It’s one thing to show up high in Google’s search results for a keyword term. It’s another to get someone to click on your link. Google doesn’t give you much to work with, after all. You’ve got the blue link (controlled by the title tag), the summary (controlled by the meta description tag), and not much else. One of the few additional things one can do to control the appearance of one’s website in search results is Google Authorship, for whom Jayson DeMers has written an excellent guide. Including this photo boosts click through rates because it makes your post stand out from others that don’t have the photo. This post isn’t about how to get your photo showing up in search results via Google Authorship, but rather the results of an experiment I ran to see how long it would take the photo to show up, once Authorship was correctly configured. First, let’s lay out the variables involved, because there are a few that will likely not apply to your situation. Here’s the backstory as to why not.

I’m a contributor to Forbes. In the footer of my posts I’ve always included a byline, which used to look like this:

steimle-forbes-byline

Embedded in that “Google+” link was the rel=author code needed to identify me as the author of each of my posts, which would make search results for my articles appear like this in Google:

steimle-forbes-authorship

However, apparently bylines have been getting out of control with Forbes’ 1,200 or so contributors, so the company saw fit to reign things in a bit. They asked us to shorten our bylines to a single line with a single link. I chose to include only a link to my Twitter profile. What I forget about was that this meant deleting the Google+ link and breaking the Authorship function. Forbes didn’t require that we go back and change old posts, so those continued showing the photo in Google SERPs, but on all my posts made after the change in policy my photo was missing.

Once this was brought to my attention I poked around and found that Forbes had a solution, which was that they had added an area in my Forbes profile where I could include a link to my Google+ profile. I set this up on May 2nd, but then the question became one of waiting. How long would it be until my photo started showing up on the pages which had previously not had the Authorship link, but now did?

I figured since this is Forbes.com we’re talking about, it would happen about as fast as it possibly could, given the traffic Forbes gets and how often the content is changing on the site. When I post on Forbes my articles show up in Google News results within a matter of minutes. I chose to keep an eye on my recent post Why Your SEO Firm Is Failing which didn’t have the Authorship code before and wasn’t showing the image in the SERPs. Each day I checked it to see if the photo was showing up, and while I can’t narrow it down to the minute, or even the hour, I can say that as of May 5th it was showing up, so it appears to have taken somewhere between 2 to 3 days.

Having checked several other posts that had the same issue, some are showing the image in the SERPs and others are not. This isn’t unusual–having Authorship in place doesn’t guarantee your image will show up, but it does mean that it’s possible the image showed up on one of my other posts even sooner, and it may show up for the other posts later. All we can say, based on the scant data of this experiment, is that it’s possible for the image to show up within 2 to 3 days.

Have you run your own experiments with Google Authorship to see how long it took for the image to show up? How long did it take in your case and what were the specific circumstances?