Yesterday Google announced the end of its great Google Authorship experiment as it relates to search results. Author snippets won’t be shown on SERPs and authorship markup will not weigh in search ranking, effective immediately.
Authorship has had a mixed history. While Google was interested in the idea as far back as 2007, it was only with the launch of Google+ that it gained any traction. Suddenly, authors could link all their work back to a single Plus profile and get credit across the web. But the victory was short-lived: by 2013 Google reduced how many author snippets it showed per search, and six months later it removed author photos from search results altogether.
Still, axing Authorship entirely comes as a surprise to many. Google’s John Mueller gave two reasons for the decision:
Reason 1: Authors Were Not Using It
Have you ever tried to enroll in Authorship? It’s not easy, at least not for non-tech junkies. Google struggled to offer multiple ways to verify an author account and then get credit for the articles you’ve written, but the reality is that many authors set up their accounts improperly, or set them up and then failed to link any articles. For that matter, authors in many fields never even knew about Google Authorship at all.
The value of recognizing and ranking authors is non-existent if most authors don’t participate.
Reason 2: No Value to Users
By “users” here we mean “people searching for something online.” Obviously, it felt great if you were an author to see your face smiling next to all of your articles in the search results. But it didn’t help people find information or get value out of their searches. According to Google, results with Author snippets didn’t get extra clicks—possibly because people had just started tuning them out altogether.
The Future of Content
So what does this mean for the future? Well, for starters, the idea of authorship itself isn’t dead. What Google ran into was that asking authors to enroll themselves in the program was ineffective. But the idea of establishing a trust level for different authors online is a good one. It’s likely we’ll see more attempts at this in the future, maybe with a process that doesn’t require opt-in. (Bing, if you’re reading, this could be a chance to leap light years past Google).
But more importantly, it has immediate effects on search ranking. The demise of Authorship does not undermine all the content-focused SEO and marketing efforts that companies have pursued: the presence of high-quality articles on your site will continue to drive search traffic. But it does mean that focusing those articles around a few public figures, like your CEO or a staff blogger, is not important. Google is rewarding your web entity (at present) for the value of your content, not the authorial cache of whoever wrote it.
Do you need help making great content for your site? EverSpark’s team of authors and designers are eager to help, with or without Author photos. Contact us for a free consultation today.