How to use rel=author tags for SEO

Google’s created a concept called “AuthorRank” (coined by Matt Cutts here) in which savvy web writers can tag themselves in a variety of ways to let Google know that their stuff is legitimate. This is partly a reaction to the endless amount of scraping that goes on of content – by using rel=author and its companion attribute, rel=me, I suspect Google aims to catch scrapers that reprint the articles but never link or reprint the bio pages.

Whitney Hoffman asks:

@cspenn can you explain rel=author to me sometime and where to put it?

Here’s how to use this. In any article you write on a given domain, include the rel=author attribute in a link back to your profile on the same domain. If I write a blog post on ChristopherSPenn.com, in that blog post I should link back to, say, my about page on ChristopherSPenn.com. It’s really that simple.

For example, I could put a byline on this blog post when writing it that says something like “By “, and then link that up to my about page on my site. In the link, I’d add the rel=author attribute, like so:

rel author post.htm

Now I’ve attributed this post to me on my site, linking back to another page on my site. When the scrapers come by (and they inevitably do), they’ll pick up this post and reprint it word for word on some other site, but now there’s a mismatch. Rel=author on ChristopherSPenn.com points to my about page on ChristopherSPenn.com, but the same article on IScrapedYourJunkAintNothingYouCanDo.com will be linking off site – an indicator to Google that the scraper is not the real thing.

That’s not the only authorship change you should make, though. Google also included a rel=me attribute in their documentation to address authors who write on multiple sites. If you’re contributing in more than one place, Google is asking you to link your profile pages. For example, if I write regularly on someone else’s blog, I should put a link on my profile page on that blog to ChristopherSPenn.com and put a reciprocal link on my about page on ChristopherSPenn.com to the guest blog. This tells Google I’m the same author, and I suspect then shares the “AuthorRank” across both sites.

Bonus tip: use rel=me on links from your about page to your social networking profiles. It may be difficult to add the reciprocal link (I tried on LinkedIn and Twitter to no avail, Facebook I was able to from my page’s app, and Flickr allowed me), but at least you can signal to Google that those are your profiles on the major social sites. If the concept takes off, I suspect some of the social networks will start allowing you to add the attribute, or do it automatically.

Now, if you’ve been an avid reader of my newsletter, you know about the Shortcode Exec plugin for WordPress, and you’ve been diligently using its shortcodes in your posts, right? So here’s the power tip for you, the power user: edit your shortcode right now to include an attribution link back to your about page.

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Boom! Now all your old blog posts are retroactively using the new rel=author tag. This immediately discredits all the scrapers hosting archived versions of your old posts with just a few clicks and boosts all of the original content on your blog past and present that’s using the shortcode.

If you don’t use this plugin, you can still accomplish the same thing, you’ll just need to open up and copy/paste an author line in all your old blog posts. Sorry. You can, yes, include it in your WordPress theme, but remember that the template isn’t scraped when scraper bots do their thing, so you’ll get less juice out of the rel=author trick than putting it in the post itself.

That’s how you use the new rel=author and rel=me stuff. It won’t take you long to implement, and with Google creating this AuthorRank stuff, there’s a good chance that a minimal investment of time now will pay dividends in the near future.


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  • Al Pittampalli

    Great tip, Chris. So important to know Google’s rules so you can get on their good side. Being on their bad side, is search suicide.

  • http://www.biggerpockets.com Joshua Dorkin

    Christopher – Are you saying that using this in the bio box below your posts would be a waste of time?  Scrapers definitely skip it most of the time…. adding a bio line into the content of the post itself doesn’t feel like it should be necessicary — seems like there’s got to be a better way using the site’s template, though. No?

    Or is finding some way to add the author into the content of the post really the only way you currently see this working?

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      It’s not a waste of time, but it’s not going to deliver what I think the juice is. From what I can tell, Google is looking for those mismatches where rel=author links off site (scraper back to you). If the rel attribute never makes it to the scraper site, then you don’t get that condition that I think Google is looking for to defeat scrapers.

  • http://www.serperb.co.uk/ Serperb SEO Cheshire

    What’s to stop the scrapers putting their own rel=author link in, Google sees this first and you are more stuffed than before?

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      No idea, except that Google’s said they’re trying new stuff, but they haven’t told us (for obvious reasons) what countermeasures they’re going to take beyond these recommendations.

  • http://imarkets-group.com Peter Charalambos

    A colleague sent me a link to this page and I thought….no doubt he will be another great pretender….. Where have you been all my SEO life? I read one post and I shall now unsubscribe from all the other SEO ‘experts’
    I’ll dip into some of your other stuff now and hopefully learn even more (and I’m one of those supposed experts)
    I hope this Shortcode Exec plugin for WordPress….is as good as you say
    Thanks…I shall subscribe.
    Peter

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      Many thanks for the kind words.

  • http://imarkets-group.com Peter Charalambos

    Wow…..and I thought I knew a lot…..I downloaded the Shortcode Exec plugin for WordPress
    and it looks as if I need to go back to school.
    Any one know if there’s a manual or instructions anywhere……I don’t know even where to start.

    • http://www.ChristopherSPenn.com Christopher S. Penn

      It’s a PHP executor, which means you write your PHP code and then put it in to create shortcodes.

  • http://crumpylicious.com/ Crumpylicious Blog

    It looks difficult to incorporate the rel author tag within post so it thus sound useless