Should Hotels Use Google Authorship?

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a guide to setting up Google Authorship (and Publisher) markup for hotels. Since then, a few things have changed that I’d like to share with you.

What’s Changed

Last year, Google’s head of web spam Matt Cutts announced at a convention that Google would decrease the number of Authorship results shown in the SERPS (search engine results pages) by upwards of 15%.

In December, marketers noticed a significant decrease in Authorship appearances—by around 15%.

A graph of authorship instances decreasing over time.
Image from Stonetemple.com snapped from Mozcast Features.

Matt explained this reduction as an attempt to combat web spam. Previously, Authorship was less restricted. Anyone and everyone who leapt over the technical hurdles and installed authorship had a chance of appearing in the SERPs. Now, Google has decided they only want to show Authorship in the SERPs for established, high-quality authors.

This will make it harder for web spammers to enable authorship on their spammy sites, but it will also make it harder for authors who have not established themselves yet to have authorship appear for their sites.

What is an Author?

Authorship is much more than simply installing it on your website. There is no quick trick to adding your bright and shining face to Google’s SERPs. Google has decided to show Authorship only for people they deem bonafide “authors”, not just any website owner.

According to Google, an author is any one person who consistently writes high quality, compelling content that gets many readers, and is often shared. To increase your chances of getting your Authorship to appear in a Google SERP, consider the following:

Circle Count

How many “followers” do you have on Google plus? Google will list your follower count (or, in their parlance, how many “circles” you have been added to) directly beneath your Authorship snippet in the SERP. The more circles you have been added to, and the higher quality they are, the more trust Google will have that you are a real person.

A snapshot of Google+ count.

Note: Be wary of buying “circles” from spammers. Google does not look at just there sheer number of circles you have been added to, but also at the quality of those circles.

Article Quality

Google looks at the length and quality of the articles you have written in the past. If you consistently write long, high quality articles that get shared on Google+ and other social networks, then Google will trust your content more, and will be more likely to turn on your Authorship snippet in the SERPs. But if you do not write often, and what you write is short or “shallow”, then Google will be less likely to activate your Authorship.

Additionally, Google likes to connect Authorship to the by-line of an article (the “about the author” section of an article—see below for an example). Thus, if the content you wish to have Authorship for doesn’t end with, “My Great Article, by John Doe” with a link to your Google+ profile, then Google will have a hard time establishing Authorship for you.

Website History

Finally, consider the SEO history of your website. If your website has a high Page Rank, gets a lot of traffic, has a low bounce rate, and has been online for many years, then this is the perfect environment for having your Authorship appear in the SERPs. But if you have a new website, or if it has been penalized by Google in the past for web spam, then Google will be less likely to show your Authorship in the SERP.

Authorship for Hotels

The idea of Authorship is complicated for hotel marketers. After all, what are you trying to promote; your hotel, or yourself?

Some hoteliers contact the CS team here wanting to install authorship on their websites (which they can, and which is easy to do), thinking that Authorship will give them a nice bonus to click-thru rate in the SERPs. However, authorship is unsuitable for a hotel website, since the website is about the hotel—not the hotel owner.

When a person clicks on a link in the SERPs with a face by it, they’re expecting to read an article representing the unique thoughts and research of a person, not a property. This is why Authorship is perfect for blogs. Blogs are written from a personal point of view. Content on hotel websites often describes locations, properties, rates, room details, and other detailed information about a potential vacation purchase—not personal ideas and experiences.

Thus, Google is less likely to activate Authorship for hotel websites in the SERPs—even if hotel websites have Authorship installed correctly.

We recommend hoteliers use Authorship for personal blogs, not their hotel websites. Instead, we recommend that hoteliers install Publisher markup on their hotel websites, which is designed for brands, businesses, properties, and publications (not people).

Compatibility with our platform

That said, it is still very easy to connect Authorship to your hotel website if you are our client, and you don’t even have to contact us to get it working. Simply log-in to BackOffice, and add a link to your Google+ profile on your homepage, or on any article page you wish, using the following code:

See my article on Publisher and Authorship markup for more details.

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