This week Google announced rather abruptly that Google Authorship changes were afoot. John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst made the announcement in a somewhat offhanded way in a post on his Google+ page. In the post he simply said that Google would be removing the author photos from search results in which the author had enabled Google Authorship markup.
He also noted that Google research had shown no appreciable change in
CTR (click through rate) with or without the images. Much has been written about the value of Google Authorship markup since it was introduced. In fact a whole new sect of marketing devotees have written books of material on the benefits of Google Authorship (with images) and how to use them to more effectively market things.
Of course the inevitable crowd of SEO “experts” that follow his channel immediately went into a frenzy over this news. Soon the web was filled with “the sky is falling” type blog posts predicting the end of the world as we know it (on Google search anyway).
Google Authorship Changes: Before
If you are not an SEO junkie you may not even know yet that this has happened. If you do not know what Google Authorship is you may not even care. But if this is true I would encourage you to at least finish this article so that you do know something about Google Authorship changes and what they mean to you as a website owner or business on the web.
In this image you see Google search results as they looked before the Google Authorship changes. Author images appeared along with the search results and all was well. The big theory was that prospective readers were more likely to click on search results that contained an image.
Personally I found this to be true if I had already read material by the author and found it useful. Of course the opposite was true as well. Sometimes I would see an intriguing article title and be almost ready to click on it and then recognize the photo as an author who I was not interested in reading so I would move on to another link. I don’t think that anyone in the marketing world really ever focused on that negative side of authorship. But why would they, Authorship was all the rage and nobody wanted to be negative about it. After all, negativity doesn’t sell books/articles/webinars.
Google’s stated purpose behind introducing Authorship was to enable the search engine to identify all the content by the same writer and thereby improve the search engine’s ability to classify writers on the value the audience found in their writings. Authorship itself is still alive and well and this original purpose of Google Authorship will apparently continue (just without visuals).
Google Authorship Changes: After
It was only two days until all the images were gone and the Google search results page was a desolate place again. If you are not logged into Google on your browser and you do a search on something that might normally turn up results with numerous author images you will see the aftermath.
I did the search in the image to the left on my own name coupled with my company name. Usually that would have turned up several results with my picture attached. I was logged out of Google when I did the search and, as you see, my photo did not show up at all. Not even on the link to my Google+ profile.
This is what was to be expected judging from the image shown on this Google page explaining Authorship and how to set it up. My Authorship is still working just fine. The only thing missing is my photo. For me it s not a big deal because I always focused on other benefits of Authorship.
For one thing authorship made Google+ into a great tool for staying connected with your clients and fans. If they are in your Google+ circles and search for a term related to your product or service and you have content posted that answers their query than it is very likely that you will show up in their search results even though they did not search for you specifically. that is an awesome marketing tool for businesses.
Luckily that benefit of Google Authorship seems to have been preserved. If I repeat the same search on my name and my business name, while signed in to Google search, the results look quite different.
As you see both my author image and publisher image are still in place. Wait, there is one difference. Now those images only appear in listings from my Google+ personal and business pages. Of course now my image does not appear on articles I have written but this is better than nothing.
So the best part of Google Authorship has been preserved. The search engines can use my Authorship markup to have easy access to all of the content that I write. If I make Google+ a part of my overall content strategy then even the benefit of having my image attached to search results is preserved. This is why I said in the title that all the fuss over Google Authorship Changes is much ado about nothing. If you are doing things right and utilizing the tools provided then Google Authorship is still alive and well for you (images included).
One thing that I couldn’t help but bring up in closing is how slavishly devoted the SEO community is to Google and the things that they miss as a result. Yes, Google is the number one search engine in the world and accounts for about 2/3 of searches on the web but so what? The other third is certainly worth my time if not anyone else’s.
I bring this up because the number two search engine, Bing, also has something like Authorship in search results. Of course Bing’s version does not require setting anything up on your website. It just seems to pull whatever author picture is available from search results and displays them.
In this image I did the same search (michael johnston, street punk productions) without being signed into Bing and lo and behold my smiling face appeared all over the screen! Of course, as I said this is not the same as Google Authorship. The sites that the images are attached to in the Bing results are; Linkedin, indieproducer.net and…Google+.
Nevertheless, for those image junkies in the SEO world, why are you not jumping ship from Google en masse and transferring your allegiance to Bing? After all, Bing has those Author images that you crave and all of the benefits that you ascribed to them in Google must also apply to Bing search, right?
I have always made Bing a part of my content strategy and Yahoo, Aol, Yandex and Baidu as well. Why? Because They each have their own audience and I want to be able to reach that audience. I never thought that having my image attached made a whole lot of difference except when it was attached to my Google+ profile so that it would appear to my clients and prospective clients when they did a search. Luckily that part of Google Authorship has survived the changes and business continues without so much as a ripple for me and for my clients.