With Google’s recent algorithm update the general consensus is WTF do I do with my SEO now?! Or at least that is the result for those putting too much stock in keyword targeted marketing strategies. These are strategies focused on SEO for search engines and not SEO focused on users and the way they interact with content.
Let me slow down for a second. If you haven’t heard, Google has released an update, on or about September 27th, that impacted approximately 0.6% of all English queries according to Matt Cutts in a set of tweets.
Exact Match Domains and The Algo
The EMD update was unrelated to Panda or Penguin and was meant to reduce (or eliminate) the value given domains for using keywords in the URL. So websites using something like www.BestCreditCardsforBuildingCredit.com* (4-5 keywords) or www.InsuranceRateComparisons.com (3 Keywords) would notice some level of negative change. In the case of one of my clients it looked a little something like this:
That being the case, what is an SEO to do? Continue the course, with a few refinements. As I mentioned in a comment on a blog post on SEOMoz, SEOs that work with the systems (Google, Bing and Yahoo) and build with quality in mind, may be hit by these updates and releases, but won’t be completely blown away because they will have a diverse marketing strategy that has more to it than just keyword prowess.
Authorship is not new to the SEO and marketing toolbox. Authorship has just taken a new step into being directly used to provide authority for content. In the past, services such as Ask.com, Google Knol, and Yahoo! Directory, provided authority for content creators in the form of links. Google Authorship comes in the form of either verifying an email address on a given domain or by completing some form of their authorship verification mark up. To learn more about verifying an email on a specific domain visit: https://plus.google.com/authorship
For me and a few other SEOs, it makes the most sense to use the snippet markup to accomplish authorship as Google makes it a step in verifying URLs in Google+.
If you haven’t set up a Google+ profile, that would be step one. Followed by creating a Google+ Page for the domain you are building authorship for. Once you have these set up, you will need to make sure you establish some link between the profile and +Page by linking it to your website. Just putting the website in the designated block won’t do it. You will have to add the appropriate markup to the homepage of the website.
Now here is where some people differ in approach. Although Google offers this when looking to verify, I often get errors:
You then need to verify this connection by added this link to your homepage –
<a href=”https://plus.google.com/[yourpageID]” rel=”publisher”>Find us on Google+</a>
In most cases, I use the link in the header instead without issue or problem:
<link href=”https://plus.google.com/[yourpageID]” rel=”publisher”/>
Doing it this way allows me to use the author link on posts without confusing the Google.
There is also a third method. You may receive the option to verify the link using Google Webmaster Tools if you have the website you are working on linking listed. Clicking the verify website link will display a message saying you can send a request to the webmaster. This will send a notification to the owner (not a user) of the webmaster account that a link association is being requested. Once the association is approved, the website will be verified for the page and display a check mark next to the URL.
The benefit to preforming the task of establishing a link this way ensures that your website has a presence on Google+ which has been shown to have an effect, however so slight, on the way your site appears in the SERPs. (Test your snippet markup by visiting the Rich Snippet Testing Tool)
So you’re all done right?! Nope, that’s just the ground work. As you can see in the code, that is a publisher link not an author link. To ensure your link is set properly and that your search results contain the right image, you have to create an author page on your website that offers some information about the given author or authors of your posts. On the authors bio page, there should be an on page link to the author’s Google+ profile page. This establishes the link between the author, the website and Google.
We experimented with using logos and animals as the author image on the Google+ profile and on the website; the result of this test was that the full snippet did not show in the SERPs. It is my recommendation that the author’s image be an actual photograph of a human being – preferably the author, and further match that of the Google+ profile avatar.
If you’ve set up authorship in the past or even as recently as last week properly you may have seen this email from Google+ (obviously it wouldn’t have my pretty face in it):
Even more awesome is that when you click the link in the email ‘Click here for a list of your pages’ you are whisked away to a results page displaying the pages that have been properly identified as ‘rich snippet ready.’
Some clients prefer to have their beautiful mugs all over every page of a website, which is fine too. In that case, we use their image as the avatar on the Google+ Page (publisher) as well as on their Google+ profile (author). In the long run it is all about the user. It may be cumbersome, problematic, and time consuming to go through this process but it offers a great user experience when visiting the search giant and has shown to improve click through rates. As with any marketing avenue, if you aren’t doing it you can be sure at least a few of your competitors are.
Why did I start with the whole discussion of EMDs though? Well, the reason several EMD were severely impacted was due to the lack of authentic authority; no one took clear responsibility for the website in the eye’s of the robots and according to Google. It wasn’t just that, but many of the exact matches relied heavily on their domain to provide keyword value and lacked substance.
That is not to say all EMDs fall into that bucket, but many did. Over time I am sure that the ‘good’ ones will recover or find their place. Those that do not, honestly don’t belong, because that will mean they are not being maintained, don’t have unique/quality content, or have fallen behind the times and don’t engage users.
*For the sake of transparency, I created that website.