If you like seeing your face or that of an author you admire in the Google search results you better hurry and do some searches now, because Google is removing the images and the circle count from the search results in the next few days. It doesn’t mean authorship or a potential author rank is gone though.
Similar click-through rate
Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst John Mueller announced on Google+ that Google has reviewed the click through rate on the authorship visibility in the search results and concluded that showing an author’s picture doesn’t add to the click-troughs. Because they want to clean up the SERPS they therefor are removing them. Mueller says:
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.)
From now on Google will not show images and circle counts anymore, just the name of the author and date of the article. It will look like this from now on (image is from Barry Schwartz over at Searchengineland): In the next few days this will be rolled out on all Google SERPS so you probably are not seeing the changes yet.
What is it
Google Authorship has been discussed a lot in the past few years. When it was first rolled out it was unclear how it worked and what the benefit was. Jeroen wrote an extensive post here on State of Digital (then State of Search) explaining what it is and how you can add it to your site. If you had added it to your site and connected it to your Google+ profile you could see the face of the author show up in the search results: The benefits of having authorship is evident: it gives more credit to the author and when an author has an higher profile it will add to the credibility of the article. Now Google is taking away the images and circle count the question will off course rise what the purpose of the authorship really is. If having no image has the same click-through as having an image, does it even matter?
If we look at all the signals it still has impact, just how much is unclear. It is being said that authorship is the setup for authorrank. With authorrank Google would supposedly rank posts from high profile authors better. This however is far from confirmed and we know quite sure that authorrank at this moment of time does not exist, at least not in the way some think or hope. However, it doesn’t mean that it won’t come. Just last week Matt Cutts told the audience at SMX Advanced that he is ‘a big fan of the idea behind author rank’. So it still could be coming.
Forget about it?
Should we because of this change forget about author ship all together? No, far from. The actual principle will stay, it’s just the visual part which changes and Google definitely still seems to have intentions on doing more with it.