In its never-ending quest to bring high-quality content to people that answers the questions, needs and desires of those people, Google created a little visual cue in search results that shows the face of the author of an article, or a page of content.
People like looking at people. Behavior studies of babies show that babies love looking at faces. Look at our obsession with celebrity magazines. To help validate an article, and to perhaps help a person sift through the search results by looking for a familiar face or author, Google started its Authorship program, which enables your headshot to show up next to an article you've authored on the web.
HOW TO SHOW YOUR FACE ON AN ARTICLE YOU'VE WRITTEN
There are two ways to do this. Google's concise directions can be found here. One method is really easy if you're a website or blog owner and takes 5 minutes.
- Log into your Google+ account, or create one if you haven't yet. Add your headshot. Make sure it's a headshot you use elsewhere around the web. Visual consistency is key on the web to help people know that they are on the right track. Make sure your name in your Google+ account is the same where you have authored past articles. If you own the website of which you are trying to show your face, all you need to do is enter your email in the box provided by Google+ on this page, and then verify that you got the email in your inbox. Wait a few days or weeks, and your headshot should start showing up.
- The second way is trickier. If you are an author on another website, then that website needs to have enabled some code on their website that Google explains here. Otherwise, you add the domain of the website that you are a contributing writer to, and the rest should fall into place.
THE DARK SIDE OF GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP
So Google created this Google Authorship strategy as a way to pluck really good writers with authentic messages from the masses of web pages out there, many of which are spam. As Matt Cutts laments guest blogging here in several videos on his blog, people are taking advantage of the system by guest blogging anywhere and everywhere in order to create links back to their websites. A good write-up is also here at SearchEngineJournal about how Google authorship can be lethal to bloggers.
I've often wondered how this was going to shake out. What's unclear to me, however, is whether or not it's cool to link to your own web pages from your article that you wrote on another website. I'm going to say that it's not cool and too risky. Or at least not all of the time. Instead, a reader who finished reading your article would then look for your website in your author bio on said website (provided that you have one).
What I'm also curious about is syndication. Companies big and little have started content sharing programs, including major magazines. What I'm really curious about is how syndication will be affected by all of this, because that is essentially the same article posted on several websites at once, which wasn't so popular with search engines who then must decide which of the same article is better, and which to rank higher in search results.
But I digress. The issue at hand is how to show your face by way of headshot in Google search results, and this is how. Where you choose to write is your next, very careful step. And what you choose to write is also very important. If you're a website owner who publishes articles from others, these articles are going to need to be top notch. If you were strict before, then props to you and keep it up.