Google Authorship is dead, but rich snippets and structured data still matter

ErnestCat has questions about rich snippetsAs of August, Google has completely discontinued all support of of Google Authorship (SEL article). I’m disappointed because it was one of the more interesting experiments in semantic search and also because I have to eat my words. Two years ago I began recommending author markup to all the authors and web sites I work with. But I’m taking back everything I said in this post: Using rel=author tags on blogs to optimize content ownership. The process was too convoluted and because of that too few authors went to the trouble of linking their content to their Google + accounts. Google tried to do the linking programatically, but often failed in bizarre ways, like Giving Truman Capote credit for continuing to write for the NYT even after his death, for example. So that experiment has ended.

But rich snippets and structured data are not dead yet. And in fact, even Google Authorship may not be completely dead and could return in another form using methods not dependent on humans marking up their pages. But structured data for non-author content is still very much in use and Google is still supporting the use of markup for SERP enhancements. It may be that eventually Google will use Knowledge Graph/Knowledge Vault and other sources to pull this structured data from web content and associate it with search queries — but for now, whatever markup you can add to your pages that will help Google understand what data your site provides can only help. But I wouldn’t recommend making a huge investment in adding this markup, Google obviously hasn’t quite figured out what help they need from webmasters in creating results with structured data.

Keyword research using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner

Forced Adwords sign-up makes kittens angry

Angry kitten used with Creative Commons license from flickr.

Updated October 17, 2013 to reflect yet more changes to this tool

As you may have noticed already, Google has replaced the old Keywords tool with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. More from Google on this.

The biggest change as far as daily use is that you are now required to sign-in to Google and associate an AdWords account with your gmail ID in order to use the tool. You also must go through a couple of extra steps to get to the tool, but generally it still works the same — although you cannot get mobile keyword totals separated out anymore (and there are initial reports of unexplained changes in keyword totals).

I’ve been using this new version for over a month because I have an AdWords account and I’m always signed in. I’ve written up a quick overview to help people get back to keyword researching as quickly as possible.

Here is the new process:

1. You must be signed in to a Google AdWords account to use the tool. You do not need to be running Google AdWords (but Google would certainly appreciate it if you would), you just need to enable a gmail account to run AdWords. It’s free. But this change does mean you will not be able to look-up terms without signing in.

2. You will be redirected to something call the “Keyword Planner” if you try to go to the Keywords tool URL — or you can just access it directly.

3. You will have to choose from 3 options. Choose the twistie to Search for new keyword and ad group ideas:

Use this option to get keyword suggestions in the Google Keywords planner

Use this option to get keyword suggestions in the Google Keywords planner



4. This should give you options that are familiar to you if you used the old Google Keywords tool. You now have the option to exact match your keywords in this view, to ensure you are shown keywords that are truly associated with your initial keyword choice. Enable the sliding button to Only show ideas closely related to my search term.  Input your terms or analyze a web page and make other changes to further target your results if needed:

Enter keywords and choose exact match

Enter keywords and choose exact match in the Google AdWords Keyword Planner

5. When you get to the results you can view all the other possible recommended terms and their estimated search volume by choosing the Keyword ideas tab. And if you forgot to chose  exact match in the previous views, you can choose it in the left nav under Keyword options.

Keywords idea results from Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Keywords idea results from Google AdWords Keyword Planner (click to embiggen)

This should be enough to get started using the tool.

Here is a much more complete Step-by-step for using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner How to Use The Keyword Planner — The New Keyword Tool From Google AdWords.

Getting started with structured data, rich snippets, semantic markup

4 out of 5 evil kittens recommend semantic markup

4 out of 5 evil kittens recommend semantic markup

Whether it’s called structured data, rich snippets, microdata, semantic markup, using the rel= tag, or hacking, structured data has been a hot topic this week in my SEO feeds and daily search discussions. And adoption of this markup is good news, because rich snippets have a lot of potential for high ROI in organic search marketing.

Structured data is not a new thing. It was not new when I wrote this post last march using rel=author tags on blogs to optimize content ownership — but as was so succinctly stated in a post just last week, If You Don’t Care About Structured Data, You Suck at SEO. That may be a little harsh, but ignoring rich snippets means leaving money on the table. Because you can manipulate your search listings right now with the power of without paying Google another cent — at least for now…

So why now all this structured data buzz? My guess is, it’s something SEO pros can actually control that Google supports. The past few years have been rough for the search world. We’re adjusting to over 50% [not provided] keyword data, new linking penalties, and constant Penguin and Panda updates rolling out it seems like every day (why yes, there is one in progress right now, see the Webmaster world Google Update thread for more info). So a way to have control over your SERPs and help Google understand what your page is about is welcomed.

Getting started with structured data

Another nice thing about rich snippets is that, unlike pretty much everything else related to Google, Google is giving out very good instructions on implementing structured data on your page. Google prefers you use and has conveniently created a FAQ and instructions.

And you can test your snippets with Google’s Structured Data testing tool.

Where should you use structured data?

Everywhere! Well, maybe not everywhere, but anywhere it might be helpful for a visitor to know more about your page and encourage him or her to click on that link in the SERP.

If you host a blog or market a blog you absolutely should use author markup. It’s a little more complicated to claim your blog in Google than it is to just toss some code on your page, but if you get a Google referral and someone returns to Google after visiting your blog,the searcher get extra links when they return to Google. More details on the hidden benefit of authorship on SearchEngineland and my original post on rich snippets for authors using rel=author tags on blogs to optimize content ownership has more details as well.

Think about your own user experience, wouldn’t you rather click on a blog post with a picture of a real person:

ljbanks rich snippet

ljbanks rich snippet

And I know when I’m looking for a product or restaurant, a review with stars in the results like Yelp provides is very enticing:

Yelp,, and my favorite bar

Yelp,, and my favorite bar makes all of this possible!

Other places you might want to enable rich snippets are events, videos, and anything with ratings.

And Google has even created a hack for site owners who have an event site in English. Google has a wysiwyg editor called the DATA Highlighter that will do most of the work for you.

If you’re serious about your Google referrals and want to take positive action in a time of much sadness for SEO professionals, and you have a minimum of technical skills, structured data is the way to go. A small investment could create a long-term payoff.

Many Eyes as a graphing shortcut

Like many Digital marketers, I like data and I like charts. Getting access to the raw data and being able to play around with it is one of the best parts of working in Search (although I will also admit, a marketer with access to raw data can be a very dangerous thing).

Because I like data, I spend a lot of time with spreadsheets. I remember the first chart I ever made — I was so proud. It was a record of Google ranking improvements for pages due to changes made to title tags. It was also pretty ugly. In the years since, I’ve learned a little more about making charts legible and useful and many new ways of visualizing data have been introduced. I’ve spent a little too much time recently playing around with alphaWorks’ free Many Eyes tool. I spent about 2 minutes uploading some data from a comScore press release on September Search Engine rankings and then way too much time messing around with the data and creating all sorts of beautiful graphs. Like this one here:

You don’t have to upload your own data, you can also play around with existing data (and any data uploaded is fair game for other people to visualize with). You might say that Many Eyes is the perfect tool for those too lazy to put together their own graphs, but it has much more functionality than just graphing — you can make word clouds, map graphs and all sorts of cool stuff. And it’s also a good place to get started with graphs — especially if you have data, but not a lot of experience putting together visual representations of the data.