Google launched its authorship program last year, which allows authors to get more enhanced listings in the search results by using the rel=author markup.
This is something we have done for many of the staff and guest writers on this blog, and it's (generally) easy to set up.
Here are five reasons why you should try this on your site...
How to implement rel=author
First of all, you need to set up a Google+ profile page, which will be linked to from your author name in the search results. Make sure you have a clear, recognisable mugshot, as this will be the one that shows next to your results.
There are a few methods, but the simplest way at the moment is to submit your email address to Google. This works if you have an email address on the same domain as your website.
If this isn't the case, then you can link your content to your Google+ profile.
1. Create a link to your Google+ profile from your webpage like this: <a href="[Google + profile URL]?rel=author">Google</a>
On Econsultancy, I have added the rel=author markup to the author information which is shown at the bottom of each blog post.
2. Add a reciprocal link back from your profile to the site(s) you just updated.
To do this, you need to edit the 'Contributor To' section on your G+ profile page.
Then simply click 'add custom link', and then enter the website URL. I've received conflicting advice on this. Some say you should add the main domain URL, others the author page on the blog. I've covered all bases:
3. Once you have done this, you can check this has worked using the rich snippets testing tool. This will show the information Google will extract from the page and preview the search listing:
This should be enough, though I found that, while some of my colleagues had enhanced listings almost immediately, I had to wait a while.
For alternative methods, see this useful post from AJ Kohn.
Why you need rel=author
Google is integrating more social signals
As Google looks to use more information from social media in its search results, this is one possible way to improve your search visibility.
It is already providing enhanced listings for some brands that are using Google+, and though results are unclear so far, it's something that is likely to be more significant in future.
As Kevin Gibbons pointed out in a recent post on Google+ and SEO:
A strong social footprint is likely to make your rankings more defensible and future proof to algorithm updates. So rather than thinking about the next quick fix or latest SEO or link building tactic, make content marketing the centre of your SEO strategy instead!
It makes your results stand out
In this example, my mugshot does make this listing stand out from the other all-text results. In theory, this should improve CTR:
It's easy to do
The steps described above take just a few minutes, and should help to give your search results an edge. At the very least, it's worth a try.
It increases credibility
By showing your mugshot and linking to your G+ profile page, this suggest that Google has verified the site and author, and thereby lends credibility to the search result.
It can benefit your website
Apart from the increased CTR from the enhanced search listings, it can be a strong trust signal for a website. According to Tom Anthony from Distilled:
Google can see that you have a range of authors who all have authoritative inbound links (with authorship it can see how many inbound links different authors on your site are getting) and who are all engaged and respected socially.
For more on the significance of rel=author and possible future developments around Google's authorship program, this post gathers together some expert opinions from SEOs.