Why Doesn’t My Image Show In The SERPs?

Updated on 19-Jan-2012

If you have set up your Google+ authorship markup on WordPress correctly, and tested that it’s working, you’ll be anxiously waiting to see your image appear in the search engines results pages (SERPs). In my case and also in the case of many others, there is still no sign … our search results are image free. How annoying.

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Do We Need To Be More Popular?

Bear in mind that I have no insider knowledge about Google, and whatever I say is based on my observations only. That said, it looks to me as if you need a really strong and trusted Google+ Profile before Google will start to reward you with a SERPs mugshot. You’ll have to keep writing and keep contributing to improve the strength of your Google profile by getting more people to en-circle you because of the value you offer.

Google Circles – How Many Are You In?

As of today – I am only in 177 209 Google+ circles. This isn’t enough for Google to trust my profile. I will focus on it more over the coming weeks. Look at this Google search that I just did – I typed the following phrase rel=author tags into Google.

The screenshot of the result of the search is shown below. As you can see, my article is currently at position 5 on page 1 of the Google SERPs for that term. But my image is not there. However, look at the social credentials of those whose images do show and whose articles occupy positions 1 and 2. They are in tens of thousands of circles …

Search Engine Results for search phrase 'rel=author tags'

The answer seems partly at least, to build a big profile on Google+. If Google wants to keep spammers out of the top positions on the search engines results pages, this approach seems likely to work. It’s not all about back-linking anymore. Backlinks were easy to fake. Authorship markup is not so easy to fake nor I assume are genuine Google+ followers.

Penny’s Success

My WordPress coaching student Penny has had more success. Please check this article for news on her Google Profile image in the SERPS.

So How Will It Affect Spammers?

Normally a spammer would scrape your article (and they may still do that), placing it on a site of their own. Imagine a website dedicated to the topic of Home Finance – containing thousands of articles automatically copied from other people’s sites.

The person who owns the scraped site would not have to do very much work at all – it could all be automated, yet they could earn regular money using say Adsense. With internal linking and generated backlinks, not to mention the sheer size of their scraped site, the spammer’s articles could outrank the same articles that they scraped from smaller sites.

If a spammer scrapes your article containing a link back to your Google+ profile, he will either scrape that too, in which case your Google+ profile will not link back to the scraped site, thereby signalling that the content was copied, or, he will exclude your Google+ profile link altogether. If he does the latter, he will not be verified as the author. However, I guess, he could still copy your article, and link it to his own Google+ profile. But then we’d all know who he was.

This brings me back to the main point of this article. Why don’t many of our images show in the SERPs?

It’s All About Trust?

If we are not yet trusted by Google, then think about how a spammer must feel. He would have to own up to having authored a large number of articles that he didn’t author in order to be get his scraped sites to rank well. The original authors of the articles would notice and after enough complaints to Google, he’d be taken out. This is probably too much work for most spammers.

As for ourselves, we have to write more, do more and get more people to approve of our work in Facebook, Twitter and on Google+. Not for the the faint-hearted, eh?

Tying all your articles up, no matter where they sit online into neat bundles that then point back to your Google profile, and having your Google profile also point back to the home page of sites you write on, creates a circle of trust around each article and your profile.

The types of backlinks you now need are those that come from places like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. The more social proof the better.

You can read other opinions on the subject here :

  1. A strong Google+ profile will soon be critical
  2. Why won’t rel author show for my site?
  3. The importance of authorship markup

This article was updated on January 19, 2012

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is an experienced web developer and WordPress SEO Coach. Connect with her on Google+ and Twitter


  1. Until recently I would have said that G+ circles didn’t matter too much. A search a while ago showed authors coming up with under 200 followers. This seems to have changed more recently to support what you are saying.

    More than just the number of people you are connected with, it probably has something to do with Klout score. This could include what actions people take as a result of your content, whether they in turn share it, whether they ‘like’ it, click links and visit it. I’m sure it’s possible to buy G+ followers somewhere, but unless they engage with the content, it may not increase one’s Klout score.

  2. I think so – I am working to increase my G+ followers and my Klout score too. I don’t really mind – anything that makes it slightly harder for the generated content, link building spammers. As long as emerging voices are not locked out too.

  3. I think Google is only showing images for authors that are in the 1st and 2nd position. Have you seen authors that are below 2nd position with a photo on their line in the search result?

    • Well there are actually. You’d have to have been under a rock to not notice.

      Type authorship markup in Google search and you’ll see one of many examples of author images showing up way past positions 1 and 2.

  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    I like the fact that Google are making it harder for spammers and low quality websites to rank, these guys give internet marketing a really bad name! Sure, it means more work for us but I think its well worth it for a better experience for everyone. Good luck in getting your image!

  5. I wonder how to get a higher resolution image on our G+ profiles? At first, I had an image resized from smaller (Twitter probably) to larger. I then changed it. Same image, but resized from the much larger original shot. Might be worth a try.

    Thanks for sharing such great information!

    • Not sure what you are saying here Mike? If you want a better quality Google profile image then you need to upload a good quality one in the first place. Mine is not too good, so I will get around to trying to improve its quality at some point.

  6. It looks like it might just be a roll-out issue. My image started showing today. Only took 3 months.

  7. Congrats on getting it to show! :-) You only have a few more people in your circle so what do you think did it?

    • I think it may have been the +1s on some of the articles I’ve written recently, or maybe it is just that they got around to me on the roll out of rel=author. Who knows. Just make sure you’ve followed the instructions and write as much as you can and it should come. Delighted mine finally have.

  8. I’m happy to say your post came up first for me on Google, with an image! Congrats.

    This issue has frustrated me for some time, so thanks for providing clarity and good tips. Have you heard whether or not it appears to make a difference if you include a rel=author link on each page, or just a rel=me linking back to your About page?

    • Thanks Jenna – the method I describe is very simple to do, but it does conflict with some themes. The problem is this markup is very sensitive to validation – one step wrong and it refuses to validate, so if you theme has anything in it that is already trying to implement rel=author (and maybe failing), it can screw up your further attempts to get it working.

      My face got into the SERPs using this simple method as you have now seen! So I don’t think one method is better than another for doing that, however, the three way link is better (via an author page) for other reasons. If you want to do it that way, please use our plug AuthorSure. It can handle lots of different scenarios where my simple 2-way method may not work, such as in the case where a theme has tried to put some authorship markup in automatically which is causing the my simple method to fail. AuthorSure is more flexible. If you need help using it, please sign up to the membership site there and ask.

  9. Elizabeth, thanks for the heads up on the Google+ authorship. Like you I am waiting also. Interesting note, I have some friends who don’t have a lot friends in Google + circles and they have already gotten their authorship in a couple of days.

    The waiting game begins … !!!


  10. Elizabeth, I have a strong google + page, stronger than my competitor for the same keywords but she shows up with the author image and I don’t. Today google gave me the “by Katerina Gasset” and the ” more by Katerina Gasset” but no photo. Then tonight, the text was gone also. Very Strange. My competitor is below me in the serps, I have spots 1 and 2 on page one on SERPS, but her photo is right there and naturally the human eye gravitates to the image of another human. This is really annoying!!

    • Katerina – you have not given me enough information to help you, BUT – your face is showing in the SERPs – just not in every place where it could. It’s partly to do with the way your site has been set up (IMO) which is playing against you.

      You would benefit enormously from using our rel=author WordPress plugin to do your authorship markup. It would help you get more of your output listed with your photo – unlike now.

      Please visit the AuthorSure website

  11. Hi, Elizabeth i Like your article and I also want to show photos in snippets of Google search engine but mine is also not showing as i have put rel=”author”

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