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I Guess My Days of Being An Author are Through…or Are They?

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

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Bureaucracy illustrationIt wasn’t long ago that authorship was all the rage with Google.  Google had a dream that they would one day know who wrote every bit of content on the web and be able to use that to determine who consistently produces great content and whose content was so-so or, worse yet, spammy.  Then they could deliver search results with confidence because they knew and trusted the person who created the content.

Even the Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt said in “The New Digital Age”:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

With such a strong statement (along with several others by other Google execs), SEO’s big and small began encouraging their clients to implement Google authorship, as I did back in March 2013 in my article, “Don’t Think You’re an Author? Well, You Are Now!”

The End of an Era:
A year and a half later and Google has now announced in a blog post that they “made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”  And with that, the authorship dream is essentially dead.

So, What Happened?
According to Google, there were basically two issues that led to the end of authorship:

  1. No one was doing it.  Only about 30% of people/websites were actually implementing the authorship code and many of those had errors in the implementation.  Google tried at one point to deal with this by trying to figure out the authorship for themselves, but there were a lot of mistakes and it proved to be too difficult a task.
  2. It didn’t make much difference.  Google said that the authorship attribution in the search results (usually a picture and bio) didn’t effect search much.  There are some who would argue that point and even studies that showed increased click-through rates, but perhaps in aggregate it didn’t help searchers find what they were looking for any better.  It should be noted, however, that the end goal, using authorship as a ranking signal, was never fully implemented.  For the most part, Google only added the image and bio.

Was All This a Waste of Time?
Yes and No.  If you spent a lot of time and effort trying to build up your Google Authorship, most, if not all, of the value of that is gone.  But that doesn’t mean it was a waste.  Google is constantly trying new things and testing them.  When they give the indication that something they are doing is intended to be very important, it’s wise to pay attention to that and even try to get in on it early to stay ahead of competition.  However, since they are constantly testing, it also means that if something doesn’t work out in the end, they will drop it.  That’s what happened here.  Had it gone the other way and you’d gotten the jump on everyone else in your niche, you’d be sitting pretty.

So What Now?
I think Google would still love to use some form of authorship, but they have too many hurdles right now to make it work…at least publicly  My guess would be that if they can figure out a way to do it effectively, they will jump on it in a heartbeat.  It’s likely that Google would try to manage authorship like they do branding.

Google loves known and established authoritative sources.  They’ve given priority to well known brands for years.  Authorship is essentially the same as branding, except for individuals.  So, why not treat the two similarly.  That would mean managing authorship on their own, possibly by looking at author bios, knowing who tends to publish to what sites, and maybe even using Google+ connections.  So, while we may not be seeing visible evidence of authorship, rankings might be affected if Google can workout the kinks.

That said, there does still appear to be some benefits from Google+ regarding authorship.  If content is attributed to you and the person searching is logged in and has you in their Google+ circles, your content may still get a rankings boost.  They may even still be shown the authorship image.  I can’t say how long this will continue, but according to Eric Enge at Search Engine Land Google’s John Mueller said he wasn’t aware of any plan to do away with that.  So, there may be some benefit to continuing to connect your content to your Google+ account and post it on your Google+ account if you are trying to connect with others in Google+.

So, there you have it.  Bye bye Google Authorship.

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  • Had you implemented Google Authorship?
  • What do you think about Google dropping authorship?
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About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .

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