Google Testing Plus Integration with Places via Authorship

Since Google announced in July that there would be Google Plus business pages there has been speculation that Google would integrate Plus and Places. We saw some early Plus Plus Places (a mouthful..) integration in November but now Google appears to be testing P+P (or is it ++P) integration using the rel=author tag as the glue between the two.

Over the weekend I found these author images in blended Places search results for the phrases DUI Lawyers Phoenix and Criminal Defense lawyer Orlando. They appeared and disappeared so I assume that they are tests and not the final implementation.

Interestingly the blended result with a rel-auth photo doesn’t show a link to the business’s Place page . More importantly it does not show your Google reviews and star ratings. For now anyways, the image appearing in the blended results adds a unique attribute to the listing that makes the listing stand out but the missing star ratings is problematic. Who knows what the final implementation will look like.

If you are logged in and hover over the “by author” link you are presented an option to add the author to your circle. If you click on it you are taken to their Plus Page.

The “more by link” takes you to the “Google+ Author results”. As Matt McGee has pointed out, the only way to get to those results is by clicking on this link as there is no command line or advance search path. Apparently though there is a bookmarklet which will perform this particular type of search.

Should you implement the rel=auth tags? It makes a great deal of sense from a click thru point of view that your photo is associated with and highlights your organic search results associated. In many ways for bloggers and others with a strong online presence their image is their brand. It appears from these tests that will also become important to do so in local.

I found the initial implementation of the rel=”auth” tag confusing (here are relatively clear instructions). Google subsequently released a simpler method that made it much easier although it still is very syntax dependent. You can double check if the rel=”auth” is implemented correctly by using the Google Rich Snippets Tool. This new bookmarklet from AJ Kohn makes that task even easier.

I will be testing it with an medicaid planning lawyer in Buffalo as well. I will report on the results.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Testing Plus Integration with Places via Authorship by

34 thoughts on “Google Testing Plus Integration with Places via Authorship”

  1. That’s really interesting and insidious.

    I’ve heard rumors that Plus is the new Places. Do you think this is another step in that direction?

  2. @Will

    I think this is a test of a step in that direction but what the final product looks like is still a big mystery to me.

    It is certainly interesting speculating on but I doubt that authorship can be the ultimate glue. It is too hard, too obtuse and not implemented widely except by lawyers with a big budget. It is also person based rather than Place based.

    I assume that the final integration has got to be more about Place.

    But who the heck knows?

  3. Author markup makes sense to me but what I find frustrating is that in some cases it takes absolute months for the rel author to make it to the actual search results.

  4. @Yousaf

    It certainly is a strong form of verification (although abusable as well). But at this point Authorship is WAY too complicated even with the new, improved simpler mode… It is also predicated on the individual NOT the Place…

    I am not exactly sure what both of those mean but I think that they are significant.

    Local has from day one in 2004 been about Places and I find it odd that they are now using individual authority rather than Place prominence to highlight that. It also doesn’t make sense since many firms are mult-practitioner. How would that be integrated?

    Google has also always tried to make the SMB interface easy… the Dashboard, Places Analytics and the Adwords Express interface are all in that vein if even at times TOO easy. But the kludge that is Plus AND Authorship and the way that it integrates into the website strikes me as way out of character.

  5. I personally don’t feel much for it. Even if you’re a big-time lawyer the majority of your clients will get more information from the stars rather than the picture. For a places result it says very little about the actual place by displaying his photo there.

  6. @Roswell

    I hear you. The lack of review stars is weird. But as this is likely a test and not the finished product I am not too worried.

  7. Hi Mike

    Great post and thanks for the heads up as to what Google is testing this week.

    I looked through the source code of the 2 sites and found

    Are you sure they are using the rel=”auth” tag for association or could it be the publisher tag?

    Andy

  8. If big G is indeed going towards the Plus over Places this move will be catastrophic to their relevance as a search engine. The structural problems with linking a place to an author is ridiculous and it all smacks directly in the face of what Google is all about.

    Combine this potential change with their new universal anti… er privacy policy and they continue to go too far. There are alternatives out there and it will not take much to kick users over to them.

    Google used to be about providing the best search results for a query. Now Google is about returning the best search results from Google owned properties for a query. I believe a few other search engines took this same route in the past… remember AOL keywords?

    I bet Yelp and others are enjoying these changes.

  9. Mike,
    The timing of this article is almost perfect. I’ve been advising and asking my Places clients to try and find the time to get their G+ profiles up to snuff and the work done on their Maps|Places listings is likely to be merged/consumed by G+ in the not too distant future. Still, unless the G+ Biz Page has a lot more capability to showcase an SMB value prop, I wonder if Rel=author is enough to sway SMB’s to commit to this new platform? — Neil

  10. Mike, I noticed this Friday and grabbed a screenshot of a slightly different situation. (Green Meanies) ;-)

    Blogged it this AM and tried to compare to find the common denominator between your 2 examples and mine. None have rel=author but some have other G+ meta, links or markup in common. Will be interesting to figure out what the trigger is.

    Thanks for commenting over there and I know you’ll keep us posted when you figure it out.

  11. @Andy

    Is does in fact seem like something other than rel=Auth is glueing this relationship together… it is being presented as Authorship but you are right that it must be something different. Hopefully we can figure out what.

  12. When Plus for Pages came out I assumed a merging would come, but the “steps in this direction” are through chest deep mud! i’m sure nothing will ever be “finished” any more than non-local search, but I’m sure the review stars will come back too.

    I disagree w/ you @roswell because I think having an image for a solo firm would be ideal, (or using the G+ bis business page logo for a multi-lawyer firm) and if you DON’t want it, you don’t have to mark it.

    Personally I find authorship less obtuse than trying to comprehend why verification postcards don’t always arrive or why perfectly fine listings often end up saying “We do not currently support this location ” ;)

  13. This is so interesting. I work with small/local businesses every day and I am seeing more and more every day the importance that Google is placing on Google+. It’s now becoming mandatory in terms of SEO.

  14. I assume (or hope) that if Google goes ahead with this it will only apply to certain industries.

    It makes sense for professionals such as lawyers and accountants, but don’t see how it would work for more traditional businesses such as fencing contractors and painters. They’re too busy running they’re business to get involved with becoming an “author”.

  15. Mike,

    in this example Eric J Dirga, PA only has 4 reveiws, do you think if he had 5 or more reviews, his review rich snippets would show up too with the author image…? if so that’d be cool.

    interesting it links to google + author page and not google places. the only way to get to his GP is to click on the map icon. not sure if this is the best choice for google to display when search term clearly has local intent.

    i think that on local intent searches it would make more sense to display GP and reviews. I wonder if it’s just their algo that is giving author mark-up more authority over GP rich snippets and thus displays this.

    It’ll be interesting as more SMB’s set-up their author mark-up if we end up seeing this more.

    I personally would want the review snippet to show over the author snippet.

    Sure will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  16. Wow. If I were a local doctor, a specialist, a dentist, an attorney in a certain world with mostly local oriented cases, if I sold residential real estate, and/or leased commercial real estate, provided a ubiquitous and popular service to local businesses or consumers…I’d want that kind of prominence.

    I’d want it tied to my business and I’d want the business tied to my commentary. I’d comment all the time on newsworthy events tied to that business niche.

    Wow…I’d be famous like Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie, Lebron James, the latest greatest Rap star…and hopefully it would help me pick up more business more easily

  17. Wondering how one can establish authorship to a website with multiple locations. Google Plus Business Pages are asking for a specific location and phone number for each page.

    A thread on a Google’s forum asked about multiple locations and Google Plus Business pages had Vanessa (google employee) answering that it may be wise to setup a separate Plus page for any one of these locations. But then the issue of establishing authorship comes up. Is there a way to establish authorship between a website and multiple pages for different locations.

    Anyone, any ideas on how to tackle this issue?

  18. Hi Mike!

    For what I understood (and of course I maybe mistaken) the best way to establish this authorship is by writing a code in your website which links to the Google Places page with a rel=”auth” / rel=”publisher” tag. What happens if a website has more than one publisher – a business with multiple locations meaning multiple business pages?

    I didn’t quite understand want you meant in your last comment.

    But maybe the best way to learn is just to try and learn from there.

  19. @e.panko

    Authorship is about the individual and his or her authority.

    A business page is about place.

    An individual needs to create their own page on Plus before they can create a business page on Google Plus.

    It is the about page for this individual that the rel=author links to.

  20. Checked today and was pleasantly surprised that one of my clients pic started showing up in blended results. It’ll be interesting to see the end result that Google ends up showing.

    Mike,

    In theory, couldn’t a dentistry chain, dealership, Subway, etc (all possible franchaises) have one “face” to put in their individual locations search result? I.E.,
    subway.com/tx/dallas
    subway.com/tx/plano
    subway.com/tx/richardson
    ?

    It would take some elbow grease on subway sure, but in theory the individual store (per query, or other personalized search) would be able to show the corresponding GM/owners, pic in blended as long as their G+ account was linked?

  21. @Jared
    I am still trying to get my head around but I think that it should work. It might also require the rel=publisher tag.

    How exactly did you set yours up?

  22. Most of my clients main business comes from drapery services in st louis, fyi (he wouldnt care prbably, but I dont want to post a screenshot to be on the safe side, you can probably find it ;))

    I made a G+ (business and personal), then linked together all articles and some individual services pages to the personal G+ page.

    After a few days, the clients image started showing up in the serps, then I added his homepage in the mix just to see what would happen. For regular organic searches his homepage shows up without a pic, BUT, in local results you see his pic with the homepage :) Totally awesome start to a Sunday workday.

  23. The stars (or x / 30 Score as it’s displayed now) will not show up until the Google+ page has 10 or more reviews. Since Eric J Dirga has only 7 Google Reviews, the rating will not show up.

    You can see that the other scores do indeed show up on pages linked with Google+ authorship.

  24. Hi Mike,

    I hope all is well.

    I have two quick questions for you:

    1. Do you know if the rel=author image markup will work with Google+ pages or do you have to use a personal Google+ profile for it to show the author image?

    2. I have a client who claimed their Google+ pages and their Google Places listings. However if you view both in a browser, they have different “storeids”. Is this a problem? Will Google merge these? Also the claimed places listing is 100% complete in the Google places admin, but is not showing any of the rich features like images and videos. Do you have any idea why this may be happening?

    There is even a different “storeid” when you click edit in Google Places admin vs when you click “View my listing”

    Shouldn’t these all match?!

    Google recently “suspended” the places admin for the listings without warning or reason. The listings rankings dropped off the map. The account was in compliance with terms of service. Sense then I have claimed them in a new places admin, but it hasn’t solved the problem and now it appears that the listings are even more fragmented. Any advice here would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,
    Bryan

  25. @brian
    1)author is about the individual. Rel=auth always has to point to the personal profile
    2)there are still bugs in the Plus-Local page merge. When it goes wrong this is a common artifact…. A partial merge. I would report it and see if you can get tech help to merge them. It is a known bug.
    3)there is always a reason for a suspension. It may be an erroneous reason but I have found that mostly they are well reasoned.

  26. What is the best way to get help from them with the merge? I have sent emails and received no reply. Is the forum a better place? I tried to get the suspended account reconsidered but received a stock reply saying they no longer reconsider suspended accounts?! That is why I tried to claim them under a different account. The listings were still on maps.google.com, just not claimed and incomplete.

    Can your competitors report your listings and get them suspended even if what they report (e.g. closed, moved, etc) is not true?

    The only thing I can think of is that I had the option “Yes, this business serves customers at their locations:” checked with a radius, but did not select “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing”. The nature of the business is legal and they do both. They have a physical store front and go to clients if necessary. There was an email before the account was suspended noting a change in TOS where you have to check the “Do not show” if you don’t have a store front. We did not check it because they do have a physical store front where they meet customers. Otherwise, there was nothing out of line with their TOS.

    Would we be better off removing the claimed listings form the Google places admin altogether and just claiming them via the Google Pages claim process?

    Thanks for your help.

    Bryan

  27. The best way is to file a “report a problem” in Maps or “edit this business” report in +. And then wait. It wouldn’t hurt to report in the forums and see if you can get a Google to look at it.

    Competitors can report but they will have no influence over whether an account get suspended. That is a human decision by a Googler. They perceived that you violated their guidelines on a number of listings not just one. Without spending some time looking at the listings and analyzing what you did and are doing, I can’t know why they were suspended.

    There is no way to reopen a suspended account. Google’s advice is corret. That feature is broken. So the only choice is to open new accounts.

    Google+ Pages and the merge are still very buggy. I still recommend that most businesses ONLY claim in Places and live with the many quirks and problems that the dashboard has. Not all but most.

    I am hesitant to provide advice as I don’t know every thing there is to know about the listings and this forum is not a way for that to happen.

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