On 28th August, Google announced the end of Google Authorship, confirming that it would no longer be shown or have special value in terms of ranking or authority in search engine results pages (SERPs). In a Google+ post, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Switzerland, John Mueller wrote:
“We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.
“If you’re curious — in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.”
I wanted to write a short blog about this because you may be wondering whether or not to keep your Google Authorship markup or whether the end of Google Authorship will affect the visibility of your website in any way.
Why has Google Authorship ended?
It certainly looked like Google Authorship’s days were numbered back in June when Google announced it would no longer be showing author pictures against listings. The reason given was that, with the increase in mobile traffic – predicted to go up by 61% per year between now and 2018 – Google wanted to simplify its algorithms and speed up search results. It also wanted to give people a more consistent search experience, regardless of which device they are using.
Uptake of Google Authorship has also been patchy at best with fewer people adopting it than Google expected. Data from a study by Search Engine Land would suggest that, when they sampled 500 authors from across 150 different major media websites, only 30% of authors had attempted to connect their authorship with what they were publishing.
In the English Google Webmaster Centre office-hour hangout on 29th August 2014, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Switzerland, John Mueller, explained that Google Authorship took significant work to keep it up and running, in some cases holding Google back from developing other improvements to search quality.
When all is said and done Google is a business – as Search Engine Land put it, Google Authorship just ‘was not returning enough value compared to the resources it took to process the data’.
Should you keep your Google Authorship markup?
In the Google Hangout I mentioned above, John Mueller said that Google Authorship will provide ‘no extra value’ in Google’s eyes but that, as with all of your website content, it’s worth thinking more about the readers’ experience than how search engines see your site. Mueller advised that if you think it adds value to your blog or website to have a short bio about you and a by-line that lets people easily read this, then you might as well leave your Google Authorship markup in place.
I’m inclined to agree. I like to read a bit about the author and I imagine many people feel the same way. I plan to leave my Google Authorship markup in place for the time being.
Certainly, there’s no reason to remove the Google Authorship markup from your page. Of course, there’s also no reason to add it if you haven’t got around to it yet.
Is this really the end of Google Authorship or will it be back?
John Mueller conceded that we may see Google Authorship or a similar markup used again in the future but with better systems in place. It’s not an imminent development though. Mueller said Google will be continuing its experimentation around Google+ and personalised searches, still showing people how many Google+ circles you’re in.
It’s worth noting that although Google Authorship is dead, Author Rank isn’t. You can find out more about Author Rank in this article on the Search Engine Land website.
The piece of advice that I took away from watching the Hangout was that we should all be focusing on what works now for our customers, not what might – or might not – happen in the future.
When asked about social media and whether more emphasis would be put on Google+, John Mueller said Google wants to remain neutral, although it understandably has loads of verified data and content from Google+. He pointed out that Google can crawl Google and HTML pages really well and looks to other social media sites for signals about our businesses. He cautioned that we should all be using social media for engagement, not SEO purposes. The advice was: be active, put the customer first and keep social engagement at the forefront of what you do.
What do you think about the end of Google Authorship? Was it something you liked? Could you see the point? Are you relieved it’s over as it’s one less thing to worry about?
As someone who puts a lot of time into writing high quality content, I’m sad to see it go but I can see why it’s happened. The demise of Google Authorship doesn’t change the many other fantastic reasons for blogging – creating relationships, demonstrating knowledge, building authority, providing helpful information and giving people a reason to return to your website are just a few that spring to mind.