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Ryan Smith
by Ryan Smith
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Google Plus Authorship: A Dirigo Client Case Study

06/12/2014
Google Plus Authorship: A Dirigo Client Case Study

"What about Google Plus?"

In response to this question, the new client groaned and moaned about why the world needs any more social networks. Not a new argument since the service debuted, but it was a little early in the game for him to be complaining about social media burnout.

He came to us with a small e-commerce site in the health space, looking for more organic search traffic. The client had already done an amazing job of building out a wide variety of deep, authoritative content around the topic of this product, including both evergreen pages and blog entries, and was sharing regularly on Facebook.

Why, oh why do we need to spend even more effort on a me-too service reminiscent of Facebook's early years?

Here's why:

Google mines Plus activity for a variety of ranking signals, some relative to your personalized search experience, and other signals to assist in measuring the topical authority of a given website, as well as its identity-verified contributors. It's been integrated very tightly with as many Google products as possible, particularly the ones that businesses might use to interact with their target demographic, so Google Plus is definitely not going away anytime soon. Google is in it to win it.

With the kind of thought leadership this client is already displaying through on-page content, our explanation enticed to client to get in gear with Google Plus. First we set up the product expert's Plus page with all the requirements for the Authorship program:

  • a recognizable color headshot
  • a profile name that precisely matches the author's byline name as it appears on the website
  • a Contributor-To link that identifies them as an author on the site

With that in place, we added rel=author tags on all content pages and blog entries, specifying the author's Google Plus profile URL. Then, after cleaning up a duplicate Plus page issue for the brand itself, we slapped a rel=publisher tag on the site's homepage to identify the brand's official Plus page.

Within about a week we had the author's headshot appearing in SERPs. If you aren't aware, this increases the click-through rate (CTR) on a site's SERP entries, which in turn increases the site's average ranking for similar queries in the future. Here's a CTR graph from their Google Analytics Acquisition > SEO > Queries report:

Google SERP CTR after Authorship

Meanwhile, we encouraged the client to start engaging on Google Plus in earnest, to the tune of one post every 2-3 days. The sustained effect on the Googlebot crawl rate has been pretty dramatic thus far:

 

Googlebot Crawl Rate after Authorship and Google Plus activity

The most important improvement, of course, is the resulting growth in organic traffic from Google:

Google Organic Traffic after Authorship

Website owners are free to overlook Google Plus and the Authorship and the Publisher system. Your competitors are also free to leave you in the dust as a result of implementing authorship best practices. It's all a matter of whether you care about maximizing your qualified organic search traffic.

If you don't care, then don't worry yourself with connecting the dots for Authorship. For the rest of us concerned about getting our message in front of more folks, a little algorithmic recognition of our topical authority certainly goes a long way.

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