into your Webmaster Tools account, select your website, and click “Configuration” from the side-menu. Then go into “Associates.” You should see your Google+ profile listed beneath “Accounts” if you’ve made all of the other connections listed.
In short, brands have little choice in the matter; they must set up Google+ pages and establish themselves in the eyes of the almighty G that they are real, they are relevant, and they love Google products! Surely, this will have some backlash from personal blogs and smaller sites who wish to keep some privacy and anonymity, but there’s no logical reason why brands should fight this.
Get verified or get buried!