Google’s John Mueller announced yesterday afternoon that over the next few days Google were dropping the Authorship profile photo or snippet in the search results. They are also removing the reference to the number of people in your Google+ circles . This article discusses the impact of this for companies and their search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies.
Below is an example of a Authorship snippet from our site, when you search AdWords agency.
Google has previously raised the bar on the authorship snippet, so authors with low numbers of followers or posts have seen their snippet disappear. Now they have gone one stage further and are replacing the existing format of the snippet with a more discrete version, which would be the same across devices (specifically mobile, which does not have the photo due to lack of space).
See the example below from the (partially) updated Webmasters Tools guide to Authorships.
What is Authorship and why is (or has) it been important?
Authorship is set-up by linking your Google+ page to your website or blog, so that if you are active in Google+ then your profile photo may show in the snippet in your search results for an article or web page you have written (or are associated with).
We have previously provided a guide on setting up Google+ and Authorship and for many companies Authorship has become the holy grail for companies wanting to increase the visibility and traffic to their sites. This is because the photo increases their credibility with searchers and more importantly, the well documented increase in click through rate.
There has also been rumours that Authorship is a ranking factor and can actually increase your position in the results. As a result for many companies their main (or only reason) for being active on Google+ has been to secure an Authorship snippet next to their search rankings.
What the bloggers are saying about the change to Authorship snippet?
The reaction to the announcement has been mixed but most commentators are disappointed that the snippet will go as it has helped them (or their clients) make big gains in CTR (Kristine Schachinger) .
Robert Ramirez said that spammers have probably ruined this for us, so the tool has been taken away.
Dan Shure was the first one to hypothesis that maybe Google want this to be removed so they can let Google+ die or they can retire the platform?
Tim Capper also hypothesised that with the Knowledge graph and Google including more information from other people sites, their goal maybe to keep you on Google rather than clicking off to another site.
It can be very time consuming to establish enough of a Google+ profile and to correctly implement the tags and links so that your posts get the Authorship snippet.
With such a radical change in the way the Authorship snippet is displayed; it is expected that the CTR will drop and devalue the traffic gains of having the snippet. Consequently, this may also devalue Google+ so many companies may abandon it in favour of other social media platforms? Could this be a nail in the coffin for Google+ or do they have something else in mind?