On August 29th, 2014, John Mueller, the head of WMT (Google Webmaster Tools) promulgated in a Google+ post that Google has effectively eliminated the display of authorship results in Google Search and henceforth be removing any tracking from content using rel=author markup that had designated the article or post as “Authored by” content.
The halt of the Authorship system comes after two major overhauls of the Authorship rich snippets over the past nine months. In December 2013 Google had started ramping down the number of author photos, displayed in the SERP. Matt Cutts, the head of Google Search SPAM had forecasted this would happen in October 2013. December 2013, results started to show up sans the author “photo” and displaying only a byline.
In the August 29th Google+ Post, John Mueller alerted everyone to the fact that authorship photos were removed because Google was moving toward unifying the user experience between desktop and mobile search, and author photos did not work well with the limited screen space and bandwidth of mobile. Mr. Mueller also made remarks that “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” between search pages with or without author photos.
While Mr. Mueller makes this claim, various studies on the influence, increase of click through rate (CTR) and the corresponding relationship of the displaying of Google Authorship Profile byline and photo, had always shown a different result.. Authorship with a profile photo in the SERP had significant impact in click through rate, especially when considering “local” business results. I also find it interesting in his first statement that authorship photos “does not seem to reduce traffic to sites”. It would seem this generally sweeping statement doesn’t give us much as far as specifics as to how or why this would be true. When comparing local business search results and you have a list of 7 businesses and only one has a photo of an author, this one listing always gets the lion’s share of the clicks for that one page impression. I’m not really buying Mr. Mueller’s claim at all. Also, Mr. Mueller makes the statement “Nor does it increase clicks on ads”. The last time I’ve checked, no authorship byline or profile photos have EVER been included on adwords ads, either on google’s properties NOR it’s ad network.
It would occur that Mr. Mueller is being a bit disingenuous regarding his comments towards authorship.. I personally believe there is another move at play here..
Rand Fishkin of Moz, points out in a tweet:
Rand points out that Google doesn’t want distractions from it’s revenue sources.. namely Adwords ads. However, I believe it’s not just Adwords they are trying to increase revenue with.
Call me crazy, but after Google’s recent comment on using HTTPS (SSL certificates) on all sites as a ranking signal and their recent entry in the domain name registration game (Google Domains), be rest assured that there Google will soon be offering SSL… which in turn will validate/authenticate websites and businesses.. This was something that, in my personal opinion, Authorship was supposed to assist with to begin with.. separate the wheat from the chaff.. remove the spammers influence in the SERP by requiring multiple levels of validation / authentication.
Basically, in Google’s book: If you are who you say you are, we will give you some ranking signal boost for your site.
However, it’s obvious that Mr. Mueller’s comment on why Google removed author photos and bylines from organic results, improving user experience between mobile and desktop and also the insignificance of click through rate with those authorship snippets in SERP, don’t make sense.
Author: Rick Berg
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