About a year or so ago, I noticed a lot of webby bloggers talking a lot about Google Authorship – how to set it up on your site, the benefits, the pitfalls of incorrect configuration, all kinds of stuff. I investigated a bit, since I wasn’t terribly familiar with it, and was intrigued with the prospect.
Basically, Authorship was an initiative of Google to add your profile image and link to your G+ profile to any search results that you are listed as an author for. The idea being that you would be more likely to click articles that were written by people you trusted or brands you recognized.
Haven’t heard of Google Authorship before? Don’t feel bad – many people haven’t. In fact, that’s one of the reasons it’s no longer around. According to an article from SearchEngineLand.com, that’s one of the contributing factors to Authorship’s demise. They are:
- Low adoption rate by authors and webmasters. Not enough people were using it. In fact, according to that article from SearchEngineLand, “In a November 2012 study of a Forbes list of 50 Most Influential Social Media Marketers, Mark found that only 30% used authorship markup on their own blogs…”
- Low value to searchers. So low, in fact, that this past June, Google stopped displaying author’s pictures with the search results because they weren’t seeing any difference in click rates with or without pictures.
John Mueller, the lead XXX from Google for the Authorship project, made these comments on his Google+ profile:
…Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.
(If you’re curious — in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience.)…
So basically, not enough people were using the appropriate code on their sites to attribute Authorship, and not enough people cared whether Authorship was attributed or not. So this means we can all go delete those plugins and what not from our websites, and ignore Authorship from now on. Well, no. Not exactly.
Authorship of a page or post was identified by a rel=author tag in the code of your site. Most people probably used a plugin to manage this, so you may not be familiar with that tag. But even with Authorship going away (gone), there’s also this term Author Rank, which is not an official term but rather a term made up by the SEO community. Author Rank is the concept that the author of a blog post could affect the search engine ranking of that post. With that in mind, maybe it’s a good idea to keep those rel=author tags around a little bit longer.
For more information on the rel=author tag, check out the Official Google Webmaster Blog (just don’t pay any attention to the Authorship stuff.) If you’re a bit braver (or less intimidated by technical stuff, you can look at the official Schema.org reference for the tag.)