Internet has everything, you enter one word in a search engine and you encounter millions of relevant pages. But an average user has limited time and attention, so your website search better be different and attractive. That’s exactly what rel=publisher tag will do for your brand.

In today’s post I am going to sum up on what a rel=publisher tag is and how it helps your branded search on Google. You will also learn steps to implement this tag on your website and start taking advantage of standing out.

You have probably landed on this post after knowing the function and significance of having a rel=publisher tag on your website, but for those who are unclear of what this tag does let’s start with some basics.

What Is Rel=Publisher Tag?

A couple of years ago we were already speaking about rich snippets and knowledge graph. Today, they have become a permanent part of Google search results these days. Whether it is getting to know the star ratings on a restaurant (rich snippets) or the associated Wikipedia page on the right of a name search (knowledge graph), Google search snippets give more information about a searched entity even before an user enters the website.

Rel=publisher tag is one such part of the knowledge graph for business websites and top brands. The tag resides in the element of your website. It was provided by Google, to link your website on search to its social media brand page.

For a brand search the rel=publisher tag pulls out a knowledge graph on the right in the form of the brand’s Google+ page summary, as shown in the example below:

alt Knowledge Graph For Sample Brand Search Because Of Rel Publisher Tag (image credit – google.com)

The rel=publisher tag is inserted in the site’s section in the following format:

<link href=”https://plus.google.com/example” rel=”publisher” />    

Rel=publisher tag is defined as the tag that links a brand’s Google+ page snippet to it’s search snippet, for brand search only. So, if you search for a brand-only query and not a branded query with associated keywords, such as ‘zappos’ and not ‘zappos free shipping’, you will see the rel=publisher tag in action.

There is a similar tag introduced by Google called rel=author, which is much popular than the rel=publisher tag. Let’s talk more about rel=publisher in reference to its much popular twin rel=author and see how you can take advantage of both of them.

Rel=Publisher Vs. Rel=Author

The rel=author tag is considered very important for Google authorship and the possibility of an author rank in the future.

The main difference between these two tags is that rel=author associates an individual’s Google+ page to a website while rel=publisher associates the brand’s Google+ page to the website. There are many websites that are not a blog or do not publish articles, for instance e-commerce websites. In such cases, the pages cannot be associated to a particular person. And that is where rel=publisher comes into play.

Also you cannot always attribute your website’s content to a particular person. Employees come and go, but a social media brand page when associated with the main website reflects the history and values of the brand in SERPs forever.

There are differences and similarities between these two tags that are listed below:

Why Is Rel=Publisher Tag Significant?

Take a look at the two screenshots of a regular brand search on Google search, as shown below:

alt Random Example Of a Brand Search On Google (image credit – google.com)

alt Hewlett-Packard Example For Rel-Publisher Tag (image credit – google.com)

Do you spot the difference in both these searches?

The first example is a normal brand search result that gives you the main website link with its title and description and other site links within the site. There is not much you come to know of a brand on the search page other than the hyperlinked text.

The second example, on the other hand, not just gives you important links from the site, but also connects you to the brand’s social presence towards the right. It gives you information on the number of followers for the brand on Google+, customer support number, the year of establishment and the CEO. It also gives you a snapshot of the recent post made on the brand’s Google+ page. The only difference between the two brands is that the latter has implemented the rel=publisher tag while the former has not.

Shown below is the code-side view of Hewlertt-Packard page that shows that they have implemented the rel=publisher tag.

alt Source Code View Of Hewlertt-Packard Website Showing Rel-Publisher Tag (image credit – hp.com)
The following are some advantages of having the rel=publisher tag implemented on your website:

  • Popularity Index: It shows the number of followers your brand has on Google+ page, thus indicating your brand’s social popularity.
  • Latest Content Update To Strike Interest: It shows the last content updated on the page, which may inculcate interest in the searcher.
  • Opportunity To Earn More Followers: It gives an option for the searcher to start following your Google+ page thus increasing the chances of getting more followers and increasing the popularity of your Google+ brand page.
  • Possible Future Prospects: There are no indications of search ranking effect of this tag. Google has not popularized this tag yet but its association with a Google+ brand page may have prospective branding, search ranking or social media effect in the future.

Hopefully, you are now quite convinced about why you should have the rel=publisher tag implemented on your site. Let’s go ahead and learn how to implement it.

How To Implement A Rel=Publisher Tag?

First thing’s first, if you do not have a Google+ page for your brand, hurry and make one now. There are innumerable advantages of having a Google+ page setup for your brand and your competition is probably already on it.

Click here to setup your Google+ brand page. Make sure you use an email with your website domain during your Google+ page setup. This URL should be the one to which you would be linking your Google+ account, for both rel=author and rel=publisher tags.

Also, you must either know how to edit the HTML on your site so you can do this on your own, or take the help of a website developer.

Follow the steps listed below to implement the rel=publisher tag on your website.

Step #1: Edit Code On The Head Section Of Your Website

If you decide to do this on your own, you need access to your web server. Click the Create & Update or Manage in your web server’s control panel. Click File Manager, and then search for the filename that contains the section of your website’s code. Click the editor icon next to the filename and open the HTML editor.

If your website is built on a CMS platform, for example WordPress or Magento, read the necessary documentation of that particular CMS to edit the section of your website. Some CMS may have a plugin to do so. For instance, WordPress has a plugin to add the rel=publisher tag to your site.

Step #2: Add Rel=Publisher Tag

The HTML to insert into the head tag must look like the following:

<link href=”https://plus.google.com/example” rel=”publisher” />    

Step #3: Add Website URL To Google+ Page

If you haven’t already specified your website URL on your Google+ page, please do so, so that Google+ verifies that it is the right Google+ page for your site.

Make sure you enter the exact URL that was linked to in Step #2, that is, if your page is www.domain.com make sure you add the same URL to your Google+ page and not www.domain.com/index.php

If you haven’t added your website URL to your Google+ brand page, here is the simple way to do it.

Go to Google+ page > Pages > Manage This Page > Add Your Website. Or you can also click on Edit Page > Links and add a link to your website there.

Make sure your Google+ Page is verified.

Step #4: Check If The Rel Publisher Tag Is Verified For Your Page

Go to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, and enter your website’s URL.

Towards the end you will see a text in green that says Publisher markup is verified for this page. This is how you will know that Google has verified your website’s rel=publisher tag. Take a look at a sample screenshot below:

alt Publisher Tag Verfication Message On Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool (image credit – google.com)
You can also check by doing a brand search for your brand name on Google SERPs to see if the Google+ page summary is shown next to your website’s search snippet.

Now, in some cases I have observed that the brand search shows up a Google+ page summary on the right in the SERPs but there is no rel=publisher tag in the element of the code. This may happen in cases where the company has a Google+ page follow link on their homepage and have added a rel=publisher tag added to it.

And in some other rare cases, even though a certain website has implemented a rel=publisher tag, it fails to show it’s Google+ page summary on the brand query search results. This could be due to four reasons and they are as follows:

  • Incorrect URL on Google+ Page: The website URL entered in the Google+ page is different from the actual preferred domain. So, for instance, you have entered the website URL as xyz.com in your Google+ page but in reality you have set a preferred domain of your site as www.xyz.com, rel=publisher tag may not work.
  • Recently implemented rel=publisher tag: It takes some time for Google to show your Google+ page for brand query terms. It is recommended that you regularly check on real time Google search by entering your brand name as the search query.
  • Duplicate Google+ Pages: This may happen in very rare cases where there may be another Google page that uses your website URL.
  • Glitch In The Code From Google Developers: Google is still working on the correct implementation of the tags. So, if all of the above are not the reason for why your Google+ page summary is now shown in SERPs for your brand query, inform Google via Google Product Forums.

It just looks like both the rel=author and rel=publisher tags are not completely developed and are still under the testing phase. But there is no denying that both these tags have higher potential and Google may have bigger plans for them in the future. Especially because they want businesses to rapidly adopt the use of Google+.

Whatever the plan maybe, it is justified for web businesses to adopt the rel=publisher tag before it is too late. Almost all of the big brands in your industry have implemented it, why must you be left behind?

Let us know in comments if you think having a rel=publisher tag will help you in building value to your brand on Google SERPs.