Is Google Authorship Dead?

Yesterday afternoon, Google’s John Mueller announced that Google would be making some major changes to the way that it currently displays authorship details in search. In an effort to clean up the “cluttered design,” Google has decided to remove the authorship photo, as well as the author’s Google+ circle count from search results. This is disappointing news for many SEOs, since many of them implemented authorship specifically for the benefit of the author photo appearing in search results, after several studies concluded that authorship markup can significantly increase click-through-rate (CTR). But according to John Mueller, CTR is impacted by removing the photo.

Here’s what Mueller had to say:

“We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)”

I personally find it hard to believe that the new design has the same click-through-rate as the old design, but only time will tell. This news comes only a few months after Google’s VP of Social Vic Gundotra stepped down after 8 years on the job. At the time, Larry Page confirmed that Google would be moving forward with their social network Google+, however now that authorship is changing drastically, it makes you wonder what’s next for Google on the social front.

What does this mean for authorship as a whole? Should webmasters and SEOs remove their markup? Is is safe to assume that authorship is dead? Until Google says otherwise, authorship still has it’s benefits. For instance, authorship helps to build author rank. Similar to page rank, author rank can can have an impact on search engine rankings, especially for in-depth articles.

In this video that was recorded in May of 2013, Matt Cutts covered several changes that Google would be making over the next few months. One on these changes was an “authority boost” where industry and topic authorities would see a lift in search rankings. For Google this is nothing new. For years, Google News has used a similar algorithm to push the more credible and authoritative media sources to the top of search results.

I don’t think this is the end of of authorship. I think it’s just Google taking another another step towards a smarter, more efficient search experience. In December of 2013, Google made some big changes, and a lot of sites saw their authorship drop from search results overnight. But if you read that full article, you’ll see that it wasn’t just a drop in authorship, but a drop in total search results displayed (in some cases a 30 percent decline). I don’t think we’ve seen the last of authorship. I think Google is just restructuring the way it’s algorithm qualifies and ranks authority.

Image Credit: Flickr User Juha Helttunen

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