Google’s John Mueller recently announced on Google+ that the company is removing authors’ profile picture and Google+ circle count from search results
All that visibly remains in the search results is the clickable author name in the byline.
Images c/o Searchengineland.com
An improvement to user experience?
Google said the changes will improve the user experience by returning a less cluttered search result across all devices – especially mobile search.
One of the main advantages of authorship is the positive impact that profile pictures in search results have on click-through rates. However, Mueller said the new picture-less results exhibited a ‘similar click-through behavior’ to the previous results shown with a profile picture.
Google updated the visual appearance of it’s search results earlier this year with a change of font and the removal of the title underline, so this recent visual update to authorship doesn’t seem completely out of place. However, there is speculation around the real motives behind Google’s recent changes to authorship.
Was authorship impacting on Adwords Click-Through Rate?
This eye-tracking research and the Moz.com authorship study supports the claim that authorship pictures in search results improve click-through rates. Even Google themselves have spoken about the positive impact of social annotations in the search results and include ads with images in Google’s paid shopping ad program to attract clicks.
Mueller’s statement that click-through rates remain similar contradicts many of these previous studies, raising questions around whether authorship photos were negatively impacting on Adwords click-through rates.
Moz .com founder Rand Fishkin put forward his opinion about the changes shortly after the announcement from Google.
Image c/o www.twitter.com
Is this the end of Google+ as we know it?
Removing a significant feature and one of the biggest incentives of Google+ suggests potential changes are afoot. Google authorship images were a huge incentive for marketers to join up to Google+, in fact the potential to get your profile picture in the search results was probably one of the main reasons many people signed up and became active.
Removing one of the most notable features associated with Google+ coupled with the departure of Google+’s chief evangelist Vic Gundotra in April, could suggest that Google may be evolving Google+ as a product, having finally come to terms with the fact that Google+ cannot compete with Facebook in the social space.
Is there any value left in authorship?
Yes. It’s probable that some of the motive behind this change to authorship is related to improving the experience for people searching on mobile devices, however, it’s unlikely to be the whole story.
Google’s contradictory statement over the non-impact on click-through rates suggests that something bigger is happening in the background. However, I still believe it to be worth verifying your content using the “rel=author” tag as a method of claiming your content contributions across the Internet. Plus, authors still get their name in the byline of the search results.
While Google may see an impact on the number of people signing up for Google+ and implementing authorship, Google have said that they are still committed to promoting authors with authority. How you establish yourself as a trusted authority to Google may be evolving, but it isn’t going to disappear completely.
Therefore, if you are already participating in authorship you should continue, and mark up you content using the appropriate tag. If you aren’t actively using the authorship mark up, then it should be a consideration for any future content you create.
Authorship is only one consideration for anyone looking to improve their visibility in search engine results. Search Academy’s Glass Hat technology can identify the other factors and what tasks you should focus on to bring you the best return. For more information contact Search Academy today.
YOUR SAY: How do you feel about the Authorship change? Is this a good move or bad move by Google? Do you think your search results will suffer? Leave your comments below.