Google Authorship now removed from search results

So Google Authorship decides to go the way of the dinosaur.... Extinct, dead, "fin". But has everything died out completely or has something remained behind, lurking in the backgrounds which may be of interest? Just like Loch Ness may be host to a possible prehistoric descendant (so they say), Google authorship may have departed by author rank still lives on. 

Wondering what I'm babbling on about? Let me explain further.

Google Authorship quickly summed up

Until recently Google operated a system they called authorship as a means of assigning article ownership to an individual's Google+ profile, just as a byline in a newspaper would for a journalist. This digital footprint then would display the author's profile photo alongside the article in the search results. The belief being that authorship of material should be recognised, and by identifying the writer as a human being (as opposed to a business)  it expressed the views of a person, which viewers preferred.

Later on Google authorship, created with the rel=author tag, became an important ranking factor for SEO and offered a new edge to content marketing as a strong element within organic marketing (which it should have been from the start, if marketers were undertaking their SEO campaigns properly!)

Why has the Authorship feature changed?

However last week, Googles webmaster trends analyst John Mueller declared that the Google authorship feature would be dropped and discontinued from search results, saying the adoption rates from authors were low and giving 2 other reasons (both weak in my opinion).

1) the addition of profile images were supposedly diminishing the experience for mobile viewers (firstly... Understandable as space is an issue, but so what? It still offers those using a desktop added benefit. And secondly people like to see and follow other people they recognise and trust. We follow Matt Cutts, we follow Danny Sullivan, we follow Rand Fishkin... Because we trust the articles they publish, just as as music lovers may choose a radio presenter they like.)

Reason no.2) Importance of who originally wrote the article should not be as important as the website and the publisher as a whole. Therefore Google authorship is benched in place of schema tags or rich snippets. (Again, I understand the importance of schema tags and how it helps expand information on the website and business overall, but surely not at the expense of completely replacing Google authorship). 

I cannot understand why Google has decided to hinder an activity which previously promoted the use of Google+ profiles and encourages more marketers to adopt Google+ as part of their campaign management, especially given the lengths (and failures) that Google have gone to promote their social platform as a potential rival to the likes of Facebook. 

John Mueller stated that the Google + authorship would be discontinued, but that their research has indicated no negative impact on traffic to sites. For those sceptics who believe Google just want more money from PPC budgets, again making SEO harder in a persuasion to move to PAID, John Mueller also cited that the removal of profile images has not generated an increase in ad clicks. In essence the removal of said profiles should have had absolutely no impact on anything. (I personally find that a hard to believe). 

Authorship is gone, but what about Author Rank?

So Google authorship is gone, and schema tags, rich snippets and the use of the data highlighter tool are now firmly back on the table as the preferred option for tagging. But as I said at the start, some things are not yet extinct. All that time and past efforts to build your profile have not gone to waste, as rumours are Author Rank will still be maintained. 

Coined by SEO professionals the term ‘Author Rank’ is an unofficial Google ranking signal used to assign weight to author’s content.  It is calculated on the number of articles you write, their quality, how many social shares are generated from them etc.  In short it identifies your influence. So it would appear that knowing who wrote what article for whom may still be of interest to Google after all... Just not displayed in the public arena. 

So when asked if the Google authorship tag should remain on your website or be removed completely John Mueller said it would have no impact on rankings, but from a functionality point of view you may wish to use it in other ways such as directing viewers to your Google + profile page (for a variety of social reasons). However if Google authorship tag were to be removed, I wonder how they will continue to know which author wrote what article so as to attribute author rank. Apparently that question may have been headed off - they reckon they can establish article ownership through bylines written in the article itself.

My verdict on Google Authorship and the future

  1. If you've already adopted Google authorship tags for your sites and articles, continue to use it.  Although it won't show in standard search results, apparently your profile pic will display for searches made by those in your Google circles (interesting).
  2. Google authorship will also help with the Author Rank (if you are one to believe in that unofficial ranking factor - for which I do). I don't believe Google will be able to always establish the correct author by a written byline in the content.  And if it is saying it already does that, WHY are they collecting that data if not for use of author rank?
  3. Definitely adopt schema tags for your site if you are not already doing so. (Schema is a whole different ball game in terms of inception, and Google now taking control of it as their baby, but worth it for SEO ranking factors)

About Chris Surridge

Chris Surridge is an experienced Digital Marketing Director with a wealth of knowledge on Search Marketing Strategies and Conversion Analysis. His value is in strategic planning for client accounts, and his consultative services.


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