Google Authorship began as a way for authors to gain trust and authority for the content they produce on the web. Authors could have their content associated with their Google+ profile along with a photo and byline next to their content in Google search results. The purpose was to help authors validate their content while also helping readers find valuable content on the web. Authorship was also designed to help authors gain more Google+ followers.
A simple way of explaining Authorship is that is enables an author to relate all of their content directly to their personal Google+ profile. Having your content associated with your Google+ page enables authors to build what Google calls Author Rank. Authors could boost their Author Rank by producing quality content, sharing it on Google+ and having their word +1’d by other readers.
When Google first implemented Authorship it was easy for authors to get their picture and byline to appear in search results: having Authorship markup (rel=author markup) on your content and then simply posting the content on your own Google+ page could trigger your photo to appear in search.
However, Google recently announced they would remove all author photos from search results. Google acted swiftly and a few short days after the announcement, all author photos had been removed. Mozcast showed 0% of search results were appearing with author photos by June 29th, 2014 (see Moz graph below).
The removal of author photos, however, does not mean the end of Google Authorship. Author bylines are still being shown in search results and Authorship continues to have influence. Author Rank still exists and highly ranked authors will continue to have their content and bylines displayed prominently by Google.
Google announced that the decision to remove pictures from Authorship was to improve the relevance of search results. The photo was for the searcher, not the search engine. In other words, the Google algorithm never used photos as a way to influence search results. Google’s concern with showing author photos was that the images would skew click through rates. Google doesn’t want to influence you to click on a specific search result just because it has a picture attached to it.
For example, searchers might click on a result with an author who has a great professional photo and looks authoritative but has less knowledge than another author with a blurry picture who actually has higher authority on the topic. It would be in Google’s best interest and the searcher’s best interest to click on the result with higher authority rather than the result with a nice looking image. If you’re choosing an article simply because of a picture of a handsome man, you may as well click on a banner ad.
Do you think the photo would influence whether or not you clicked on post? How much influence do you think author images had on CTR? Also, what would you like to see happen next with Authorship? Leave you thoughts in the comment section.