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Can you use a company's page as the author for google authorship or does it have to be an actual persons google + account for it to work ?

I.e. could i have it showing in search results as "-by acme co" rather than "-by simon smith "

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Yes. Mashable has a good rundown on setting up a G+ brand page and you can find out how to implement authorship information in this answer to "How do I get my Google+ picture to show up on Google searches?"

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Google+ pages can not be used as Authors. Authorship needs a profile (person). Company / Organisation can only have pages therefore they can only be publishers , not authors.

company/organisation page" rel="publisher" />
person profile" rel="author" />
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