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Where the heck are we at with Google Authorship?

Where the heck are we at with Google Authorship?

If you are the kind of person who notices changes in the way your search results look, you might have picked up that the little author photos are no longer appearing beside blogs and articles.

Instead you just get the name of the author, and occasionally you might see a brand image/logo associated with the piece of content.

Congratulations on your powers of observation, you’ve just picked up on Google’s latest jiggling of the whole authorship kit and caboodle.

As you can see from reading our earlier posts on the subject of authorship here and here, Google has been working on the basis that readers and searchers will be interested in finding content authored by people with authority, people they consider credible.

For me the classic example is Seth Godin, and yes, I might well be more likely to click on a search result with his picture or name next to it, than some random writer I have never heard of.

But two weeks ago, just after the annual Google I/O developer event, the company announced that they would no longer be showing those little thumbnail images next to search results, and neither would they be showing the circle counts of those writers (the number of people who have them in circles on Google+).

The reason, according to Googler John Mueller is the following:

We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)

So does that mean we should no longer bother setting up authorship on websites?

In a nutshell, the answer is no. We think that Google is still working towards using “author rank” as an indicator for search results, so it is still worthwhile.

If you are keen to read more, you might want to visit Search Engine Land or drop into the wonderful world of Google+ to read Mark Traphagen’s post and the subsequent comments on the thread.

From our perspective, there is some logic to Mueller’s comment that the images were not making much difference to click through rates.

As we know, humans adapt to the new and different very quickly. There was a time when everyone used to click on banner ads – nowadays the click through rates are often less than 1%. In the same way, I am sure that to start with, people clicked through on search results with images, but over time, they stopped even seeing them or actively blocked them out and chose to click on links without an author photo.

The other rationale as to why author photos may have lost impact/value is the internet old phenomena of gaming – anything that helps improve search results or profile is going to be gamed by the proponents of SEO – black hat and white hat.

So as the author image became more meaningless in terms of authority – every time you clicked onto a piece of pointless content masquerading as something worthwhile, an angel lost its wings. Or at least, your belief in the credibility of that particular tool, diminished.

As a fan of Google+, I am interested to see if removing this feature diminishes the number of spammy Google+ accounts that have been proliferating of late. I have a feeling that this may have been another reason for pulling the plug.

 

About Karen Foreman-Brown

Karen Foreman-Brown is a digital strategist and online marketer with a particular interest in social media, content marketing and delivering spectacular outcomes for client organisations.
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