Is Google Authorship Still Around?

by Dennis Seymour October 10, 2014
Google Author Authorship Rich Snippets SERP

Before you say, “Hey stupid. They already removed that!”

NO, we’re not going to tell you how you can add authorship codes to your articles for this outdated practice.

Instead, we’re going to talk about why it was an important “experiment” and how it’s contribution to Author Rank can lead to it being a part of the Google algorithm.

We preached about Google Authorship for years and to suddenly take that away? That’s a lot of wasted energy!

But you know what? They probably DID get something out of that experiment which is probably partly implemented or in the plans, but let’s talk about that later.

There are obviously a LOT of conspiracies out there. Some say the results with author images took away Adword clicks, which makes sense but let’s just stick with John Mueller’s reason, for now.


 

For those that are new to SEO and do not understand what Google Authorship was, here’s the gist. For those that already used and removed it, skip this part and head over to the next sub topic.

What Is (Was?) Google Authorship?

Whether you’re setting up a company website or just writing an article for your business, I’m sure that you’d want your content to be original. As much as possible, you may want to generate all the content by yourself. There are plenty of benefits to doing this. First of all, there’s less risk that you would be charged with plagiarism, and in the online world, you won’t have to worry about privacy and copyright infringement issues.

Another benefit to being the sole contributor of content for your business website is that you have what’s known as authorship. This means that everything you’ve done, from text to video to audio, all those things are yours. If anybody uses these things without your permission, then that would already be a breach on your rights as the author. Authorship is ownership.

Before Google Authorship, Google patented a tool called Agent Rank, also known as Author Rank, which basically gives higher SERP rankings to content “experts”. That rank is affected by many factors, such as the following:

  • use of Google Authorship
  • amount of content that an author has created
  • the number and quality of sites where the content is posted

If you’re curious as to what your current Author Rank is, you can use a tool like this one. It’s still pretty theoretical since Author Rank was never really introduced officially.

The previous problem that Google encountered with Agent Rank was that it’s all too easy to claim that you’re an expert online.  So, Google changed its algorithms and designed Google+, which would allow them to get to know these authors and find out just how credible they were. Integrating Google+ and Agent Rank paved the way for Google Authorship.

Google Authorship is defined as showing your ownership of content in the Google SERPs. Before, aside from the page title, the URL of the website, and the meta descriptions, a listing that had authorship would be accompanied by the name and the profile picture of the author, also known as rich snippets, as seen below:

Google Author Authorship Rich Snippets SERP

As you can see, profile photos used to be shown.

To make it really simple to understand, Google Authorship is different from Author Rank. Authorship is the physical thing, the photo, the link back to Google+, the whole visual thing. Author Rank, is like PageRank for Authors so it’s basically an algorithm to calculate all your mentions, engagement, content and everything that would contribute to you being an expert. To read more about the differences, check out this Authorship/Author Rank article from Ana. It will probably answer most your questions.

However, as of June 25, 2014, John Mueller of Google made the announcement that Google authors’ photos and Google+ circle counts will no longer appear on the search engines. Instead, the listing will only show the clickable author’s name. This was so that the results would appear cleaner and consistent design-wise when viewed from both desktop and mobile.

Of course, authorship is more than having rich snippets adorn your listings. More than anything else, it’s about establishing your credibility as a content author and thought leader in your field. Regularly coming up with original and high-quality content is favored by search engines, and once you’ve also established your authorship in Google, Google could possibly see you as an expert, and your website’s ranking might increase because of that.

What a noble and creative idea, right?

 

Not As Much As We Thought


 

There are a lot of reasons and theories out there. From “Google+ is dying” to how big a failure authorship adoption was.

Here are some other articles that you might find interesting:

Google Authorship – the 3 reasons why it failed by David Leonhardt

The Real Reason Google Plus Authorship Photos Are Gone by Larry Kim

Google Calls Takebacks on Authorship Photos: An Alternate Theory by Elisa Gabbert

 

But Is The Whole Idea of Authorship Really Dead?

We know we have pushed business owners like you to implement authorship for the past couple years. Your sites benefited from it but now you might be thinking that you wasted your time building that author profile.

We lack the facts and exact details, but Author rank is probably living on. That’s actually what I would naturally conclude after seeing Google officially announce the death of Authorship.

We won’t really get definite info on this matter right now so all we could do is to continue to follow the new changes they implement (in-depth articles, patents, etc) and the signs point to yes, it’s still there somewhere but probably not as a ranking signal yet. (Note: I am not counting the Google+ posts that show up in your personalized search results.)

They also built Google+ for a reason. They won’t let go of an investment like this without getting something in return. They won’t necessarily need those author photos to show up in the SERPs to gather data about authors/entities.

Also, your Google+ About page still has the “Contributor to” area – maybe for a reason… or maybe they just forgot about it. Everyone’s busy nowadays, even Google.

Google Authorship Contributor To

Left this for a reason? Maybe.

So is Google Authorship really dead? Buried? Scrapped? Like what Ana Hoffman mentioned in the comments below, Google Authorship is really dead.

Was it just an experiment then? It probably was and they probably got what they wanted out of it.

On a side note: How about the Rel=Publisher code? Did they forget about that as well? Or are they planning to actually use this in the future? Maybe something big for brands? Patents point to yes but we all know not all patents will be used.

Rel Publisher

Authorship is gone but did they forget about this?

 

Could We See Google Authorship Again In The Future?

The idea of authorship when it started was noble and strategic. As a bonus, it could also have been used as a ranking signal back then, who knows.

We know that Matt Cutts said:

“We are doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to makes sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that, according to the algorithms, we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users.”

That tells me that they can already “see” authors and that it’s possible that they have collected enough data to know patterns of real authors. Where an author hangs out, where he writes on, where he engages and how to identify if the author is the owner of the content on a page.

Could we see authorship bounce back again next time with a different form? Maybe.

That’s one of their goals anyway. Who knows, we might finally have THAT single digital signature we’ll need for all our content some day.

I really hope they succeed. I’m excited to see them pull it off.

Eventually, maybe they can cross implement everything some years from now. Looking at their new patents, they will be able to play with a lot of new tech and could include even podcasts under a single digital signature.

My take? Keep writing and creating. Keep creating great content that people will love and care about. Content that will qualify you to be an author. Odds are, Google will know about it and you will be rewarded.

 

 

Where is this headed? Will they bring it back in another form? Was it a complete failure? What are they going to do with rel=publisher? Do you think we’re close to seeing that elusive digital signature? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Join me in the comments area below.

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Dennis Seymour

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19 Comments

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  • Hi Dennis,
    I share your views in this article. Indeed, it is possible that Google has collected enough data that would be used in the future to determine those who are real authority in their fields.

    Google Authorship removal can only be explained by Google but I still it as one other strategy that have failed just as the Reader!
    I have left this comment in kingged.com where this post was shared and ‘kingged’.

    Reply
    • Hi Sunday!

      Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing more studies about it. 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by!

      Enjoy the weekend!

  • I’ll admit, I was a huge fan of Authorship. I thought it was a great concept and I thoroughly enjoyed building it up while it was here.

    I’m glad to see Author Rank is sticking around, and I’m sure it’ll have even more use in the future. I had actually never heard of the tool you mentioned, so thank you for introducing me to that.

    But man, what’s with Google killing off all of their products? It’s a real headache to us webmasters. It seems by the time we finally get used to something, they remove it. Someone should make a site around expired Google products, they’ll probably get a lot of content to write about!

    Reply
    • Hey James!

      Somebody already did that actually. I saw it the other day! They even made an infographic haha.

      I’m sure they have a lot of reasons….like not getting enough clicks for Adwords, or how that product is stopping them from posting more ads from Adwords or how they aren’t getting enough advertisers on Adwords…lol kidding. ;p

      BTW, your site won’t let me comment.
      It says “This error was generated by Mod_Security.” so try to contact your host maybe?

  • Hi, Dennis:

    I think there’s an important distinction missing in your post: Google Authorship and AuthorRank.

    Google Authorship (as in: Google’s way to allow the authors of content to identify themselves for display purposes) is completely dead. It doesn’t live on in any way.

    AuthorRank however is a different story. Once again, there’s a lot of guesses, rumors, misconceptions going on about AuthorRank. However, it’s our best educated guess to accept the existence of AuthorRank (used to identify in-depth articles in SERPs), even though we don’t really know much about how it fits in within Google rankings.

    Thanks for bringing me to this post.

    Reply
    • Hi Ana!

      Thanks for dropping by! I went through it and I did make it look like they were one and the same. My bad! 🙂

      I’ve tweaked it a bit and also linked to your post from last year. Still relevant even till today. How long does it take you to write pieces that long? 😀

      Thanks again for pointing that out. I really appreciate it.

      • Glad to help, Dennis, and thanks for linking out to my AuthorRank post as well.

        Generally, writing a post takes me days/weeks. I tend to be extremely thorough (maybe too thorough) with my research, visuals, supportive media (Slideshares, videos, etc); that’s why I don’t publish that often.

        • It shows in your work. Which is why they stand the test of time 🙂

          As this site is just starting to build traffic, I’ll definitely need to do it like how you are doing your content, or at least, test how the audience reacts to it. Time is always the main issue for me but I’ll push on. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to the TGC level traffic soon 😀

  • Polly

    I really loved it when they first introduced it! I was nagging everybody to use it 🙂
    Amazing, they can just pull the plug on anything they want to.

    Reply
    • Hey Polly!

      Nice to see you back here again! Yeah, it is pretty amazing. They can basically just turn the off switch. Just like they did to Orkut earlier.

      Pretty sure they got some data out of each of them so none of them is ever a total waste.

  • Hey Dennis,

    I know that Google is the king of search engines and they are always testing and trying new things. I mean they are a huge mega company now so they have to continue to tweak and improve their products in order for us to continue wanting to use them.

    I just get tired of “this is the newest and greatest thing that Google’s putting out so you HAVE to get in now or else” stuff. Nothing is ever permanent with them or set in stone until they try it out, see if it works to their advantage and then they’ll make that decision. Looks like authorship was another one of those and I was sad to see that one go.

    As far as author rank! Well it’s anyone’s guess at this point because once again, who knows what Google’s going to do until they do it!

    Appreciate the viewpoint though, great job.

    ~Adrienne

    Reply
    • Hi Adrienne!

      Yeah, it is pretty frustrating sometimes. I kinda feel like they pushed that just to get people to actually use Google+ 😀

      They push out these “use now so you can benefit” things and most of the time, they just end up dead LOL. But I really do hope they can finally figure out a way for us to really “own” our content somehow. That would be a milestone for them.

      Im actually in the process of testing their new “https is good for SEO” thingy. So far so good.

      Yeah, I’m a sheep like that. LOL!

      Hope you are having a great week!

  • Hello Dennis,

    Indeed an informative post you have written.

    Google Authorship held a major stake when it came to boosting rank in Google SERP. It is not just that, as it also draws more traffic to your Blog. Because in Google Search Engine, beside your article, your picture also pops up.

    We can’t break our heads on why Google does this or does that. Surely, I was a bit surprised , I must say, on getting the news.

    However, Google has introduced us to ‘HTTPS’. Though it comes with a price tag, but given the advantages which Google justified, its not so bad after all. Why? isn’t it what we Bloggers look for? I mean better security, higher ranking in Google SERP and stuffs like that.

    Regards,
    Swapnadip

    Reply
    • Hi Swapnadip!

      I’m actually in the process of writing an HTTPS post. It’ll be out in a couple of weeks. Check back soon! 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Hey Dennis,

    Right before the summer I had to set up Google authorship. I really like the idea of displaying my gravator and having Google associate it with my blog posts with the description of the post. The idea of this rich snipplet made it look more professional and attractive for those that were looking for answers.

    Then towards the end of June that took it away. This disappointed me, but I figure Google still had other ways to rank your content and put it in the SERPs. But I do hope that they will bring authorship back in the near future. Maybe they’re making some improvements to it!

    Thanks for sharing Dennis! Have a good one!

    I found your blog post on kingged.com under the category of SEO/SEM
    http://kingged.com/google-authorship-is-dead-but-is-it-still-around/

    Reply
    • They probably are Sherman. Or they somehow got disheartened and quit already LOL!

      Im excited to see what they will put out next. I’d love to be able to have full rights for all my content.

      There’s really too much content out there right now, getting that digital signature for us as content creators is a big piece of how we can protect ourselves from all the crap that is out there 🙂

  • Hey, Dennis,

    For me, I was disappointed when they removed it. I enjoyed seeing the images beside content in search results, but just goes to show you, never base a lot of time and effort on what Google does because they’re always changing.

    Obviously, I’m not referring to main stream SEO, on page and off page, but these extra things that come down the pike. Yes, I did a blog post on it, which is fine. I know some people did series on it, etc. I helped a few folks set theirs up too. What a shame it’s gone.

    Will it come back? Only Google knows that. I would speculate no, it’s not coming back. They are all about their bottom line. Period. Not the people. They SAY their interest is in providing the most relevant and best user experience, but decisions are made only to pad their pockets.

    Cynical? Don’t think so. I use Google Plus because a lot of folks are there, but much prefer the Facebook platform.

    You did an excellent job on your article. Thanks, and I hope you’re getting some rest! 🙂

    – Carol

    Reply
    • Hi Carol!

      That’s right, it’s all about the bottom line though I can’t fault them because it really didn’t pick up even with all the SEO’s in the world backing it up. It just wasn’t mainstream enough and was very easily manipulated.

      I just hope their next idea IS the final digital signature we need. It would really benefit authors like us online.

      Thanks for digging up this old baby. LOL! Appreciate it 🙂

      PS. Baby went into “monster mode” at 1am = no sleep until…..5 am… Ill try to get some in the weekend. For now, it’s work time lol.

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