Google to Remove Author Image from SERPs – What's the Value of Authorship Then?

by | Jun 28, 2014

No more Author pics in SERPS
5 min read

What has happened?

John Mueller announced on Google+ that Author images in SERPs are soon to be a thing of the past. Originally, Author Images in search results were implemented to highlight authors and rank search results. The markup, which has become the target of many SEOs organic marketing strategy, has not yet been given a date in which it will cease appearing.

Why is Google Doing it?

Google has stated that it is “cleaning up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices“. With the current trend of Mobile possibly surpassing Desktop in search volume by the end of 2014, so the claim by Mueller is inline with forecasts. However, Mueller also added that “click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one” which contradicts what has previously been researched. Due to this, others have speculated on the true reasoning behind the backflip is loss of Adwords revenue including Moz founder Rand Fishkin.
So have you been wasting away your time building up a reputable Google+ Authorship for Google to only pull the rug from under your feet?

What does this mean for my Business?

  • Potential Drop in CTR
  • Where to look for it:  GWT Author info
  • Now unlikely to be a ranking factor
  • Becoming less visible => lower priority => Lower uptake of Google authorship => Less likely to be a direct ranking factor

So Why Should You Still Bother?

Do you guys think that content attached to high authority authors (regular authors that publish stuff on quality sites and have their content shared and etc), will play a role in rankings and Google’s perception of the content quality? My hunch is yes G+ will still be a potential factor for content quality.
Some of the reasons:

  • High authority authors have highly engaged follower base
    • If they share your link, it is from highly connected profile
    • Their follower base could reshare the content and increase exposure ripples
    • They get shared amongst online communities where they are active. I easily share items written on AI/Transhumanism even if the author could have posted something earlier in such community
  • High authority authors reference their own work
    • You could get a link from a top website 2,3,6,12 months after the first doc was posted when the author reference such content (exactly what we trying to achieve with Marianne writing on OC)
    • They tend to keep a reference of their work. Their site may not have the greatest authority but could have a very pristine, high value link profile, thus getting potentially closer to trust seed site links
  • They are a quotable source
    • I am under the very strong impression that Google scholar could have an influence on Authority – Google scholar has a matching algorithm for publication authority by title and author. Academia being very strict on citation, Google can easily replace links by citation.
    • Links from 3rd parties via quotes. Others might be looking for quotes or example of someone work and would most likely cite someone with a high authority in the field. Example, I would probably cite Rand fishkin post even in an unknown website if I am sure he wrote the piece.


Kirsten Tanner

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