According to John Mueller, of Google Webmaster Tools, in a Google+ announcement, Google Search will no longer show authorship results, and will discontinue the tracking of data from content using rel=author markup.
But what does the end of Authorship mean for SEO?
Searchengineland.com’s Eric Enge notes that the change is just one of many similar redirections Google has decided to make over the years. “Over its entire history” Enge muses “Google has repeatedly demonstrated that nothing it creates is sacred or immortal.” And this is the business we work in, ever changing, always adapting.
Well, it just wasn’t that useful as far as search results go.
“We’ve observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results,” Mueller puts it plainly. Searchers just didn’t care, there appears to have been no major change in click behaviour associated with posts with author photos.
Low adoption rate, or rather lower than Google anticipated.
The underlying basis of authorship still exists, “links are links” says Mueller. A well-rounded online presence across platforms linked by the author’s name will still register with Google.
The change, it seems, proves Google+ simply cannot compete with the other social network giants, based purely on its own merits. It seems Facebook’s advertising platform and Pinterest’s analytics, as well as the soaring Twitter stock, rendered Google+ efforts obsolete. Although the public took to Google+, the experts and business leaders Google had hoped for simply didn’t. Why? Because they were elsewhere. LinkedIn namely. It already existed and they were doing it better.
The biggest change this means for search mark-up is that it separates search from social. No longer is there a compulsory social network every business is obliged to be part of, social simply isn’t for everyone. Authorship meant that any website that wanted to publish content needed some kind of Google+ presence, whether they were B2B or B2C, regardless of niche.
Does this mark the death of Google+?
Well no. Or rather, not quite. It appears Google has something else in mind for Google+ users and publisher information. However, posts from people in searchers’ circles will continue to appear at the top of search results. Although Google+ will no longer be the interface for a system of Authorship, it will continue to offer benefits to regular content writers and users. Google+ will continue to take up at least some results page real estate, so it’s worth bearing in mind that a click on an empty or dormant page will equate to a bad user experience. But of course the reason for the end of Authorship is that no one was likely to go there in the first place.
How will it affect my traffic?
Mueller encourages SEOs and Webmasters not to worry about traffic drops. According to Google’s initial testing, clicks haven’t decreased. But given the sheer size of the development, any brands that adopted Authorship should keep track themselves and pay close attention to traffic data in the next few weeks to confirm.
But this doesn’t mean that your efforts were wasted, or indeed ‘authorship’ is a bad marketing strategy. It’s important to remember: expertise, authority, trust. Employing experts and demonstrating that through author pages and bios etc. is still one of the best ways to acquire links, playing right into the Google guidebook.
But all is not lost; authorship may not be gone forever. Many SEO experts do buy into the notion, the web needs and acknowledges its experts. It seems that, for now at least, Google’s current system has failed, but the initial concept still has much potential.