Anyone who follows me knows that I have invested heavily in trying to be one of the foremost experts on the subject of Google Authorship and Google's overall desire to be able to identify authors as topical authorities.
So you might imagine that it came as a huge shock to me when I heard the announcement today that Google will be removing author photos entirely from Google search results. Some might expect I'd even consider it a blow. I don't, but more on that below.
In addition to removing the photos, they will also no longer show Google+ circle counts for Google Authorship authors. All that will remain is a small byline in the result. For more details see http://searchengineland.com/google-plays-authorship-search-results-dropping-profile-image-google-circle-count-195163
Cleaning Up the SERPs
Google's had the following to say about this change:
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.)
And that's why this doesn't come as a huge surprise to me. Google has been telling us (and signalling by much of what they've done) that the game for the future of search is now to be won or lost on the mobile playing field. But with the addition of a street band's worth of bells and whistles on the SERPs these past few years, they had set themselves up for a very wobbly and inconsistent search experience.
In short, mobile users want things simple and clean.
It's the same thing most of us do when we realize it's finally time to unclutter our houses. Ultimately, some things must go. You hold up each object and try to think of ways you could justify keeping it, but in the interest of the bigger project (a cleaner, less cluttered house), that old bowling trophy goes into the waste bin.
The End of Authorship? Hells No
That's how I think the decision process went down at Google. I think they understood the value of the author photos, but at the end of the day, whatever that value was, it was not greater than the value they'd gain by uncluttering their search pages.
Google Authorship continues. Qualifying authors will still get a byline on search results, so Google hasn't abandoned it.
Besides, the bigger project here for Google I think is not author photos in search but the much ballyhooed but so far elusive "author rank," the ability to confidently determine who the content creators are in any given topic whom most people trust, and boost their content when appropriate. At SMX Advanced this month indicated that was still a priority, but was also still a long way off in being accomplished.
This is a long haul project folks. Don't head for the lifeboats every time Google makes a change.
Am I disappointed to see the photos going? I sure am. But such is the search business. Google isn't driven by whims or emotions. If they're doing this, they're doing it because their data and testing tells them it will be for the better in the long run.
The biggest downside I see is that probably now there will be less incentive for new people to use Authorship markup. But I have a feeling Google isn't worried about that. As I've been saying, they know that most people never would adopt it anyway. They've got to be working on the ability to identify authors and their content without depending on markup.
That's coming, but it will take a while. Stay tuned!
For another very thoughtful take on this development, I highly recommend this post by : http://stonet.co/TkfMpU
#googleauthorship #authorship #googleauthorrank #authorrank
- thinkit creativeWriter and consultant, 2001 - present
- Government of CanadaSenior communications advisor, 1991 - 2001
- Executive Consultants Ltd.Consultant, 1990 - 1991
- Carleton UniversityPolitical Science, 1986 - 1991
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