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Rel=author Authorship Markup in HTML5

Link to Your Author Page and Tell Search Engines You're the Author


The rel attribute has been around for a long time, and many web developers used to use it to identify the email address of the author of the current page. But then that grew out of favor as spammers started scraping web pages looking for email addresses.

But now it's gaining popularity again as Google starts to check for it and provide authorship information in their rich snippets.

Why Defining Authorship is Important

Including authorship information on your web articles helps search engines provide better search results to their users, but it also helps you get more of your content in front of people. Because as the verified author of a document, your article will have more credibility than an article without a verified author.

Note: The following is speculation on my part. Google and other search engines have not stated they are going to use the rel=author to deal with copyright or content scrapers in any fashion.

When you write on the internet it is very easy for unscrupulous people to scrape your successful content and post it to their own pages. In most cases, this is a violation of copyright, but that doesn't stop the spammers.

Most websites with articles have some type of by-line on them to identify who wrote the article or post. And in many situations, that by-line links to a page about the author. By adding the rel=author attribute to this link, you tell Google and other search engines that check for authorship that this is the by-line and the link is the page about the author.

This authorship attribution does two things to help deal with the spammers scraping your content:

  1. If they scrape the content and remove the by-line or the link to the author page, this tells Google that this is duplicate content that is most likely spam.
  2. If they scrape the content and leave the by-line in place, this tells Google that the author is by you. But because the link is to a domain other than the one the scraper is on, the author will come up as “unverified” in the Google rich snippet tool, which also implies that the page is spam.

How to Add Authorship Information to Your Articles

There are two things you need to do to add authorship information to your articles: create an author page and add the rel=author attribute to the by-line link.

Creating an Author Page

An author page is a page with information about the author. My author page is here: Jennifer Kyrnin biography. This page can contain anything you would like to say about the author, from other works and websites, photos, to a biography or even a resume.

The author page must be on the same domain as the content. So, for example, you can't link to your Twitter page or Facebook profile as your author page. If the author page is not on the same domain, it will be listed as “unverified” on Google.

Once you have a page about the author on the same domain as your article, you should link to it from the by-line of every article on that site that you authored. For example, on About.com, all my articles have a by-line at the top that reads:

By Jennifer Kyrnin, About.com Guide

My name is linked to the biography I listed earlier with the attribute rel=author on the link:

By&nbsp;<a href="/bio/Jennifer-Kyrnin-5105.htm" rel="author">Jennifer Kyrnin</a>,&nbsp;About.com Guide

And that's all you need to do. You can then test to make sure that Google is seeing the authorship information by testing your document in the Rich Snippets Testing Tool.

What About rel=me?

Google also offers a way to connect your various profiles so that Google knows they are all the same person. For example, you might have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, a home page, a blog, and articles on two or three other sites. When you link to these pages from your author page, you should add the attribute rel=me to these links. This tells Google that these links are also related to the same author. For example, I might link to my Facebook page from my About.com author page like this:

<a href="http://www.facebook.com/JenniferKyrnin" rel="me">Jennifer Kyrnin</a> on Facebook

How is the Rel Attribute Related to HTML5?

The rel attribute has been a part of HTML for a long time, but HTML5 codified the author as a link type, and then Google confirmed that they were going to start using this attribute to confirm authors of articles on the internet. With Google taking an interest in this attribute, it is likely that most web pages and blogs will start using it fairly quickly.

This attribute is also related to HTML5 in the use of microdata. Microdata is an HTML5 specification that provides extra semantic markup for web pages to help machines understand what the content is more readily. The rel attribute provides a form of microdata regarding the relationship between links and the documents they are on.

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