How and Why to Make Sure Your Photo Is Included in Google’s Search Results

Quick question for you: If you’re searching Google and come across these listings, which would you choose?

Google Authorship Results

I’d bet you’d choose the one in the middle. That extra photo stands out and conveys credibility, thereby getting the click. In fact, I’ve seen reports of these “authorship” photos increasing click through rates by 30% to 150% or more, yet almost no one is using them. The same thing goes for Google+ Local listings returned in Google’s search results…

More Google Authorship Results

So, how can you make sure your photo is included along with links to your website in Google’s search results and reap the rewards of doing so?

The “secret” is known as the rel=author tag. And I say “secret” not because this technique is hidden from the public, but because so few people are using it. In fact, according to Search Engine Land, only 9% of technology blogs are implementing this tag properly. And that’s technology blogs… Just imagine, how few health and wellness professionals are doing so. But you don’t have to imagine, just do some searches in Google. You’ll be lucky if you see even one listing on the first page of search results that incorporates a similar photo next to the link.

Fortunately, I’ve found a relatively straight-forward way you can use the rel=author tag to get your photo included alongside your listings in Google’s search results that shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to put into action.

Step One: Determine the URL for Your Google+ Profile

Log into Google and either click the +YourName link at the top-left or click the down-arrow next to your photo and the click the “View profile” button.

How to Login to Google+

You should now see your Google+ page. To get the URL for your Google+ profile, click the “Profile” link and copy the address in your browser’s address field.

How to Get Your Google+ URL

Paste the URL into any text editing program (such as Notepad, TextEdit, or the like) and remove “u/0/” and “/posts”. What’s left is the Google+ profile URL we’ll need in the steps below.

How to Get Your Google+ Profile URL

So, in my case:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/109295323904082542160/posts

becomes

https://plus.google.com/109295323904082542160

This second URL is the URL to my Google+ profile. Save your Google+ profile URL, as you’ll be using it in the next step.

Step Two: Add the Rel=Author Tag to Your Website

Now it’s time to add the rel=author tag to your website.

The steps in this section require a basic understanding of HTML (the programming language that makes up much of the Web). If any of the following seems confusing or is beyond your technical abilities, don’t worry. Have your webmaster implement these recommendations. It shouldn’t take them more than 5-10 minutes.

Hopefully, you’ve already added a section to your website that contains links allowing visitors to connect with you using a variety of social media platforms. If not, I highly recommend you do so ASAP!

Social Media Icons

The next steps will depend on the type of software you used to create your website. In this case, I’ve used WordPress (and I highly recommend you do as well – learn why you should use WordPress to power your website).

So, the first thing I’ll do is log into my WordPress site and go to the section where my “Follow Sean Armstrong” social media icons are located. In many WordPress themes – including the one I rely on most often, StudioPress’ Genesis – this is done via a “widget,” which can be found by selecting the “Widgets” link under the “Appearance” tab.

Where are WordPress Widgets?

Next, I’ll click the drop-down arrow next to the “Primary Sidebar” listing on the right. And then, inside the “Primary Sidebar” widget area, I’ll click the drop-down arrow next to “Text: Follow Sean Armstrong” in order to access the code for the social media icons on the right-hand side of my blog’s pages.

Social Media Sidebar Widget

The following code generates the social media icons on the right-hand side of my blog’s pages. You’ll notice I’ve inserted the URL for my Google+ profile and added ?rel=author without spaces before the closing quotation.

Google Authorship Verification Code

If we take a closer look at the code and break it down, the syntax is:

<a href=“[Google+URL]?rel=author”>The text or image being linked</a>

So, in my case, this code becomes:

<a href=“https://plus.google.com/109295323904082542160?rel=author”><img src=“/wp-content/uploads/google.png”></a>

Once you’ve added your Google+ profile link to your website or blog as per the code above, save it. You’re now finished updating your site.

Step Three: Reverse the Process

Now that we’ve linked our website or blog to our Google+ profile, we need to do the opposite and link our Google+ profile back to our website.

Return to your Google+ account’s “Profile” page, access the “About” section, and select “Edit profile”.

Editing Your Google+ Profile

Now, scroll down the page and click the “Contributor to” section.

Google+ Contributor to Section

Google will display the following window, allowing you to add or edit links to sites that you contribute to. If you have yet to list your website or blog, select “Add custom link” …

Google+ Add Custom Contributor Links

Whether you choose to add a new link or edit a pre-existing one, you’re now able to add your website’s title (I also recommend adding some descriptive text, unless the title of your site is descriptive enough) as well as input your site’s URL. Go ahead and do so, and click “Save” once you’re done.

Adding Custom Links in Google+

We’re almost there! However, before we’re finished, let’s make sure everything worked…

Go to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, type the URL for your website or blog into the field provided, and click the “Preview” button.

Google's Rich Snippets Structured Data Testing Tool

Google will provide a preview of how your site’s listing will appear in their search results. If your Google+ profile photo is there, you’re all set!

Google Rich Snippets Preview

Scroll down this same page and find the section labeled “Author”. If you see the green “Verified” icon then you’re done!

Google Rich Snippets Authorship Verification

That’s it… Congratulations! Now we wait while Google re-indexes our website…

Please bear in mind, it may take Google a week or two to re-index your site and there is no guarantee that Google will include your photo in its search results just because you’ve completed this process.

That having been said, you either need to go through this process or have a verified e-mail address on the same URL as your site to even have a chance of getting your photo listed alongside your blog or website in Google’s search results. And doing so is definitely worth it!

Lastly, this method works great if you’re the only, or at least the primary, contributor to your website or blog. However, if your only professional website is for a group practice, or if numerous people routinely contribute to your blog, you’ll need to find a different, multi-author solution. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of WordPress plugins available that can do the trick.

I hope this information is helpful and would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and results via the comments below. And, don’t forget to use the buttons below or to the left to share this post with anyone else who may find it useful!

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