Author Highlighting in Search with WordPress

Amidst all the news about Google+ and Google social interaction tracking (and yes I will work on & post about that too), Google released some other news today. They said they’re going to be highlighting authors in the search results.  I think this is an awesome feature. It means that you’ll see a picture / avatar of the author appear next to a search result, another way to highlight your search results and increase your Click Through Rate if you’ve build up credibility.

Update June 13th 2012: I added functionality to make these author highlights a lot simpler into my WordPress SEO plugin. Just the following four steps are needed now:

  1. Install the WordPress SEO plugin if you don’t already have it.
  2. Add your Google+ profile URL on your WordPress profile page.
  3. Link to your site from your Google+ profile page.
  4. Make sure your +1′s are public on your Google+ profile.

For instance, if I search for Danny Sullivan’s blog “daggle”, the results now look like this:

A Google Search for Daggle showing Danny Sullivan's Author Highlighting

This potentially has some nice side effects and I’m very curious how this will pan out. If they’re going to show this in normal search results next to blog posts, which they say in their post that they will, more credible authors will get more clicks, independent of whether they rank better. This in turn allows Google to create a sort of “author trust rank”. You see, when they show a picture of you next to your blog and you get more clicks than they’d expect because of that, you obviously have a higher credibility.

If it all works out like that, this might just be the last step some of those web journalists out there need to finally be able to demand the rockstar salaries they deserve!

I want those author highlights too!

To do this, you need to apply the authorship markup Google announced a couple weeks back. This basically means adding rel="author" to a link to the authors page on the same domain. My author link for this post, for instance, looks like this:

<a rel="author" href="http://yoast.com/author/admin/"
  title="Posts by Joost de Valk">Joost de Valk</a>

This code is generated by the WordPress core function the_author_posts_link(). When Google announced the authorship markup, I immediately created a trac ticket and patch for WordPress core to add rel="author" to both that function, and to all the places in both TwentyTen and TwentyEleven where it should appear and where those themes didn’t use that core function.

This patch has already been committed and will make its debut in WordPress 3.2. If you’re not running WordPress 3.2 beta yet but really do want this functionality, you can use the following snippet, just copy paste it into your (child-)theme’s functions.php file:

function yoast_rel_author_filter( $link ) {
	if ( false === strpos( $link, 'rel="author"' ) )
		$link = str_replace ( '<a ', '<a rel="author" ', $link );
	return $link;
}
add_filter('the_author_posts_link','yoast_rel_author_filter',10,1);

This won’t break your theme when you upgrade to 3.2, although by that time it’s safe to remove it.

Note for theme Theme authors

This upgrade makes it even more important then before to have a link to the author’s posts page / profile page underneath each post. Hence, with that, the importance of an authors page rises as well. You should allow authors to write a short bio, show off a picture (their gravatar?), and link to some other places like their Twitter, Facebook and Google Profile.

Luckily, this was made easy back with the release of WordPress 2.9, when user contact fields became filterable.

But that’s not all!

As the help center article states, your posts and articles need to link to your profile page on that same site. Your Google Profile, in turn, needs to link back to that author page. So go and add the link of your author page to your Google+ Profile.

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30 Responses

  1. PeterBy Peter on 30 June, 2011

    Hmm, and what to do with your other recommendation in WP SEO to remove those author pages that now redirect to the homepage ?

    Now its better to let those profile pages exist ?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

      Yes. That feature will be removed as well :)

      • PeterBy Peter on 30 June, 2011

        Thanks for confirming that.

      • BartBy Bart on 11 July, 2011

        Please keep that feature for people that don’t want to use the highlighting….

  2. JacquesBy Jacques on 30 June, 2011

    I’ve immediately gone and tried it. Thanks for the useful article Yoast.

    • JacquesBy Jacques on 30 June, 2011

      As a thought, do you need to enable the author archives for this to work? Would having the author rel link linking to a site homepage, which has a rel me to the Google profile work? IE, linking back to the homepage, rather than an author. Which makes more sense for personal portfolio style sites with only one author.

      • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

        Don’t know yet, we’ll have to test that. For now I’ve enabled author archives here.

        • JacquesBy Jacques on 30 June, 2011

          I think I’ll have to test it on a site I don’t need to worry much about.

        • JacquesBy Jacques on 30 June, 2011

          After digging about on Matt Cutts’ site, it looks like the author link can go to a static page, or just a stand WordPress page, rather than an author page.
          Now to implement a decent about page.

  3. John Stuart-ClarkeBy John Stuart-Clarke on 30 June, 2011

    This could have a similar effect to that of citations in the scholarly publishing world, which over time, build reader’s trust in the output of a particular author. It might also make blog authors into celebrities, hey ho :)

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

      Yeah I was thinking that too, as you can see from my article ;-)

  4. RobertBy Robert on 30 June, 2011

    Thanks Joost! Can that function be modified to link to your google profile instead of the author profile? The article indicates the avatar comes into play with reciprocal linking between your google profile and content.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

      Yes but the article also very clearly states that the author page should be on the same domain as the article.

      • RobertBy Robert on 30 June, 2011

        Am I reading something wrong? It says the image only shows if the links are to/from your google profile:

        “In confirming authorship, Google looks for:

        Links from the content page to the author page (if the path of links continues to a Google Profile, we can also show Profile information in search results)
        A path of links back from your Google Profile to your content”

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

          “path of links” is not the same as “link”, in this case, the content page should link to the author page and your author page should be linked TO from your Google profile page. That’s how I read it at least :)

  5. StijnBy Stijn on 30 June, 2011

    Hi Joost. FYI: I just did a quick search for “wordpress seo” but noticed no picture next to your top link. Any idea why?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 30 June, 2011

      Because I only just implemented this :)

  6. ChrisBy Chris on 30 June, 2011

    As a quick note, Google+ is in Testing status and is currently not accepting new members. Therefore, while I was quick to add the rel_author function…now gotta wait for Google to let me into Google+.

    PS: Thanks for the alert on this and the code!

  7. FPSrussiaBy FPSrussia on 30 June, 2011

    Lets say you operate a site where you are the only author, does it make sense to have an author page because of this update?

  8. Mark BrownBy Mark Brown on 1 July, 2011

    I placed my link to the author’s page in the footer of my site. Will that do or does it need to be after every post?

    I really want to get this right and I’m a novice at most of this.

  9. Umar ImtiazBy Umar Imtiaz on 1 July, 2011

    i think google is becoming more and more advanced time by time….and in future we dont know what has other sophisticated applications they will launch

  10. Bill BennettBy Bill Bennett on 2 July, 2011

    You said in passing: “If you’re not running WordPress 3.2 beta yet”.

    Are we at the point where that’s wise yet?

  11. Rob ElliottBy Rob Elliott on 3 July, 2011

    Google said this years all about brands & it look like it’s considering an author as a type of brand, (makes sense). However which is best if I enable my author archives, i will create a mass amount of dupicate content (bad for crawlers). ). However if I substitute my author archive for a single author page this is also bad form a Google perspective as this will not aid the crawler in identifying my articles within the site. any thoughts?

  12. KenBy Ken on 3 July, 2011

    To test you have everything setup correctly, use the the google richsnipplets tool.

    http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

  13. Mike JohnsonBy Mike Johnson on 5 July, 2011

    While this is a great feature for Google Search and for Blog Authors, there is a reality as to why this was implemented. Google can’t clamp down on Duplicate Content if they can’t track Authorship of specific Content. They are hoping and praying everyone jumps on this so they can get rid of more duplicate content, but the other reality is, most Black Hatters and Duplicate Content Users will be claiming content and using these tactics a lot faster than most Blog Authors out there. It is also another way for them to pick and choose what content they like and strike down those they do not. While everyone jumps on the Google bandwagon (because we have to to stay ahead in the Search Rankings), Google continues to gather more and more Personal Data on us and what we do, say, and communicate to others.

  14. PinyoBy Pinyo on 6 July, 2011

    With this new author tag, should we:

    1. NOINDEX, FOLLOW author pages
    2. INDEX the main author page and NOINDEX, FOLLOW all subsequent pages from the same author
    3. INDEX all author pages and let the search engines deal with it?

    I appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 7 July, 2011

      Option 2, index the first author page, you can noindex, follow consecutive pages.

  15. johndBy johnd on 10 July, 2011

    Is it possible to get this working for Google apps accounts yet?
    Or do we need to wait until they eventually decide to release the profiles featre to google apps users?

    If its not possible to use a google apps account is it worth creating a dummy gmail profile and switching later? Or would this screw up listings when google sees I’ve changed author pages?

  16. BrianBy Brian on 24 July, 2011

    Hi guys,
    Just set this up and it was verified on the snippets tool.
    Are author results instant or does it take a bit of time for the picture to show up next to the search results?

  17. MatthiasBy Matthias on 30 July, 2011

    Just upgraded to WP 3.2 but it doesn’t work. No rel=”me” on my author-page and I even can’t integrate the rel-tag in the Biographical Info. It’s always automatically deleted again when I save. So, how can I do it?