Google Authorship: SEO Secret Sauce or Boring Ketchup?

What authorship looks like for this blog

Authorship in action

My geek friend Chris recently wrote a post about Google Authorship that suggested that the use of Google Authorship tags (e.g. rel=author) gave inconsistent results in the SERPs and was possibly not the SEO secret sauce that it’s all cracked up to be.

This surprised me, because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Authorship, including claims that use of the rel=author tag can speed up the indexing and rankings of a brand new site.

In his experiments, Chris tried searching for a specific phrase using google.com and google.co.nz from an NZ IP and then both from a US IP. He was scanning the SERPs for instances of his own blog post containing the phrase, specifically noting when his rel=author tag would kick in to show his Google Profile next to his post. All searches produced different results, with his authorship profile pic only showing up sporadically, even when his blog post appeared in the top 3 results. This was in contrast to blog posts on his employer’s site, where Authorship hasn’t been implemented, rel=author tags are not used, but posts almost always show up in the SERPs featuring author profile pics.

Chris found that subtle changes to his search query (even the addition of a STOP word like *on*) had a profound impact on whether Authorship would kick in. Clearly, semantic indexing is at play when it comes to whether rel=author has an influence on SERPs. Which means that specific keyword order and word-stemming considerations should be high on the priority list for any on-page SEO undertaken.

In my experience, it seems that the authorship tag is given more prominence in some data centers than others and almost always when searching google.com. My guess is slightly different versions of the algo have rolled out on each data center, some with the *new* (July) Panda and some with the old. Authorship relevance has been tweaked in this last update, I’m sure of it, but I haven’t seen this acknowledged anywhere.

Of course, author trust / author rank is also at play – where the profile of a particular author is given more relevancy weight than others due to how prolific and widely syndicated they are. Posts from authors with more trust rank built up are pushed higher up the SERPs and are more likely to have their profile pics featured.

So have you noticed a change in SERPS relating to use of the rel=author tag since the latest Panda update? Have you observed more or less authorship profiles showing up in generic SERPs on Google.com than before Panda? Please let us know in the comments.

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Q and A: Are WYSIWYG design tools bad for SEO?

QuestionDear Kalena,

As I have no seo background and nowhere else to turn for professional advice, I decided to submit a matter that is troubling me, as you not only have a staff of SEOs but you have the first professional SEO site I have found that invites questions from the general public.

This is my issue: I am wondering if using a modern WYSIWYG website application would be better than trying to hand-code a 20-30 page website?

I ask since there seems to be a consensus that such programs hinder SEO efforts. The reasons cited is that programs like XsitePro 2.5 use tables. Yet, Google says there is no real difference between tables and CSS regarding SEO.

Others claim that apps like WYSIWYG Web Builder 8 are bad for SEO due to their use of span tags. Finally, both the above-cited apps do allow access to the source code for changes and adding scripts, as well as to meta title and keyword tags, etc.

As I have witnessed multiple instances of websites created by such programs occupying spots #1-#5 on Page 1 of Google, would it not be better to use these design tools and devote the time to “more important” SEO matters such as content, keywords, and other on-off site practices?

Any/all information you can provide would be greatly appreciated as it would put this issue to rest for me.

Sincerely,
Guy

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Hi Guy

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using WYSIWYG software or a Content Management System (CMS) to design your web site. Some web design tools are better than others in terms of SEO friendliness and you should do your own research on this before deciding. But most web sites these days are created using some type of software or application, rather than built by hand.

In fact, the free blogging platform WordPress is one of the most popular CMS’s used to build web sites these days – we use it almost exclusively for our own sites and those of our clients. From my observations, Google seems to prefer indexing web sites built using WordPress. Developers working on the WordPress themes have taken great care to make sure the code validates, is as concise as possible and uses logical CSS. WordPress also has the benefit of SEO-related plug-ins, which short cuts the job of hand-optimizing a web site.

So you’re absolutely right – don’t be afraid to use auto-design tools and WYSIWYG software to create your site. Then you can devote more time to the most important features of SEO: content, keywords and link building.

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Need to SEO your site but not sure where to start? Download your Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

 

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Introduction to SEO: Workshops in Auckland, Wellington

google-keyMost of you know that I’ve been running training workshops in conjunction with the Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) here in New Zealand now for over 12 months and really enjoy it.

The next round of workshops coming up are on the subject of: Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation.

These full-day workshops will show you step-by-step how to optimise your or your clients’ web sites to get noticed by Google and other engines. It will be a fun day, with some group activities, games and (if time permits), live analysis of the web sites of willing attendees.

Whether you’re an IT manager, marketer, coder, website coordinator or business owner, getting well placed for your key terms on search engines is hugely valuable and important.

At the end of the course attendees will be able to:

  •     Understand how Google and other search engines rank pages.
  •     Understand what makes a web page search engine compatible.
  •     Understand what type of content search engines love.
  •     Research and select appropriate keywords to target.
  •     Successfully integrate search keywords within web site copy.
  •     Create effective and optimised web pages.
  •     Learn why social media can improve their search rankings.
  •     Monitor their search positions and report meaningful data to stake holders.

Below are the details and booking links for Auckland and Wellington events, so please share with anyone you know who might benefit from attending:

Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation – Auckland
Date: 28 August 2013
Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Venue: University of Otago House

Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation – Wellington
Date: 30 August 2013
Time: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Venue: Terrace Conference Centre

Thanks for your support!

 

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What to Include in a Web Site Audit

What to include in a web site auditThe other day, I found the very first web site audit that I ever performed for a client’s site, way back in 2000. The page load times were hilarious!

But it got me thinking about how things have changed over the years and how sophisticated web site audits need to be these days. From the conversations I’ve had, there is still some confusion over what should be included in a web site audit.

This prompted me to write an article What to Include in a Web Site Audit which has been published over at SiteProNews.  Let me know what you think!

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Keyword Theme Visualization Tool: Bubble My Page

A student sent me this link today: Bubble My Page and I thought it was a fantastic little tool to share with everyone.

Bubble My PageBubble My Page is basically an interactive keyword density / tag visualisation tool. Enter your choice of URL and you’ll see a set of tag bubbles come back. The larger the bubble, the more frequently the keyword / tag is found on the page. Hover over a bubble and see the number of repetitions found on the page.

It’s also a snapshot of how search engines would view the page in terms of keyword density / search query relevance. I can already see some fantastic uses for this tool:

  • Enter new blog post pages into the tool before publishing as a quick check you have the target keyword density right for SEO purposes.
  • Enter the home pages of new SEO prospect sites for a quick on-page SEO analysis to show potential clients.
  • Run every page through the tool during the SEO requirements gathering phase to get an idea of how large a potential SEO project is going to end up.
  • Enter the URLs of potential employers to get a feel for their main products / services.
  • Run product pages through the tool to check how evenly various products are represented on the pages.

There are probably a lot more uses for the tool, but those are just what I came up with in 10 minutes. If you’ve got any more suggestions, please share them in the comments.

Hat tip to Terry for the link :-)

 

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