Have you ever searched Google for any random thing, only to find someone's smiling mug starring back at you, even though you definitely weren't looking at the images search tab?
Something like this maybe?
Pretty neat trick, eh? (Yes, I'm letting my Canadiana shine through!)
Adding an Author image to your links is the next generation of search engine crafting, and if you want your link to be the one that's clicked on, you'll need to read up here.
According to Google's software engineer Othar Hansson, the rel='author' tag (which is a main component to adding your image to your work) may lead to better search engine ranking in the future as Google can verify your credibility and will thus raise your links over sites that do not claim authorship in the same way.
Matt Cutts (head of webspam at Google) suggests that this could be a great way to determine the difference between actual content creators and "scrapers" (i.e. people and bots who scrape content off your site and try to make it their own), with the thought that scrapers would not necessarily work at adding an rel='author' tag to those sites.
But also think on this: if you had to make a choice of reading a text ad versus reading a flashy image ad, where do you think your line of sight would head to first? It would be an easy bet for me to say you would go look at the pretty colourful picture before reading any lines. What did you first see in the example above? The two smiling faces, or the information that they're trying to convey?
This is already happening with Google searches now, and the pretty people are winning. It's no longer what your text says, its now based on whether the person will see your face first, because we're ingrained in thinking that an image will make the persons work more trust-worthy to read.
As a side note, when more and more people utilize this program in Google, what you look like will actually determine if someone is going to read your work, or the work of someone who is prettier. If there were two blog posts created with pretty much the same info (such as a How-To Tie Your Shoelaces,) the would-be model picture will win out. Depending on the topic, the gender displayed on the image may even play a part in where a person decides to click.
But we probably won't have to worry too much about beauty-pageantesque competition in profile pictures for another year or so, 'cause the how of getting your image there is still relatively unknown to the general blogging public.
So what picture does Google use to make you look pretty on their searches?
It's your Google+ profile picture, of course.
So Here's How You Get Your Author Image onto Google Search
There's actually numerous methods to get your picture up on Google. What we basically need to prove to Google is that you're the author of the articles on your site, and that you're the owner of your Google+ profile. Why? Well, since this project is based on Google+ profiles, if we didn't have the two-way proof that you own both your content and your Google+ profile, you could in theory use someone else's Google+ account to promote your site. Say Justin Bieber owns a Google+ profile. I have no doubt that at least one someone would try to have his account essentially promote their blog work if the verification only went one way.
If you use WordPress, then you should definitely have the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin installed anyway, (and if you don't you're going to download it right now, right?) Not only does it help perfect your SEO!Ninja skillz, it also has a quick method for setting up your Author picture for Google search.
- Once the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin is installed, go to SEO > Titles & Metas settings page.
- Follow the instructions on the page. You'll need to select your username from the Author highlighting drop-down menu and then copy and paste your Google+ link into the text box below that (Google Publisher Page).
- The final step is not written very well on the setting page above. Essentially, you should have an "About Me" page on your website; copy that url and place it on your Google+ About page (at //plus.google.com/u/0/yourprofilenumber/about). When you edit your Google+ About profile page, there is a section for Contribution and Links. You should definitely mention that you contribute work to your own site, but in the meantime you should have that "About Me" link listed under links. This way, Google knows which site to attach your Google+ image to when your blog shows up on their search engine.
- Optional - If you have a link in your website's menu that goes to your site's About Me page, go into your Menu section (Appearance > Menus), click on the 'Screen Options' tab at the top right corner of your screen, and ensure the 'Link Relationship (XFN)' is checked. Then click on the drop down arrow for your About page within the menu list, and enter 'author' within the 'Link Relationship (XFN)' tab.
- Scroll down to the bottom of this post to find out how to verify if this method has worked for you.
For everyone else, you should still be able to pull this trick off, regardless of what blogging platform you're using.
You'll need to become familiar with the rel="author" code, which should be attached to your Google+ profile link (and if you don't have this link showing up anywhere on your site, you really should fix that now. You're missing out on big SEO opportunities here!) This is how it looks on mine:
- Your social media icons should be on every page of your site, and if they are, find the code that belongs to your G+ icon and add '?rel=author' at the end of your Google+ profile link. If you don't have any social media icons present on every blog post page (and really?? Why don't you??), you can instead change the link in the "by Author" area found in your blog's theme pages. Please tell me your posts have a "By: Me, Date: Today" somewhere you every blog post. It's your work, so OWN it!
- You should have an "About Me" page on your website; copy that url and place it on your Google+ About page (at //plus.google.com/u/0/yourprofilenumber/about). When you edit your Google+ About profile page, there is a section for Contribution and Links. You should definitely mention that you contribute work to your own site, but in the meantime you should have that "About Me" link listed under links. This way, Google knows which site to attach your Google+ image to when your blog shows up on their search engine.
Update - Even an Easier Way To Do This Now!
Heck, I only wrote this last night, and now there is an even easier way to ensure Google knows that your site is your own. In the header area of your website, anywhere between <head> ... </head> enter this code:
<link ref="author" href="https://plus.google.com/YourGoogle+AccountNumber" />
And... yeah, that's all you need to do for your site. You still need to link up your url onto your Google+ account page, but its fabulous how they've made it truly easy to implement now!