Author Stats: Your Authorship Companion Tool

Author Stats: Your Authorship Companion Tool

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an Author Stats junkie with no plans for recovery. I’m 100% addicted to analyzing how the content I publish, for which I’m the verified author, is performing in Google’s organic search results.  With the recent introduction of new and improved “Clicks” accuracy in the Author Stats reports, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to create a what, why, and how guide for using the tool.

What is Author Stats?

Author Stats is a Labs feature in Google Webmaster Tools that provides you with reports about organic search data for all content for which you are the verified author. Because content can span a wide variety of formats, these results can include videos from a YouTube account that’s linked with your Google+ profile, content with verified Authorship markup,  Google+ posts, hashtag search results, and images contained in posts and articles.

What does it mean to be a verified author?

Being a verified author means that Google recognizes you as the author of the content you publish. Implementation and verification can vary across content formats and platforms, which I’ll discuss shortly.

How do I get a Webmaster Tools account?

Everyone with a Gmail account has access to a <a href=”http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/>Google Webmaster Tools account.  In case you’re not familiar, Google’s Webmaster Tools is a free service for webmasters and online marketers looking for data about the search status and performance of their websites in Google Search. You’ll be able to access your Author Stats regardless of whether or not you have any verified websites in your Webmaster Tools account.  To access your Author Stats, login to your Webmaster Tools account, click on “Labs” in the left navigation and select Author Stats.

What metrics and filtering options are available in the Author Stats report?

The metrics and filters available in Author Stats mirrors the data you’d see in the search queries reports in Google’s Webmaster Tools.  For those new to the tool, here’s a breakdown of all available Google organic search metrics and filters you’ll see in your own Author Stats account:

Google Author Stats Dashboard

  1. Impressions – This metric tells you how many times your URL appeared in search results for any user search queries that Google feels are relevant to your content
  2. Clicks – The number of times a searcher clicked on your result
  3. CTR –  Also known as click-through rate, CTR provides you with a percentage of impressions that resulted in a click on your result
  4. Avg. position – The metric shows you the average top ranking position for your result for all search queries that resulted in an impression
  5. Pages – The number of pages available in your report in the selected data range
  6. Filters –Filter your reports by web, image, mobile, video, location, and traffic
  7. Date range – Similar to Webmaster Tools, Author Stats provides three months’ worth of search data in the reports. You can shorten and extend your reports to any period within the allowed time frame. The percentage of change for Impressions and Clicks will only show for the default month over month time period
  8. Percentage change – Similar to the “With change” feature in Webmaster Tools, these percentages show you an increase or decrease for the last 30 days of data for clicks and impressions

You mentioned earlier the data recently improved in Author Stats, what changed?

On Jan 7, 2014, the Google Webmaster Central Blog announced an improvement to the search queries feature which was updated to show exact data points as opposed to rounded (bucketed) numbers.  The improvement to the data was applied retroactively on 12/31/13. With all Google keyword referral data now showing as (not provided), having improved accuracy for search queries that are receiving clicks was a welcome change.

While not officially announced on the Webmaster Central Blog, I noticed on the day of the update that the “Clicks” data in Author Stats was more accurate and wasn’t being rounded.  This change was confirmed by other users who were also noticing improved accuracy in their reports.

How do I establish Authorship?

There are a few different options for verifying Authorship for the content you publish. As previously mentioned, your Author Stats report can include videos, images, Google+ posts and articles and hashtag search results.

Authorship expert, Mark Traphagen, has created a detailed guide on establishing Authorship , which I’d recommend for anyone not currently familiar with implementation.  The following is a breakdown of results from a few different content formats that you may see in your own Author Stats reports:

Google+ Posts

Great news! You’re already considered the verified author for any posts you publish on Google+.

Google Plus Posts in Author Stats

I’m always curious as to why I receive impressions and clicks for some Google+ posts but not for others. I enjoy analyzing the following for each post displayed in the report:

  • Topic of post – Was it a trending or hot topic?
  • Title of post – What was the title (Google+ will automatically add a <title> tag to the headline in your Google+ post). Did it include highly searched for keywords and phrases?
  • Engagement – Was the post heavily engaged with by users that have a high profile authority? What was the overall reach (ripples) i.e. +1’s, reshares?
  • UGC (user generated content) – Did the post receive a significant amount of comments and if so, did users with high profile authority contribute to the conversation? In Google’s resource on linking your website with your Google+ page, it states that linking the two properties provides Google with “information that we can use to help determine the relevancy of your site to a user query on Google Search.” As we move deeper into the semantic web, I’m optimistic that UGC on posts will assist Google’s in evaluating topical relationships and authority.

Articles and Posts

To establish Authorship for content on a website you control or for article you publish on a 3rd party website or blog, you’ll first need a Google+ profile with a recognizable headshot as your profile photo.  You can then either link your Google+ profile with a verified email address or add Authorship markup to the content you publish via a 2 or 3-link process. For both scenarios, the publishing domain will need to be in the “Contributor to” section in your Google+ profile.

In Author Stats, I spend the most time reviewing the data for posts I publish on 3rd party websites and blogs, as the organic search performance for these articles isn’t always readily available. I look at the following to see what may have influenced short or sustained impressions, clicks, and avg. position including:

  • How many total social shares did the post receive?  While there’s no proven causation between social shares and rankings, content that’s shared across social networks could lead to faster discovery, indexation and increase visibility, which could in-turn could lead to earned inbound links.
  • Do sites I publish on with a high domain authority see a higher avg. ranking position for search queries relevant to the topic of the content?
  • UGC (user generated content) – I’m always curious as to how Google evaluates comments and if the comments left by readers affects or influences relevance and reputation .

Videos Results In Author Stats

Last year, Google presented YouTube users with the option to link their channels to a Google+ page. Shortly after linking my YouTube channel and Google+ profile, I started noticing video results in my Author Stats.

Video Results in Author Stats

Images

Images from articles, Google+ posts, and video thumbnails from linked YouTube accounts will all appear in this filter. For images included in posts and articles, remember to add a descriptive filename and alt attribute to your images to provide Google and other search engines with strong hints about the topic of your image. You’ll additionally want to make sure that when possible, your images (and article) have schema.org markup.

How do I verify Authorship is working for a web page?

Google has provided users with the Structured Data Testing Tool as a way to verify that Authorship and Publisher markup are verified on a page. The tool also extracts other markup it finds on the URL that you query but I’ll save that for another post.

Structured Data Testing Tool

Additional Authorship Resources

The following are a few Authorship resources and tools to enhance your understanding of the tag and correct implementation:

Does Author Stats just report results with rich snippets?

Now that we covered the metrics and filtering options and potential results you could see in your reports, what still remains unclear is if the data provided in Author Stats reports are for a result with a profile photo and a byline, byline only, no rich snippet, or includes all of the previous.  At this point, I haven’t been able to find an official resource that clarifies this statement.

That’s a wrap!

We’ve covered just about everything you’ll need to know to get started with Authorship and how to access, filter and review the data that’s available in your personal Author Stats reports.  I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with the tool.

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