The Death of Google Authorship

Posted by Brent

After 3 years of sporadic implementation and hesitant adoption, Google has finally axed Authorship. John Mueller announced that Google will stop showing any Authorship results, including snippets, and will not be collecting anymore data.

“I’ve been involved since we first started testing authorship markup and displaying it in search results. We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.” – John Mueller

This last piece of info is the most damning as it pretty much kills any hope of Authorship revival anytime in the near future, or the much anticipated “Author Rank” for now.

This shut down comes after several waves of major revisions to the Authorship program. In December, Google greatly reduced the amount of author photos that showed up in the SERP’s. Only some of the results would display photos while the rest would just have a snippet. In June of this year, Google removed all of the author photos from all queries, leaving only the author bylines. This was all done in the name of user experience as the photos apparently did not work well between desktop and mobile, and limited screen space and bandwidth.

There seems to be two main reasons for this change, low value to users & low adoption rates.

Low Value to Users

In an announcement made earlier this year, John Mueller stated that they were seeing little difference in click through rates on SERP’s with Authorship compared to the ones without it. This was met with shock and disbelief in the SEO community. There had been a variety of different experiments conducted by many reputable sources showing that Authorship can in fact raise the CTR’s of a web page. I myself have conducted many personal experiments and have found out that when done correctly, Authorship could raise CTR’s anywhere from 2 to 5%. Granted, these are not huge numbers, but it’s definitely a boost that was attributed to having the authors picture displayed in the results.

Low Adoption Rates
In the early days of Authorship, participation was very low, and the ones who tried often implemented it incorrectly. A lot of the less than tech-savvy site owners disregarded authorship because it was deemed too complex and not worth the hassle. Because of these issues, Google started introducing auto-attribution to blog posts and articles. However, these results were fraught with errors, often times with the incorrect author displaying in the SERP’s.

So is Authorship gone forever? Probably not. Even though it was marked down as a failure, the experiment was well conducted and plenty of good data was gathered. I think it is likely that we will see Authorship come back in the future with a push towards more personalization.

Do you think the decision to kill Authorship was the right one? Do you think it’s going to come back in the future?

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