The Life and Death of the Google Authorship Markup
10-08-14 by Matt Dimock
It was exciting while it lasted, but unfortunately, Google authorship is no longer supported by Google. But first, allow me to shed a little light on the rise and fall of Google’s authorship markup.
The Google authorship rich snippet was first introduced by Matt Cutts at the SMX Advanced conference, back in 2011. For those unfamiliar with this rich snippet; it allowed you to identify yourself as the author of the content within a blog post, which would then publish a small thumbnail of your Google+ profile photo directly to the left of your blog post snippet within Google’s search results. In the beginning, the process for setting up authorship on your website and verifying it with Google was quite unclear for many, which proved to be quite the perk for those that were successful in setting up their authorship’s markup early on.
The Benefits of Google Authorship
As mentioned previously, the early adopters of Google’s authorship rich snippet quickly realized that the most obvious benefit was the increased click through rate (CTR) for their blog posts that ranked on the first page of Google. It’s no surprise really; the addition of the photo thumbnail displayed prominently on search results pages, especially when it was the only one showing for a particular keyword.
Another large benefit of having authorship was the ease in which one could find all of the content another had written and associated with their Google+ profile. All you had to do was click on their name within the byline of their search snippet and it would take you directly to a Google search page that listed all of the content associated with their authorship. This was beneficial to both brands and authors alike, as people who followed their work could more easily find other content the author had written which they may have not previously read.
The last benefit, AuthorRank, was largely considered a myth up until Matt Cutts confirmed its existence on Twitter after Amit Singhal publicly denied its existence at SMX West this past March.
@marktraphagen to be fair, it does come into play in some ways. For example, in-depth articles use that data, I'm pretty sure.— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 12, 2014
AuthorRank was the concept that Google assigned quality scores to authors who created a Google Plus account and correctly associated their authorship with content they had written and published to websites. The assumption was that the more authoritative you appeared to Google on a particular topic or topics, the more likely their AuthorRank algorithm was to rank your related content higher in their search results. Many of us in the search engine optimization (SEO) community truly believed AuthorRank was going to be the key to the future of becoming more visible in Google’s search results. But alas, it appeared it was not used to the broad scope that so many SEO’s had imagined.
R.I.P. Google Authorship
On June 25, 2014, it came as a shock to most SEO’s when Google’s John Mueller announced on Google+ that they would be “simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop searches”, so as to provide for a better mobile experience. The simplification turned out to be a mass reduction of authorship photographs showing for particular searches on Google. However, the byline and date of publication still showed below the URL of a search result for those who were affected. The significance of the impact that change had on search results was documented by the MozCast feature graph and can be further reviewed here.
Then just two months later, John Mueller reported that Google had made the decision to remove authorship from their search results entirely. In paraphrasing: he stated Google found that the authorship markup was not very useful to visitors of their search engine, and in fact, was potentially distracting.
A Few Last Words for Google Authorship
For those of you who have the authorship markup installed on your websites; don’t worry about Google punishing you for leaving the code in place. Barry Schwartz, the owner of the popular SEO blog SERoundtable.com, asked John Mueller in a comment on his announcement of the death of authorship if Google would penalize websites which left the authorship markup in place. John confirmed that Google would not punish you for leaving the markup on your website, and that in fact, visitors to your website still might appreciate being able to find out more about you and/or your company through your Google+ profile.
Matt Dimock is the SEO Manager at iMarket Solutions. Passionate about both search engine optimization and research and development, Matt strives to bring to the company innovative, and yet effective, strategies that help our clients dominate their competition both organically and locally. Matt leads our team of SEO Specialists with over 6 years of SEO and Internet marketing experience, and more than 8 years of management experience.
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