That’s it. Google Authorship. It’s all over! Google’s experiment with allowing authors to add their profiles to their content in search results has come to an end.
Launched in 2011, Google’s Authorship mark-up was billed as “a way to connect authors with their content on the web”.
By implementing authorship mark-up, content creators could have their author name and G+ profile picture appear in search results, next to your ranking content. Google started off big, marking up content from The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post, before announcing it open to all webmasters and authors.
However, in its three-year long tenure, Authorship has been victim to low adoption rates and problems with correct user implementation. Late last week Google’s John Mueller announced on Google+, that the Authorship program was coming to an end, and as a result, Google Authorship would no longer be using any data associated to the ‘rel=author’ mark up.
The History of Google Authorship
Mueller’s announcement comes as no surprise to most webmasters and bloggers. We saw reports in December 2013 that there had been a noticeable reduction in the number of author photos appearing in the search results. Further questions were raised in June as to the future of Authorship, when we saw the removal of all author photos and a controversial statement that images had no impact on click-through rates.
Before Mueller’s announcement in June, Google had spoken of nothing but the benefits and future of Authorship with confidence. Only a year ago Google’s Tech Lead Maile Ohye said that the “Authorship annotation is useful to searchers because it signals that a page conveys a real person’s perspective or analysis on a topic.”
In June 2013 Matt Cutts said: “I’m pretty excited about the ideas behind authorship. Basically, if you can move from an anonymous web to a web where you have some notion of identity.”
You can’t help but wonder, what changed for Google to backtrack on this positive outlook for the future of Authorship?
Why have they killed Google authorship?
Google is relentless in it’s testing for search quality. Simply put – anything that doesn’t meet Google’s goals, doesn’t provide significant value to the user or doesn’t have sufficient user adoption – gets the chop.
An in-depth article by Search Engine Land on the end of Authorship includes study data that confirms low adoption rates from authors and webmasters. To highlight low adoption, Search Engine Land references a 2012 study of the 50 most influential social media marketers by Forbes, which reported only 30% of the top 50 people use authorship mark up.
In addition to the low adoption rates, Google now claims that Authorship was of low value to searchers. In Mueller’s Google+ announcement in June, he stated that authorship had little impact on click-through behaviour. In his most recent announcement, Mueller goes as far to say that Authorship may have even distracted from those results showing authorship.
What does this mean for the future?
According to Mueller, removing authorship doesn’t generally seem to reduce traffic to sites. And if you leave the rel=author mark-up on your website, nothing will happen. Google will just choose not to use that data anymore. It’s also worth noting that Google says that when users sign in, you will still be able to see the Google+ posts relevant to your search query from your Google+ friends and pages.
In terms of Google’s future plans, Mueller claims that:
“Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”
Google authorship in principle still remains to be a good concept – connecting content with its rightful owner online. I believe the abandonment of authorship signals a concept that hasn’t quite worked this time, but will return in another form. After all, Author Rank – which impacts the ranking of a page dependent on the authority of an author – still lives on.
So what should you do?
In essence, continue to create high quality content that helps to establish you as an authoritative author in your industry. If you share your content via Google+, continue to do so. If you aren’t already considering implementing markup for your website, like schema, then start. Schema can be used to markup anything from your brand and business opening hours, to your video content.
So has Google authorship just been a big waste of time?
Over to you: How do you feel about Google scrapping Authorship? Did you invest your time in to Google Authorship? Leave your comments below.