Monday, October 24th, 2011

Why Having a Strong Google Profile Will Soon be Critical


A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on why I felt so strongly the rel=”author” attribute would play a large role in the future of search rankings. In order to answer his question I felt I needed to take this a step further and explain how rel=”author” appears to fit into a much grander plan Google is implementing around personal profiles. Please note, what I have shared with you below is merely my opinion based on experience, analysis, and  discussions with some of my fine colleagues in the SEO community; not the least of whom is John Carcutt (my co-host on SEO 101 Radio).

First consider what we know:

  1. Google is taking into account the personal blocking data (the block site option in results) from users that have a long and trusted profile; confirmed by Matt Cutts in his September 21st Q&A (the first answer on the linked page).
  2. Right now, if you have a highly trusted profile and you have authorship markup (rel=author) on your articles/copy you will get representation in Google search results – by having your photo show up next to the article.
  3. In order for this markup to work you need to have a Google Profile and it must be correctly associated with the sites you write on and your author page on the site has to connect back (a few hoops are necessary) to your Google Profile to finalize the association.
  4. Google is integrating Plus into most (if not all) of their products – this was confirmed by Vic Gundrota on a recent Web Summit 2.0 interview with him and Sergey Brin.
  5. In order to be on Google Plus you have to have a Google Profile.
  6. Your Google Profile prompts you to connect all of your social profiles so Google knows your social fingerprint and can highlight content in search results that your friends have socially shared/liked.
  7. Links are an important part of Google’s algorithms but they are heavily gamed and likely cause the majority of spam found in Google’s results.
  8. If Google sees that others like your content then it has a better chance of appearing at the top of relevant searches.

Next, let’s connect a few dots and make some educated assumptions:

  1. If your content is shared extensively on social networks, especially Plus, and you have rel=”author” (AKA authorship markup), Google will credit your profile with more trust.
  2. If someone links to your article or otherwise shares it, Google can see the authorship markup and will consider crediting your Google Profile – depending on the quality of person linking/sharing the article.
  3. Links are a trust indicator and Google Profiles will be a trust indicator with a tougher signal to fake.
  4. By creating content regularly that is highly shared and signed with your rel=”author” you will build greater trust for your Google Profile.
  5. The more trust & credibility you have with Google, the better chance your content will have of appearing in the top search results.

My Conclusion
Build your Google Profile because there are many reasons to believe it will assist the ranking success of content you write and socially share. In order to build your profile you will want to give Google every reason to believe you are trustworthy and rel=”author” is one of the tools they have given you to do that. The sooner you get started, the longer your positive  Google Profile history will be and the more trust you can gain before your competitors wisen up.

A visual layout of why Google Profiles matter

Click on the above image for a much larger version.

Important Reminder: although many of these signals are already being noted by Google few of them have been integrated as of yet – at least officially. This article is based on educated speculation.

Questions? Post them in the comments or on the SEO 101 Facebook Page and I will address as many as possible on the next show which airs live at WebmasterRadio.FM on Halloween at 2pm PST / 5pm EST.

34 Responses to “Why Having a Strong Google Profile Will Soon be Critical”

  1. Peter Zmijewski

    Hey,Really Great Post,
    I am looking forward for more post like these!!!!!
    Thanks for Sharing!!!!!

  2. Ross Dunn

    Thank you Peter :-)

  3. Gil Namur

    Hi Ross,

    Great post and timely. I wonder however how a multi-author site deals with this efficiently. The genesis framework that we use has not yet implemented rel=author as part of their SEO framework but will soon. Then there is the whole thing around guest posts. Aya papaya! I can tell this is gonna bake my noodle … even more!


  4. Ross Dunn

    LOL, you are right Gil, it will definitely be yet another marketing element to consider but surely it will be a boon to great sites like As for StudioPress, is this kind of alteration to the code not possible by a user? We did the changes on our site fairly easily – well our programmer did – and it is nice to have that flexibility :-)

  5. Martin Syrovatka

    Great post. I also think athorship markup and google profiles will play an important role in seo in the future.

  6. Peter Westlund

    Thanks for a great summon up! Author info in search results will be better user experience for sure, and authors needs to get aware of this.

    Peter Westlund (@bastlund)

  7. Ross Dunn

    Thank you Peter, I am glad you found this backed up your instincts. I hope to see you comment again. Cheers, Ross

  8. Ross Dunn

    Thank you kindly Martin. It was fun to write and finally put down my thoughts in a cohesive form. Oddly I look at it now and still find things I missed or could have written better. Ah well :-)

  9. Kristine S

    Sadly the real reason behind all this is because Google just became a Trusted Credentialed Identity Provider of the National Strategy for Trusted Identites in Cyberspace program (The NSTIC). Essentially an online digital ID system. They need you to create strong profiles “voluntarily” Do with that information what you will, but the Whitehouse posted it ib their blog Oct 15th. Google, PayPal and equifax are the first 3 Facebook will be along too, no worries.

  10. Melanie White

    It always surprises me how Google can come up with so many new things so fast. Its hard for the average person running a business to keep up with all of the new developments. And of course if Google starts something the other search engines are probably going to follow close behind with their own versions of this.

  11. Ross Dunn

    Thanks for the comment Kristine, I would be interested to see that post! Either way, that is certainly not the reason Google Profiles are being pushed the way they are – after all if it wasn’t in their interest Google could just leave Google Profiles a barren place for people’s true names instead of building them out to the powerhouses they are turning out to be. That said I agree what you said is a valid point – that is very likely a part of why these profiles were originally setup.

  12. Ross Dunn

    Hi Melanie, thanks for commenting and you are so right! The fantastic growth of the Internet and the emergence of these fascinating social and connective technologies is overwhelming but they sure keep life interesting! They also handsomely reward those who stay on the cutting edge; either the business owners themselves or through a qualified company who has their backs. I hope to see more comments from you! Cheers, Ross

  13. jason

    I certainly agree with all the points that you make.
    However, how does this help those who do not blog- not everyone has the time or ability to blog.

    For the everyday mom n pop online ecommerce store what can they do?

  14. Aron

    Agree, and I think that building up a strong Google+ Business profile will be more important. Business profiles will be available soon (few more weeks as I heard) and by strong profile I mean you share content that people +1, share and comment on continuously. Consistency will be key here.

  15. Gil Namur

    Hi Ross,

    Thanks for your kind words about LAAH! Yes, we could probably do it ourselves but it also is then an issue of having all the authors get a Google profile. Many of them don’t even have an FB or Twitter profile. I do have some thoughts on how to do this which I will share with you when we have lunch ;-)

    As well, Genesis has SEO options for authors built right into the WP User profile area making it much easier. I think they are close to roll out on this. I will let you know when they do.


  16. Ross Dunn

    The business profiles are going to be very interesting to see indeed! I am looking forward to seeing how they will offer value to Google +.

  17. Ross Dunn

    Great question Jason! There is no doubt certain businesses will not find Google+ a fit. That said, an e-commerce site often has many opportunities for writing great content and it is this kind of content which can make you stand out from the competition; by showing you are more than just a storefront but an avid expert in your field. What it may come down to is… will your competition jump on the bandwagon and benefit from it? And if they do, can you afford not to follow suit?

    As for the ability to blog… I know what you mean. You may find yourself in the same place I was when I started – uncertainty I could write and if I could, what I would say. In this case it just takes starting out and trying. If, however, you know you have zero interest in writing there are a lot of great copywriters who can work with you to create content on a regular basis – you feed them the idea and they write it for an affordable price. If you want to know more about copywriting just drop me a note:

  18. jason


    Thanks for your offer of getting in touch.
    I understand why businesses may feel the need to blog. Becoming a market leader in your niche is the one way to stand out from your competitors- and by showing that you have a total understanding of your market and imparting your expert knowledge to your community will stand you out from your competitors.
    Time as well as ability is a factor for online small businesses- generally an ecommerce store that is selling jewelry for example are answering the phone, packing up new orders, sending new orders, dealing with irate customers etc… Yes they could hire a copywriter, but possibly the cost could outweigh the value.
    Does a potential customer who is looking for medium priced wedding band want to read a ‘bible’ about the history of wedding bands or something similar. Yes you could go with a ‘celebrity’ angle but all the client wants is “How much is it” “When type of gold or silver is it”” Does it come in a nice new box” etc..

    Will ecommerce stores suffer if they don’t embrace Google Profile??? We all know that above all other types of businesses Google loves ecommerce, rather than affiliates! Surely if you’re landing page is relevant enough and you have the right amount or should i say quality of links flowing in to your page then Google will rank you?

    But i do get what you’re saying about if your competitors are doing it and it works for them then all businesses no matter what their size, ability etc.. will have to start doing it.

  19. Dana Lookadoo

    Love the infographic, Ross! I’m eliciting a sigh, because it’s so hard to keep up with Google+ plus all the other networks. The Google Cookie Monster is eating up time and pluses. BUT, we have to go where the cookie jar is, so…

    [ ] Reminder to self, get that rel=”author” setup.

  20. Vinny O'Hare

    I can totally see Google trying to get away from the backlink game and make it more accountable in Google+ profiles. It makes total sense.

  21. Doc Sheldon

    Great piece, Ross, and I agree completely. When G+ Beta first launched, I began to try to foresee what their goal was (beyond access to a lot of data that FB was keeping from them). My conclusion was that this new authority algo to which you allude is going to continue the effort to greatly reduce the value of links. That, of course, will remove a LOT of spam from their plate.
    I wrote about this over a year ago, as well as in a few later posts on my blog, and everything I’m seeing so far leads me to believe it’s still true.

  22. Mike Huber

    I just wonder how many profiles I will need to manage…linkedin…google…twitter…FB…

  23. Ross Dunn

    Heh, I know exactly what you mean. I liken it to the days when businesses with a national reach must have wondered how many newspapers to advertise in. It is all about where you are most likely to get uptake for your particular offering. The one thing that seems for sure, however, is Google Plus cannot be missed due to its future influence on rankings.

  24. Ross Dunn

    Thank you Doc! I enjoyed your article and definitely see how shades of the pending changes to rankings were predicted. The one particular element you said that stood out is precisely what we have all been waiting for… the day when links are no longer a critical player in rankings. After all, Social is already eroding the power of the old style of links like relentless surf grating away a sandy wall. I expect within the next 6 months we will see significant disruptions in rankings for typically spammy phrases as Google begins to test the waters of the Plus algorithm and its recent indexing capabilities of externally available Facebook comments.

  25. Clive McGonigal

    Excellent stuff! I’d already been looking at, and promoting to my clients, the rel=author attribute and reciprocal linking it up with their Google Profile.

    As for my clicking a Google+ button when given the option e.g. on your post :-) I recently found a plugin that ‘reveals’ part of a post when the Google+ icon is clicked (same idea as Facebook pages: ‘Click ‘like’ to see video’ etc.)

    Is that the future: “How am I doing so far?” – click +1 – “OK here’s the rest of what I have to say”.

  26. Ross Dunn

    Hey Clive, that is intriguing. I haven’t seen any plugins that do reveals like that. What is it called if you don’t mind me asking?

  27. Clive at

    Hi again Ross, the plugin is over at the Warrior Forum:

    you can ask visitor to click either a tweet or +1 icon, or offer them the choice – once done your hidden content shows up. I think it’s about $9

    I’ve also found one that does similar with a facebook ‘send’ button ($17):

    I’m using both together for a triple whammy on a site I’m building – here’s an example page:

    Hope you find them useful.


  28. Ross Dunn

    Thank you Clive! I look forward to checking those out when I have a moment. Please feel free to share other such gems whenever you have a moment!

  29. 9seos

    hi Ross,
    thank you very much for Sharing the very help full information about the profiles.

  30. Brent Dunn

    I totally agree Mr. Dunn that online marketers without a Google Plus profile are dropping the ball hard right now!

    Btw great last name it’s one of the best in the world ;)

  31. Dmitriy Frolov

    As always, great and informative article.
    Thanks, Ross!

  32. Sanjay

    great post thanks…like it :)

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