August 30, 2014
Google Drops Authorship In Search Results
Eric Hopton for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
It is sometimes said that nothing lasts forever. The latest example of Google’s relentless commitment to change was announced on August 28 by John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst. In his Google+ post on Thursday Mueller told the world that Google had “made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results” and added: “We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.” This means that author’s names will no longer appear in search results when related articles are shown.
Mueller has been part of Google’s testing and running of authorship markup from the very beginning but now it seems the experiment is over. He claims that Google has conducted tests which show that removing authorship from search results does not “in general” reduce traffic to sites and neither does it increase ad clicks. He points to these findings as proof that Google is acting in customers’ interests and not Google’s own. This probably reflects an attempt to head off criticism of the company’s motives before they arise.
Authorship markup dates back to 2011 when it was first introduced. The intention was to enable authors to claim content and hopefully increase their follower numbers when their names popped up in search results. Initially there was a promise that an Author Rank system would be available which would allow searchers to filter results by scoring authors by reputation and so narrowing down unwanted results.
In the end, the three year test run for authorship has come to nothing. Mueller says that Google has found “weird quirks, bugs, and some spam to fight” along the way. The company has taken a lot of feedback from webmasters and “tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information.” He believes that providing such information did not enhance user experience and may even have led to distraction when viewing results.
Mueller insists that the decision to drop authorship will not affect search users being able to see Google+ posts “from friends and when they’re relevant to the query – both in the main results and on the right hand side.” The changes will not therefore affect the social element of Google+.
Tom Cheredar, writing for Venture Beat, believes that the launch of authorship was indeed linked to the fortunes of Google+ from the early days and that the idea was to “entice people to follow authors on Google+ if they enjoyed the article.” However, as Cheredar says, a lot of people have abandoned Google+ therefore the strategy of linking authorship to Google+ now has much less relevance in Google’s forward plans especially if the claims of users being distracted by authorship are true.
For more in depth analysis and a history of the rise and fall of Google’s authorship experience, look no further than Eric Enge’s article, co-written with Mark Traphagen, on the Search Engine Land website. As the article reminds us, Google began to remove all author photos from search engine results in June this year – a clear indication perhaps of what was to follow just a few months later.