June 25th 2014 saw the unexpected announcement of the removal of authorship photos from Google search results. Google has been encouraging everyone to use Authorship by integrating the author's Google Plus biography with the content the author has written.
What Is Google Authorship?
Google launched Authorship in June 2011 to initially highlight authors and rank search results, with the underlying suggestion that this author data could have the potential to be used as a search ranking factor in the future. You’ve probably heard this talked about as “author rank”, which uses the rel=author tag to earn the Authorship markup linked to your Google+ profile. However, in 2013, Google cut their author snippets from 15% to 10% to maintain quality authorship. Not only that, but now Google has completely removed all author photos from searches worldwide.
Changes In Google's Authorship Markup
Here are the main changes Google has made to their Authorship:
#1 Removal of author photos
Google has removed author photos, as well as showing the circles they were linked to, leaving just the author byline.
#2 Links to Google+
Bylines were previously linked to a page showing content from that author, however this feature is no longer offered.
#3 Qualification for authorship
All that is required for an Authorship byline now is simply using the “rel=author” markup correctly, linking to the Google+ profile and back to the content site.
#4 Photos in personalised searches
When searching logged into Google+, you may still be able to see author photos, compared to a search where you are not logged in. Results will be affected by whether authors are in your Google+ circles, and how often you engage with them.
Why Google Has Removed Author Photos?
Google’s John Mueller, in his announcement post, said that one reason for the removal of author photos is to “clean up the visual design… in particular creating a better mobile experience”. They aim to increase consistency between mobile and desktop use, predicting that Google searches on mobile will far exceed desktop searches in 2014.
Images take up bandwidth in mobile searches, slowing down the results. Removing them will speed up the delivery time. However, other reasons are speculated, such as the idea that author photos provide an automatic endorsement of quality that Google doesn’t want to give.
Why Google Authorship Still Matters
Authorship is successful in searches, meaning that it still matters. Here are some reasons why Google Authorship is worthwhile:
#1 Authors matter
Google still care who has authored content. Bylines are still displayed as a piece of significant and useful information, allowing Google to give up territory to an author’s name.
#2 It’s not ‘bye’ to bylines
Bylines don’t exactly draw people in to read content in the same way that photos do, but the fact that they’re still there means that they play a role in ranking the page when optimised properly. It tells people making a search that it was written by a real person, giving it greater value.
#3 Personalised searches
Some images are still appearing for logged-in Google+ users, showing that Google recognise the value that images can add to results. By personalising search results to users, Google can produce results tailored to individuals.
#4 Building author rank
Using the Authorship markup lets Google see the content you are producing and the response to it. Tracking your data could be beneficial if Google decides to use author authority as a ranking factor in the future, potentially giving you an advantage over competitors by engaging with it now.
#5 Author authority as a search factor
Author authority works as a long-term project, building trust and increasing your authorship gradually over a period of time.
How To Utilise Google Authorship?
Despite Google’s decision to remove author photos from their search results, Google authorship is still a valuable tool for building your authorship and gaining growing recognition for your content.
Building your Google Authorship is an ongoing process, but the rewards pay off if you are willing to continue to utilise this tool.