First Google dropped author photos from appearing in snippets on Google search engine results, back in June. Now Google says it is dropping “authorship” from Google search results altogether.
But is Google authorship really gone?
Better yet, do you have any idea what I’m talking about?
What is Google Authorship?
First, let me explain what I’m referring to when I say “Google authorship.” It is a way of marking the HTML code in a website to identify an author of an article. Once that is done, you were advised by Google to cross link that author’s article or profile page, to the author’s Google+ profile — and vice versa. Doing so resulted in having a small picture of the author show up in Google search results.
The image below illustrates what you might have seen — in the past — for a reference to an article here on Small Business Trends. Notice the little author picture to the left of the search snippet, identifying the author.
When Google+ first recommended this technique, quite a few website owners and bloggers added in the authorship markup to their sites. They paid their development staff to code their websites for this purpose. Or they found plugins for WordPress, Joomla or whatever software package they were using, to add in the author markup. They linked to authors’ Google+ profiles. Then they linked back from Google+ profiles to their author profiles on their sites, to complete the cross reference.
Why bother doing this? Some believed that having a picture next to a search result made it more likely that a searcher would click on that result.
For a multi-author publisher like Small Business Trends, accomplishing this authorship markup was no small feat. We coded the markup language in the site. A plugin we used attempted to it add it, too, causing some conflict. So we had to do some extra troubleshooting to fix it. Then we created a set of instructions for authors. We contacted over 300 authors. In quite a few cases, the authors didn’t know what we were talking about (since most are small-business people, not search professionals). So we had to first educate them. For those who responded back, we inserted the Google+ profile addresses they supplied us, manually into this site. And we asked those authors to place a link in their Google+ profiles back to Small Business Trends, as Google recommended at the time. And then we followed up with reminders for those who didn’t respond back.
For a small business of six people like ours, it was no insignificant amount of work. Or expense.
It seems that now all of that was for naught. Google first stopped showing the photos. And with yesterday’s announcement, they are no longer making any references to who the author is (even in text) in Google search results.
But it turns out, there is one exception. Google still shows author photos — but only when referring to postings from its Google+ site in search results.
As the following image shows, when you do a search in Google now, you may see author images. But the author photo will be next to a reference to a Google+ posting by that author. It won’t show for an article that the same author published on a non-Google site.
What The Drop of Authorship Means
There’s some confusion — and speculation — over what this means. Some are predicting that Google+ is dying. Others disagree.
And no matter how things appear today, Google may change what it does in the future.
At this point, though, it seems safe to say the following:
- There’s no point in adding cross references between Google+ profiles and your own site, along with authorship markup language. Doing so will not help authors show up in the search results next to the articles they wrote. And any advantage to that — real or perceived — is now gone.
- There may be other useful reasons to include author markup language in your website. They just aren’t related to appearing in Google search results at the moment. So most search experts are recommending that if you already have author markup in your site, do not remove it.
- It seems that there is some benefit to increasing your participation at Google+. That’s because your Google+ activity may, in fact, show up in the search results called out with your author photo. More on this point appears in this article by Aaron Friedman on Search Engine Land. And Martin Shervington suggests you should focus on (1) curating content of your own or others on Google+, and (2) publishing original articles and updates on Google+. You should also comment more on Google+, says Shervington. Increasing your Google+ participation increases the chances of you showing up in Google results with a photo to call out the reference to your Google+ posting. That gives you one more shot at some Google search results “real estate.”