Google Does Away with Authorship Images & Circles

Search Engine Watch recently blogged that according to Google’s John Mueller, the search engine will stop showing Google+ connected author images and circle counts alongside their search results. Anyone performing a search recently will have seen that this has indeed gone into effect.

Before
Google authorship with author image.
After
Google authorship with author image removed, after the change.

Not surprisingly, Mueller says that they’re making this decision based on data and that their “experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one”. But this makes me wonder… has Google forgotten an important part to the Authorship puzzle? Implementation?

My Reaction & Thoughts

I’ll be honest, my initial reaction to this news was deep disappointment. Despite the fact that John says Google’s new design generates “similar CTR” my concern is that this change will dramatically change the nature of the authorship conversations my team and other SEOs will have with their clients. I strongly believe this largely cosmetic change will unfortunately make conveying the concept of Google Authorship more difficult for us and could lead to lower client implementation rates.

The (Biggest) SEO Dilemma – Implementation

As many of you know, implementation is the key to all SEO strategies and tactics and the recommendations we often make require buy-in from various folks — marketing people, development teams and sometimes CEO’s. Google Authorship’s previous look-and-feel with the author image appearing directly in the search result made it crystal clear, even to the most uneducated person in SEO, what the result of our recommendation would look like. During meetings or calls, we could do a quick Google search for a desired keyword and sometimes a competitor blog would show up with Authorship integrated. The client would feel their own eyes track to the search results with an author image – BAM – they’d get it.   Whelp, not any more.

This change to authorship will make our job of convincing clients to implement the code a harder sell, despite the stated similarity to performance that John Mueller mentions. However, to quote a mentor of mine (Mike Solomon) “we’ll go down swinging” and continue to recommend it of course as the foundational reasons for it still remain.

Anticipated Short Term Impact

Keep an eye on your blog traffic and the reporting on Authorship posts in Google Webmaster Tools. Do you see a drop? We suspect John’s comment about “similar” performance will not be as universal as he made it sound.

Potential Long Term Impact

Though visually this change is pretty dramatic, the fundamental reason for implementing Authorship remains (authority building). Elite will continue to recommend Google+ Authorship implementation for all of our clients.

SEO Industry Impact: Slightly lower rate of Google Authorship implementation

Vertical Impact:Impacts all types of verticals within all industries

My Request of Google

As I said, it’s going to be harder to sell Authorship implementation, but not impossible.

However, I’m putting in a request now. SEO’s just lost something that was tangible and visually clear, something SEO recommendations can sometimes lack. So, I’d like something in return for the hard work ahead Google, here are a few requests I’d take any of these, throw SEO’s a bone!

  • Give us more information on Author Rank
    • How do I really stack up against Charles Krauthammer?
  • Give us even more data on Authorship in Google Webmaster Tools
    • Top Position not just Averages
    • More historical data than the current limits (1 year would be swell)
    • Comparative data so we can show performance of pages with authorship vs. without
  • Create some new criteria required for Authorship images to appear and give it BACK to us
    • Post more than 10 articles per month (an established author)
    • Write for an established brand
    • Become a “Google Certified Writer”
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