Google previously released an authorship markup that lets content creators claim the articles they've written. This markup is being taken a step further with an experiment that showcases the author in the search results page.
The Authorship Spotlight Experiment
The rel="author" tag, introduced earlier this month, was presumed to be mostly a preventative measure against the scraper issues that remained prominent in a post-Panda world. That may still be a core reason for rel="author", but it's certainly not the only purpose of the tag. Google has started an experiment that boldly spotlights the authors of content around the web.
As you can see from the image above, the author's picture and name are displayed to the right of the SERP result. Both are clickable, and direct users to the Google Profile of the author.
"We’re piloting this new search experience with a small sample of authors who have linked their Google profile with their content," according to the official Inside Search blog entry announcing the feature. "It's anticipated that author pages located on the domains where content is shared will also receive support in the future."
Trust, Social, and a New Form of Browsing
While authors will absolutely love this new feature (it's exposure, and we melt for exposure!), users and Google itself both benefit. By being able to see the author of any piece of content, users will gain a new level of trust that the content is high calibre. Google, in the meantime, is giving those more trusted results; it's an effective way to tag their content without having to invest in manual curation.
It's also highly social for Google. The profiles of the authors will become more prominent, and will themselves become a hub for exploring the web. Users who like the content from an author can use the Google Profile to find other content they might enjoy.
Additionally, this new form of browsing increases the importance of a long-term relationship between content creators and their readers, pushing for quality over quantity.