Side effect of Google+ connection feature in WordPress
Google Authorship integration with Google Sign-In
With the update of the 10th of September 2013 it became possible to automatically establish authorship for content on third party platforms when using Google Sign-In. The required link to the domain of the content can be placed automatically on the Google+ profile when Google Sign-In is used. The third party developer then has access to the rich snippets for the authorship markup. Of course this is great but this also has a mayor pitfall for all authors using WordPress version 3.6 and up. In these versions of WordPress the connect to Google+ feature is found under the sharing options in the WordPress Dashboard.
The pitfall of authorship / Sign-In integration in Wordpress
For authorship to work effectively it is crucial that the users, in this case authors, have working knowledge of how the concept and the ‘tech part’ that come with it. If this is not the case then we are at risk off loosing all authorship for all articles published while we were connected to Google+ with the WordPress Connect to Google+ feature. Why? Because of the fact that all authorship annotation is undone for all articles published with this feature when the author chooses to disconnect his Google+ profile from WordPress.
Understanding automated authorship markup
The process starts when the administrator of a WordPress blog, using WordPress version 3.6 and up, uses the Google+ Profile Connection Features in WordPress to connect to Google+. When this feature is activated then WordPress defaults to apply authorship markup to all new posts automatically. The user does not have to do anything and it works like a charm as long as the author stays connected to Google+ with the Sign-In. It also has some extra benefits like that the number of followers is shown for the author underneath the blog posts. This makes it attractive for active plussers to use.
Add the fact that an average user does not read the support page and this is where it becomes ugly as it says that all authorship annotation is lost for all articles when we break the connection with Google+. De facto causing WordPress to drop the authorship for all articles published with this feature turned on. The next part is cited from the WordPress support files for the Google+ profile connection feature. The parts that cause the problem of loosing authorship for posts are highlighted.
Google+ Profile Connection Features
The display name that appears on your posts and comments will display your Google+ Real Name (the name you have on your Google+ Profile). If you change your name on Google+ you will need to disconnect and reconnect from your dashboard to update it here. Note that disconnecting your site from Google+ will revert the name shown on your posts and comments to the display name selected in your User Settings.
A link to your site is added on your Google+ Profile under the ‘Contributor To‘ section. If you disconnect, you will need to manually remove that link from Google+ if you don’t want it there anymore.
On single Post/Page views only, a Google+ section is added to the Sharing/Like details on your posts that includes a link to your Google+ Profile, a button so people can Follow you on Google+, and your Google avatar (the picture you set on your Google+ Profile). If you disconnect your Jetpack site from your Google+ Profile, this section will no longer be added to your posts (and will be removed from all old posts).
Verification code will be added to your posts to confirm to Google that you are the author of those posts. Having this code in place means that Google can potentially use it to include additional information in their search results (although they do not guarantee that they will show this extra information). If you disconnect your Jetpack site from your Google+ Profile, this code will no longer be added to your posts (and will be removed from all old posts).
As you are connecting, if you have an Android device associated with your Google+ profile, you will be able to kick off an Over The Air (OTA) install of the WordPress app for your Android device.
The support file mentions that all markup will be reverted. The problem here is that not many people read support files in general. For those who do take some time to read it I suspect that most don't fully understand the implication of the above for them personally.
Is this a real life threat of an academic matter?
To get an idea of the scale of things I have looked up some statistics on the usage of WordPress as a blog platform. The numbers are mind boggling:
"In September, you created 1,369,067 new blogs, for an average of 45,636 blogs a day. Thursday, September 12, was the most popular day to start a new blog.You wrote 35,382,026 posts, which racked up a lot of pageviews:
WordPress.com in News and Numbers: The September 2013 Hot List"
I believe that most typical users of WordPress tend to follow the same behavioral patterns when installing and configuring a new WordPress blog. When I factor this assumption into the equation then I can only conclude that this feature must be causing problems in real life for a significant number of users. I think that we don't hear about it much because of the fact that the user is unaware of what is or was causing the problem even when it is noticed and fixed.
What can I do to prevent this from happening?
The answer is simple actually: always first set up authorship manually for all authors of the blog and enforce that all new authors fill out there WordPress profile correctly for the purpose of adding authorship to their blog posts. This entails that they need to manually have to place the link to the domain of the blog in the section Profile > About > Contributor to part of their Google+ profile and that the fill in the URL to their Google+ profile in their WordPress profile information. For this we use the link to the profile that contains the user ID or the custom Google+ URL like +Daniel Mulder. Both will work the same.
If we follow the above guideline then we are safe from losing all authorship when using the connect to Google+ feature as WordPress will fall back on the standard information in the WordPress user profile and this was set up correctly for authorship as a fail-safe.
Try the full SEO experience of the rankwise professional dashboard for yourself in our SEO Dashboard ShowCase