Google increases author images in search but UK loses out to US


By Chris Lee

A new study suggests that in 13 per cent of Google UK searches at least one of the top 100 results incorporates new author profile information, including an author thumbnail image and links. However the report’s author, search marketing software company Searchmetrics, warns that the majority of these are from US based sites, meaning UK journalists and publications are missing out on increased visibility, traffic and potential advertising revenue.

NMK spoke with Searchmetrics’ founder and chief technology officer Marcus Tober to learn more about Google’s author profile feature and its impact on digital marketers.

About the Author Profile feature

The author profile feature, known as authorship markup, is something that Google has been rolling out since last year. It helps news and other online publications and blogs generate more click-throughs while helping searchers find more articles by the same author. These author profile integrations appear in organic search results when a writer has produced an article which Google deems relevant to a searcher’s keyword query.

Currently journalists and bloggers who write about technology, medical and food topics are among those that are most visible in author profile integrations according to the study, which analysed Google UK search results relating to one million popular keywords. The most frequently appearing UK authors included Charles Arthur, the Guardian’s technology editor and Edward Chester, reviews editor at

“More writers from US based sites are appearing in the top 20 because authors generally need to have a profile on the Google+ social network to be displayed in author integrations – and we assume more writers for US sites are on Google+ and also Google has possibly encouraged some US sites to set up their articles for author integrations,” Tober said.

To appear in the author integrations, the authors’ articles need to be linked (using specific web tags) to the authors’ Google+ profiles.

Implications for marketers

So what does the prevalence of US writers in UK search mean for UK-based digital marketers and PRs? Tober believes that authorship markup could provide a useful opportunity for digital marketers and SEOs.

“The author profile snippets can potentially increase click-throughs and traffic when they are displayed in searches, so marketers should ensure their company spokespeople, bloggers and content creators are making use of them,” he told NMK. “This is even more powerful if you have someone in your organisation who is already a recognised expert in their field, as searchers will more easily find their content.”

From a PR point of view, getting brand news covered by journalists that have author profile entries will mean they are more visible in searches, Tober added, and that companies who invite guest bloggers with profile images to write for them can boost traffic.

“There’s also the potential to drive Google+ followers and engagement because writers’ Google+ profiles are publicised in searches,” he said. “Over time as Google is able to collect data about specific authors and their content – how often they are shared on social media, bounce rates to their articles etc. – this could possibly help to determine individuals’ link authority.”

Plus points

The author integrations feature is part of Google’s ongoing drive to improve searches by eliminating poor and duplicate content according to Tober, as well as being another way that Google is trying to get more users for Google+. But is it an ethical way for Google to drive people to its social network, which trails Facebook by quite some way?

“I think this is first and foremost a genuine effort at helping people find credible, trustworthy content via searches. Although some people might be upset that it promotes greater adoption of Google +,” Tober concluded.

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