By: Ken Freel
Let’s all take a moment to mourn the loss of another Google service, Google Authorship. Since the untimely death of Google Reader, tech pundits have cringed every time Google announces that yet another feature, product or service will no longer be supported. Given all the work webmasters and digital marketers put into pleasing the big G, the backlash is understandable.
Google has discontinued a number of services over the course of their reign with varying degrees of resentment from users and developers. So what did we really lose with the depreciation of Google Authorship markup?
What Was Google Authorship?
For those late to the party, Google Authorship was a service that allowed authors to have a picture and byline displayed in search results using a special type of HTML markup. The concept was clear: give authors the ability to take credit for their work using their Google+ profile while offering users a more engaging experience. Unfortunately, Google Authorship didn’t pan out in practice.
Why Didn’t It Work?
The problem with Google Authorship was two-fold at its core. By observing the click behavior of searchers, it was determined that the presence of the author photo made little difference to users. As for webmasters and bloggers, only a small portion of writers implemented authorship markup. Some industries had virtually no authors setup with the program.
In addition, mobile devices were unable to display author profile pictures due to spacing issues. With Google’s eye on unifying the user experience between devices, this was viewed as an insurmountable hurdle.
At the end of 2013, Google had already promised to reduce the number of author photo listings shown per search query. By late June 2014, Google had removed all author photos from search results.
What Does This Mean for You?
So was all your hard work setting up your Google Authorship all for nothing? Not quite. According to many SEO experts, including Search Engine Land, Google is still using what is referred to as “Author Rank” in their algorithm when determining the rank of a page in an index. Similar to how Page Rank determines the importance of a page by the links pointing to it, Author Rank will impact rankings based on the authority attributed to the author.
Although you may not have your profile picture displayed in the search result next to your article, Google is still considering your expertise as an author when compiling their index. In other words, if Google views you as a highly trusted source on a subject, you will rank ahead of your competition.
How to Proceed
Continue to publish content using the Google Author markup (which links your content to your Google+ profile)! Even though your picture and byline is gone, this rich snippet will provide a valuable boost to your page rankings.
While some of us might be grieving the loss of another Google service, we must rejoice in the bright future ahead for structured data, a unified user experience and the Internet as a whole. Next week, we will be looking at other rich snippets supported by major search engines and how this will impact the end user.