Or, “How to get your picture to show up on Google”

Any of you who use Google on a regular basis have probably noticed that more and more often results are showing up with extra data.  For example, Author Data has become a very common thing to display – usually showing the photograph and name of the person who wrote a specific article (like the listing below)

Google has also just upgraded the amount of rich data that they will show for products.  In the picture below, the ratings and price that are part of the product listing come from what Google calls Rich Snippets.

This data is pulled from any number of formats – the preferred method is to use HTML5 microdata which is a simple way of adding tags to code that specify data types for that specific piece of content.  Google currently supports content for the following data types:

Google also recognizes markup for video content.

How can you use this?

Short of integrating all of the data possible on your website into this new structure, what I’m going to focus on today is getting your picture put next to articles that you’ve written that are indexed in Google.  Google is a little sneaky about the Author data, and it doesn’t work the same way as other microdata.  In order to get your author profile picture to show up, you have to use Google+.  If you aren’t on Google+, you first have to set up an account.  You can then like that account to an email address on the domain that you are publishing content from, and Google will pull your profile picture and name from Google+ and add it to the listings.

Although it seems that Google is constantly inventing new and sneaky ways to make people sign up for their service, this is one that can actually be exceptionally worthwhile.  Having pictures next to search listings has shown to dramatically increase the click through on those listings, and every bit of traffic helps, right?

For detailed instructions on getting this set up, and an alternative method if you don’t have the ability to get an email on the domain you are publishing on, check out Google’s guide to setting up author information for your content.

One more cool tool.

Once you think you have your pages working, try out the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool.  This is a cool tool where you can enter your URL and, if you are using microdata, Google will show you what your search results could look like.  Note that this is no guarantee that it is what your search results will look like, it is just a way of confirming that you have your microdata set up correctly, and then if Google chooses to use it that can.

Google also just released an html box on that page that allows you not only to enter a URL, but actually to enter code for a page BEFORE you upload it, so you can make sure your formatting is all correct before your page ever gets online and gets indexed with incorrect data.