December 22, 2014

Google Is Removing Profile Photos from Search Results

google is removing profile photos

Google is removing two integrations of its Google Plus social network with Google search.

Up until now, a Google Plus profile photo and circle count appeared next to content in Google search results for those who had signed up for the connection.

The inclusion of a photo has been part of Google’s much promoted “authorship” feature and a tie-in with the social network.

Google says the features were removed to create a cleaner look and a sense of continuity.

In a post on his own Google Plus account, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained:

“We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)”

Reporting on the announcement, Web consultant and Search Engine Land news editor Barry Swartz seemed skeptical that click-through on links would be unaffected by disappearance of profile photos in search.

He was not alone.

Comments from the search marketing community in particular were many and varied.

In a response on Mueller’s initial post, J.R. Oakes, director of search marketing for Consultwebs.com expressed doubts about Google’s claims arguing:

“There has been so much research done establishing a hard-wired affinity for detection of faces and it being an establishment of trust.”

Meanwhile others, like SEO Consultant Dan Shure, insisted the decision was just more evidence of Google’s rumored intention to dismantle Google Plus:

“My conclusion: Google either plans on letting G+ die on it’s own, or phasing it out. Author photos was one of the biggest incentives to join and use G+ at all.”

But on a separate Google Plus post, senior director of online marketing at Stone Temple Consulting Mark Traphagen had a different oberervation. He said that other factors like the increasing importance of mobile results probably drove Google’s decision, writing:

“Google has been telling us (and signalling by much of what they’ve done) that the game for the future of search is now to be won or lost on the mobile playing field. But with the addition of a street band’s worth of bells and whistles on the SERPs these past few years, they had set themselves up for a very wobbly and inconsistent search experience.

In short, mobile users want things simple and clean.”

Google is replacing the profile photos with a clickable author name only for those using the “authorship” feature. The result will definitely make search results look cleaner on mobile searches.

But how will it affect those online business owners and entrepreneurs trying to build a personal brand?

Image: Small Business Trends Screenshot

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Shawn Hessinger - Editor


Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Editor for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and social media networker with more than a decade of experience in the traditional newspaper business before moving to the digital world. He was the former community manager of BizSugar and the former community editor at AllAnalytics, a site dedicated to professionals in the business intelligence and analytics community.

9 Reactions

  1. Shawn: Don’t you think this is a pretty dumb move? Is it that Google wants to have more space for ads? ;)

    I heard this news first on the latest episode of the Social Hour. Is Google tuning down Google+ a bit?

    • It seems to me that that is the goal. Authorship is a good feature as it makes the posts more authentic. But they are now looking for ways to redirect people from the actual results to the ads which is quite dumb because it is the results that brings ads to begin with.

  2. Well, it wouldnt surprise me to see Google ramp down or abandon Google+ since that’s been talked about for a long time and the venue is, more and more, becoming a spam depot. Google is apparently dumping Google Voice, which was supposed to become part of Google+ Hangouts.

    I think the upside of all this will be that the sometimes questionable companies who sell “SEO” services at obscenely high prices will need to find another product to hawk. Pretty much, we’re headed for an environment that can’t be manipulated as much as it once was.

    I look forward eagerly to websites being ranked for their content aqnd expertise, rather than for how much money and how many tricks they threw at their site. Of course, the money part will always be there, since paying Google for ads guarantees some degree of visibility. Am I right, people?

  3. One thing is certain. They will change things again and we have to live with it.

  4. I understand Google’s motivations, but just from my own ego-centric view, its a bummer to not have a picture up anymore. It really does separate your link from the others!

  5. On the one hand, I admire Google for having the courage to just go ahead with whatever it is that they want to change. On the other hand, I don’t know, doesn’t it build in an element of mistrust if they can have something that seems to be working, and then change it just like that?

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