Last updated on July 26th, 2016
Three years ago Google announced authorship to eliminate spam and duplicate content, and offer high quality content created by a niche and industry authority in search results. It seemed the search giant intended for people populating web properties with content to play a pivotal role in how Google treated search results. After all, they bombarded us with multiple videos on how to use authorship markup on websites. They also added features, like Google Plus circle counts, and authorship impression data to Webmaster Tools. Google seemed to value authorship more and more as time went on.
I was among the SEO professionals who scrambled to build a Google+ account, post an author photo and bio so that I could be visible in Google search results and achieve the best ranking. Now, Google has terminated authorship, leaving many SEOs and webmasters perplexed.
Was it a ploy to get more Google+ users? It’s a valid question—after all, how many of us spent time creating a Google+ profile with high hopes that our content would rank higher in search results? Our efforts, alas, may have been in vain.
When authorship commenced, Google’s Matt Cutts said that Google was attempting to find the authorities in niche topic areas and industries; done algorithmically not by humans.
“Because you know you really want to listen to the experts in each area if you can,” he said.
Last fall, Cutts announced the amount of authorship in search results would be reduced by approximately 15 percent. The move would improve quality, he claimed.
Google stated in June it was getting rid of authors’ profile photos and circle counts in authorship results because it would lend to a “better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.”
Nonetheless, search results still displayed a byline and link to the author’s Google+ profile.
In August, Google’s John Mueller announced authorship would no longer appear in search results because the information wasn’t as useful to users as Google had hoped.
How can knowing more about a result be less useful? It is odd that within one year Google went from considering authorship information crucial to finding it utterly useless.
Mueller emphasized that removing authorship won’t greatly affect traffic to sites, but you have to wonder. A silver lining is that although authorship is eliminated, “author rank” still existents.
Google uses author rank in the In-Depth Articles section and possibly in terms of typical organic search results.
Now, Google search result delivery favors knowledge graph—on-page “answers”—more than it does people and links to other websites. The company says its goal “is to eventually provide immediate answers to specific questions for the most popular search queries.”
How do you feel about Google doing away with authorship? Share your thoughts in the comments.