Going Deeper with SEO, Rich Snippets, and the Rel=Author Tag

A couple weeks back, I had the good fortune to co-host a luncheon with SEO superstar Tracey Nero (Woods), a former in-house search expert at MSN Microsoft.

During the 90-minute workshop, we took a closer look at why rich snippets are so important to search and how content creators can use them to get more from every blog post and article they create.

You can see a video of the entire 45-minute rich snippet presentation here. Or, if you’re new to the topic and want to know why it matters so much, check out my recent post on the three rich snippets every online marketer should be using.

 

Takeaways from Our Rich Snippets Luncheon:

For those of you who are truly in a hurry, or just want to sample a few of the highlights first, here are a handful of the most important takeaways from the session:

1. Rich snippets are easy and powerful.

If you’ve already read my first post on the subject, you know rich snippets (and especially the author tag) can be used to make your content stand out in search engine results by adding things like photos, reviews, and other details next to your content preview. Additionally, they can help you protect your content – and stop it from being scraped – by allowing you to claim ownership of pieces you’ve written and created. The more high-quality posts and articles you produce, the more important this protection becomes.

2. Rich snippets are more useful when you add the right context.

On their own, rich snippets are helpful; with lots of them and a full Google+ profile in place, they become particularly powerful. In other words, you shouldn’t place author tags in a vacuum. Instead, you should make sure they are on appropriate pages (but not necessarily on every page, as that can be a bad thing) along with all the content you create. And, every contributor to your site should have their own author page, which should be linked back and forth with their own Google+ profile. The more complete this loop is, the better results you’re going to see.

3. Rich snippets are no longer “all or nothing.”

Not long ago, Google displayed complete biographical information in search engine listings for most (or all) verified authors. Now, however, Google is choosing which information to display, and when, a little more selectively. The more relevant you appear as an authority for that particular search – and the more relevant your content seems to an individual searcher – the more likely it is your bio will be displayed. That means you should be posting frequently, soliciting feedback, and taking other steps to enhance your own credibility as a creator/author.

4. Author tags aren’t just for your own site.

While it goes without saying that you should be adding author tags to all of the content you create and post to your own website or blog, you can now use them to promote guest posts on other sites, too. As an added benefit, publishers can add their own tag, as well, so that both parties can share the credit for a particularly great piece of work. One builds credibility as a quality disseminator of new ideas, and the original author is still noted as the content creator.

5. Author isn’t the only rich snippet tag that matters.

Although our luncheon focused mostly on the author tag, we did touch upon a few others – including the powerful “products” tag and one that allows you to tie all of your social media accounts together. We’ll be adding more information on the subject going forward, but for now it’s a good idea for every online marketer to look for ways they can incorporate rich snippets more fully into their existing websites and new pieces of content.

The Real Point of Rich Snippets

Although those who are concerned with SEO will immediately look at the effects that rich snippets can have on the visibility of search results, that’s really missing the point. Having your content and pages stand out is a good first step, but it’s what you can do with that content that really matters.

When searchers see your face, the number of connections you have, or a star rating next to your content, they form instant impressions. Those impressions add the weight of credibility, and, in turn, make it easier for you to begin to form long-term relationships.

In other words, rich snippets aren’t so much about technical search engine optimization as they are the social, humanistic side of online marketing. Or at least they should be if you’re using them the right way.

Check out my book, Findability; Why Search Engine Optimization is Dying, for more tips on making the most of your content to improve your search results.

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