The Importance of a Google Author Profile Photo

Posted on December 17, 2012

Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are typically very similar in appearance. So, anything that immediately stands out within that blue and white color scheme will help differentiate your business from competitors. (Think gold stars for reviews, map listing icons, photos, etc.)

One of the most important distinguishing features that any local business can utilize is to include an Author Profile Photo. These are small headshots that can be found within a search result, on the very left hand side of the page. It shows potential customers exactly who is speaking to them, and helps send a more personal message.

While simply including any photo in this position is better than nothing, there is a whole science behind optimizing these photos to increase site traffic. In at least one case study, improving the Author Profile Photo increased the number of clicks by 35%.


What Makes a Good Author Profile Photo?

The Author Profile Photo should first and foremost be tailored for the wants and expectations of the target audience for which it is intended. Put yourself in the client’s frame of mind, and think of what qualities they’d hope to see. For example, a dentist should be smiling and convey a welcoming attitude for potential patients, while also appearing professional and well-dressed (a lab coat or suit and tie isn’t overdoing it). On the other hand, a general contractor should be more dressed down with a “blue collar” look, perhaps even with the stereotypical flannel shirt.

While keeping in mind the above factors that will change from business to business, there are a few constants that should be observed.

  • Rather than looking directly into the camera, the subject should be facing slightly to the viewer’s right, which draws the attention toward what you want them to see, your search result and link.
  • The photo should also be fairly tightly focused on the subject’s face to provide as good a look, and as much detail, as possible. Remember, only a very small preview of the image is displayed (44×44 pixels).
  • The final aspect to consider is color variation to attract attention. This can best be accomplished by choosing a bright background color. A bright hue of basically any color can work, so long as it’s not blue or white (the Google SERP color scheme).

Perhaps the most important advice to take away from these tips is to test, test, and thenĀ  test again with different variations of photos. Any changes made to your Google+ profile photo are almost immediately propagated to search results, so just record dates of these changes and continuously monitor your Google Analytics account to see when you received the best results.


How Do I Display a Photo Google’s Search Results?

Displaying an Author Profile Photo in search results requires installing just some basic HTML code into your website, so while you may still wish to ask your website provider, even a novice user should have no trouble accomplishing this in a few short steps.

Step 1

If you haven’t already done so, create a Google+ profile and upload your headshot.

Step 2

On each page of your website (including all blog posts), create a link to your Google+ profile using the following code. If your website is built using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, you will only need to add the HTML code snippet into a single file such as footer.php because all other pages within WordPress include the footer.php file on every page.

<a href="https://plus.google.com/[PROFILE_ID]?rel=author">Deploy Dental</a>

Replace [PROFILE_ID] with your Google+ profile URL, like this:

<a href="https://plus.google.com/116581656487230364046?rel=author">Deploy Dental</a>

Your link must contain the ?rel=author parameter. If it’s missing, Google won’t be able to associate your content with your Google+ profile.

Step 3

When viewing your Google+ profile, edit the ‘Contributor to‘ section and click ‘Add custom link.’ Enter your website URL, choose your privacy setting (most likely public), and click ‘Save’.

You may also wish to view Google’s instructions aboutĀ Author information in search results.

When these steps are completed, Google sees the connection between your website’s content and your Google+ profile, making your Author Profile Photo eligible to be shown within search results. To preview how your site will now be displayed, use the Structured Data Testing Tool, enter your URL, and click ‘Preview’. If all has went well you should see your headshot displayed, as well as a green verified status under ‘Author.’

Good luck!

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