Which search result catches your attention the most? This plain result:
Or this one with a headshot?
If you're like most people, the search result with the headshot was more compelling to you. The headshot affects us on a psychological level. Seeing a picture of a person humanizes the result. It takes an otherwise dull search result and increases our desire to click on it.
The search result with a headshot is made possible thanks to Google+ and Google Authorship.
Benefits of Google Authorship
The first benefit of using Google Authorship is the one I just described — it provides a more personal, humanizing search result. However, there's another important benefit called Author Rank.
Google Authorship establishes your identity — and more importantly, your trust and authority — with your Google+ profile. As you write and publish high quality content on trustworthy and authoritative sites, your profile can benefit from it as your Author Rank increases.
Author Rank is the name given by online marketers to refer to the degree of influence a profile has on sites and search results. It's believed by most industry experts that having a high Author Rank can result in your content appearing more often in search results. Your Author Rank also may pass authority and trust to the sites where you publish content.
In addition to providing a search advantage and improving one's Author Rank, Google Authorship can also display your content on the first page of related search results for everyone you're connected to in Google+. That means if you build up Circles in Google+ that include your target audience, there's a very good chance that they'll see your content at the top of their search results.
Setting up Google Authorship
Google provides multiple methods for setting up Authorship. To get started, the first thing you need to do is create a Google+ account (if you don't already have one).
The next step is to add the sites to which you've contributed content on your profile. To do this, go to your About page and edit the Links section to add the sites you've contributed to.
The final step can be the trickiest. You need to have the sites you've added to your About page vouch for you.
Google recommends including a verified email address on the pages where your content resides, but for most people who don't want to share their email address publicly, that's not a very good option.
The best and most foolproof way is to have the byline link your name to your Google+ profile page. Ideally, the site will include rel="author" at the end of the profile link or include it as an attribute in the link's HTML.
After you successfully set up Google Authorship, you should start to see your headshot in related search results within a few weeks. Keep in mind that setting up Google Authorship does not guarantee that Google will show your headshot or that your content will show up more often in searches. However, as you improve your Author Rank, you should see improved results over time.