Google | 8.29.14
After three good years of the Google Authorship feature in search results, Google is calling an end to it (at least for now). That’s according to sources like CNET, Search Engine Land, and the official Google Authorship support page. Google Authorship was once intended to allow writers to claim content and gain followers by presenting the writer’s image next to article links in search results. An author rank feature was also intended to help users weed out low quality content.
Why is this going away? Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller points out in a Google+ post released yesterday that after a three-year experiment, the feature wasn’t able to provide value for users and even distracts users from finding the right results. Mueller explained two specific areas where Google Authorship failed to meet expectations:
1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters – participation was low, even if sites did participate, it was done incorrectly. Most site owners or authors felt that markup was too complicated to deal with and were very unlikely to implement it.
2. Low value to searchers – Google’s data showed that users weren’t gaining any value from the Authorship snippets. Users did not seem affected by snippets, hinting that catchy headlines and meta descriptions are what grab more attention from the user than the author’s photo.
Google Authorship hasn’t had smooth sailing in the last year with many bugs, tweaks, and upgrades to the feature, including two major reductions of Authorship rich snippets over the last eight months. First, in December 2013, Google reduced the amount of Google author photos shown per search. By December, only a few authors had images, while others had only bylines appearing in search results. Second, at the end of June 2014, Google made another announcement that it would be removing all author photos from global search, leaving just bylines next to search titles. At the time, Mueller mentioned that they would be removing images to save space, making search results easier to read on users’ mobile devices. Mueller points out that Google was seeing little click difference in “click behavior” on search results with Authorship snippets and those without.
On that note, while the idea of helping users sort the articles by experts from the non-experts, it seems that Google will not be focused on putting forth effort into a feature that’s not as effective as it was intended to be. Mueller said that the removal of authorship information does not appear to reduce traffic to websites or increase clicks on ads. The change will not affect Google+ posts from friends when they are relevant to search queries. To read more about the rise and fall of this Google feature, Search Engine Land has a great in-depth explanation.