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If you are a blogger, a business or website owner, then you probably know that using SEO strategies such as proper markup and linking is extremely important to stand out in the crowd of SERPs. Google search snippets such as rich snippets and knowledge graphs are excellent tools to help you reap the benefits of SERPs and get to the top of search engine results. These tools give you important information about your searched keyword while you scroll through the results page, and before you enter the website link.

In today’s post we will sum up on what a rel=publisher tag is and how it can help your site’s performance and branding through Google search results. You will also learn how rel=publisher has changed and how to take the idea behind the tag to a new level with modern SEO.

For those who are unclear of what this tag does, we’ll start with some basics.

What is the Rel=Publisher Tag?

Rel=publisher 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.

Where does rel=publisher fit into SEO?

Quite frankly, rel=publisher doesn’t play much for a role in SEO these days. Instead of using rel="publisher” to link to your Google+ brand page, Google recommends claiming your Google My Business listing and linking to your website from there.

But what’s the point of creating this link, anyways?

Why Would I Want to Connect GMB to My Site?

For a simple visual explanation, take a look at these two SERPs.

SERP 1:

Allure Bridals SERP

And SERP 2:

Hewlett Packard knowledge panel

The difference is pretty obvious.

From a pure SEO perspective, the second might not look much more valuable than the first. Both brands occupy the first position and have site links to category and other internal pages. However, Hewlett-Packard’s knowledge panel is actually very valuable from a branding perspective.

Just look at all that information that appears for HP that doesn’t for Allure:

  • A brief company description

  • Location

  • Current CEO

  • Founders

  • Recent social media posts

None of that information shows up in SERP 1.

Having knowledge panels appear in your branded searches helps increase the authority of your brand — there’s a certain trustworthiness that comes with being in Google’s knowledge graph. These benefits apply to any branded keyword someone would use in a Google search.

Connection your website used to be done via the rel="publisher” tag that linked your website to your brand’s Google+ page. However, Google no longer uses the rel=”publisher” tag for this (or anything else, really). Instead, you should claim your business and then link to your website on your Google My Business page.

What is Google My Business?

To steal Google’s own explanation, Google My Business is a tool for…

businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.

It essentially is the central hub that connects your brand to all the different ways it appears across Google properties:

  • Maps (including reviews and photos)
  • Search
  • Google+
  • AdWords

It’s how Google verifies the information about your business/brand as an entity for use is its knowledge graph rich results. Much of the information in Hewlett-Packard’s knowledge panel comes from the GMB listing.

That’s what GMB is. Here’s what GMB is not:

  • An alternate to your website. Google My Business is a way to structure data about your business for Google to use in its search results. It complements and verifies the information for Google.

  • Only for local search. Google My Business is, indeed, vital for local search results. It’s how Google populates its local packs. However, even if you don’t have a local business, you still need it to fill out your brand’s knowledge graph entry.

  • Passive. Google does look at the reviews people leave for your business. And it does rely on those reviews for ranking purposes. Read and respond to reviews through your GMB listing — don’t forget about them. Plus, with more and more people using click to call, GMB is a great source of insights into the customer journey before they contact you.

How to optimize your GMB listing

Since GMB is all about verifying business information for Google, you need to double and triple check all of the information in your listing is complete and completely accurate. Pay special attention to your NAP info (if you’re a local business) as consistency here is a ranking signal. And inconsistency is a negative ranking signal.

Some general GMB optimization guidelines include:

  • Use keywords and search phrases in your business page. Since your listing links back to your site, it’s a great source of secondary SEO.

  • Operating hours are particularly important here. Consider incorrect information here to be the same as putting the wrong hours on your store’s front window.

  • Use photos. Make sure they are in focus and well-lit and minimize editing. Filters are right out.

For more in-depth guidelines on optimizing GMB, check out this handy guide.

And, of course, include that link back to your website. This is what will help pull in the knowledge graph for your branded search terms.

Use Structured Data, Too

Once you’ve setup your Google My Business page and linked it back to your website, it’s time to help add more information to your pages to take advantage of more of Google’s rich results like featured snippets and Twitter cards.

But how?

By using structured data.

Add the code in the head section of your pages

The great thing about structured data is that it can be used to mark up each individual page on your website. One way to structure the data on your pages is to use the Schema.org vocabulary to add semantics to your content.

There are a few ways to add Schema to your pages:

You can add structured data to each post you have, which Google provides a Structured Data Markup Helper to help create your own structured data for each article, etc. Then head to your header section and paste that in.

Google structured data markup tool

Once you've entered your URL, you can start highlighting words to add to your very own structured data, where you can then add it to your site.

Adding markup in Google markup tool

If your website is built on a CMS platform — for example, WordPress — 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 few plugins that can help you expedite your structured data implementation, such as:

All In One Schema Rich Snippets

All in One Schema Rich Snippets plugin for Wordpress

Adding event entity in the plugin

You can select Article and you’ll be able to fill out your publisher information from here.

All in One article markup

WordLift.io

Wordlift

WordLift.io is a plugin that is one step further, an artificial intelligence that can implement a ton of magic. Yes, not only do you simply implement structured data, each data is being connected, helping your site talk to Google.

Learn more on how WordLift.io works and see the gif below:

How Wordlift works

Validate your markup

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

This tool will detect and extract the entities discovered on the page, along with all the properties linked to them. Here’s the result for woorank.com:

Validate markup in Google's testing tool

In our case, there are not errors in our markup, but you can see Google will tell you when it finds errors and some things that don’t look quite right. Fix these errors to help Google better understand what entities the page is about.

To sum up what we’ve learned

As mentioned The"rel-author” tag has been discontinued by Google, which now prefers Google My Business and structured data markup or Schema. Using these two things will be much more effective in maintaining data consistency in Google’s knowledge graph.

However…

The rel="publisher” link is still valid in HTML5. Using it won’t hurt you, and there could conceivably be applications or tools out there still using it. So you can leave it if you want.