It’s an exciting time in search and internet marketing. We’re part of an unprecedented change in how people browse online and consume content – the social and search functions as we know them are converging aggressively.

This post is part one of a three part series on how we foresee search engine marketers must evolve to keep pace with this shift.

Consider Google’s Search, Plus Your World implementation a few months back, as well as the support for authorship and schema.org beginning last summer. These announcements clearly hint at a few of the sweeping (and continuous) changes now taking place in the SEO industry.

And just as you thought you finally had it (sort of) figured out, you hear something about semantic search about to be "switched on”. Uh oh…

So what now? Are all of us SEO professionals out of a job? I think not. As long as we hold true to the one core principal – the philosophy that Google and other search engines have drilled into us since day one, our occupation will only get more exciting, more involving, more rewarding, and more relevant.

This principal is not a secret or a privileged rite granted to the elite inner SEO circle.

The answer is, always was, and continues to be high quality, relevant content. While our methods of optimizing content will continue to evolve and become more complex, it is the content itself that will ALWAYS win out. Sure, between every tweet, post, and update there’s a lot to keep track of, but, rest assured, if your efforts are focused on creating and promoting the content that your audience wants, you’re already ahead of the game.

The main point – search engines NEED quality content with ownership, relevance, and identity.

The bottom line for search engine marketers and online marketers in general? You MUST prioritize your content strategy and development budget above all else. Content is the cornerstone of your success going forward. Period.

However, what about semantic search? How do we optimize for that? What about the next thing, and the next thing after that? IT’S SO MUCH WORK! So you’ve got great content, and have uploaded it. Well, you’re half way there. All that’s really left is to tell search engines what it is, and what it’s about. Simple, right? Actually, yes! More so than you’d think.

In this three part post, I’ll walk you through some things you can and should be doing right this minute that will help your content shine. The great thing about having great, accurately described, search-engine friendly content is that you don’t need to worry when you hear about a massive Google update – your content will soldier on.

A note on social search

While content is hosted on websites and media networks, it is created and attributed to individual people. Welcome to the age of social and personal influence in search – as this is refined, it’s vital to realize how important the content’s original creator, or author’s role is in determining where and how high the content ranks, and most interestingly, how unique, correctly supported content is displayed in a SERP.

Google personal search results toggle

As internet users and content creators, individual people are a rapidly growing piece of Google’s search algorithm. With social signals strengthening within this algorithm, authorship and identity in this digital, social world are critical.

Implementing authorship markup is extremely helpful to search engines in their effort to map this web of people - connecting people directly to their content. It gives what’s missing in a digitally driven online world:  personality, credibility, and relevance. Those who are taking advantage of Google’s subtle hints and tips, and are doing it correctly, are being handsomely rewarded.

So what is all this stuff? How does it work? How does it affect anyone but SEO people?
And what is this REWARD you speak of? All in good time – first explanation of the technical jargon:

Rel=author and rel=publisher

Rel=author

Implementing rel=author markup on your blog or webpage is really the first, and easiest step in preparing your great content.

Google announced last summer the support of rel=author markup in search results. Straight from their blog:

"Why? Because authorship is a great way to identify and highlight high-quality content. Plus, the web is centered around people. People discovering content on the web often want to learn more about its author, see other content by that author, and even interact with the author."

They went further to explain that rel=author is a way to "connect authors with their content on the web" in an effort to "help people find content from great authors in [Google’s] search results".

Put simply, the rel=author markup, when correctly used, is a way to connect, reciprocate, and verify authorship on content pieces, based on a linked Google+ account. The rel=author command will also help to identify and reward original content creators on the SERP if their content is scraped, re-shared, or linked to. In addition, if used on all content, the markup serves to also create a dynamic hub directly within the SERP for users to find more content by the appropriate author.

Implementing rel=author is relatively easy:

  • First, any and all content pages on your site must contain a link to a dedicated "author/about" page on the same server, and must use rel="author"

    rel=author code example

NOTE: If you don’t have a Google+ profile, stop what you’re doing and set one up now before proceeding to the next steps.

  • Next, the dedicated “author/about” pages must contain a link to that person’s appropriate Google+ profile, and must use rel="me"

    rel=me code example
  • Finally, the author’s Google+ page must contain a link back to the "author/about" page, and must use rel="me". This part is pretty easy - any links added to the "Other Profiles" section in the sidebar of your Google+ profile will automatically be appended with this markup:



(Thanks:  How to Implement rel=author)

That’s it! Within a few days (or weeks, depending on the size and crawl frequency of your site) your markup will be verified. In my code example for the rel=author markup, I’ve used an hCard microformat, which I’ll talk in detail on in the next part of this post!

Rel=publisher

Along with authorship markup support, Google has implemented a verification badge, which can be obtained using the rel=publisher markup.

rel=publisher verification badge

Straight from Google’s blog:

"Verification badges are designed to help our users find what they're looking for by ensuring that people, brands and businesses that are subject to broad-based impersonation are protected."

Rel=publisher and rel=author markup should always be used hand-in-hand. The rel=publisher markup provides a verification badge to publishers’ Google+ profiles, helping to confirm authenticity of a profile or page (much like a verified Twitter account).

Implementation of rel=publisher should only take place on the HOME page of a site. It’s important to note that rel=author and rel=publisher will not function correctly if placed on exactly the same page. A good rule of thumb is that the rel=author markup is for content pages only, and rel=publisher is verification for your site as a whole (not needed on individual content). In a nutshell:

  • homepage of site must contain a link to the person or entity’s Google+ profile, and must use rel="publisher"
  • Google+ profile must contain a reciprocal link to the homepage (no specific modifier needed)
  • Google+ profile must be in 1,000 circles or have 1,000 +1s. This count increases simultaneously - +1 on the site’s homepage counts as well.

(Thanks:  Google+ SEO)

<a href="http://plus.google.com/112623893783515275069" rel="publisher">Chris Tallman</a>

More from Google Webmaster Tools on rel=publisher.

What does all this mean?  We’ve got to let the search engines know who we are. We’ve got to claim and identify our content. And we’ve got to do it now.

Interestingly, while authorship is the first (and most important, with Search Plus Your World) bit of rich data (or microdata) that Google will attribute to pieces of content, it’s most certainly NOT the only one! I’ll talk about more in my next post.

Don’t forget – This is a 3-part post – Part 2, "" will be coming soon.