John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced on Google+ yesterday that Google has decided to end the great Authorship experiment and effectively drop all Authorship related functionality from its search results and webmaster tools.
What Was Google Authorship?
Google started the Authorship experiment over 3 years ago. This experiment was aimed at not just giving credit to authors, but ranking credit based on everything they have written on the web, good or bad.
This was great news for authors and SEO's alike. It was a way for serious authors to measure how good they are by using an AuthorRank Testing Tool. It also gave SEO's a new tool in their belt to help their client's get rankings and clicks (even though Google said several times the pictures in the SERP's didn't have a significant impact on CTR).
So starting in early June of 2011, more savvy webmasters were adding a rel="author" or rel="me" tag (attribute) to each piece of content on their websites to get the Google credit. Then later that month Google+ launched, which became a way for authors to have a profile and link all of their content "easier".
But I digress, because now these points are moot as Google has killed one of its products yet again.
Authorship's Slow Phase Out
Just like Gmail was in beta for 5 years, I guess authorship was in beta for 3 years. In this time authorship went through many changes how it showed up in the SERP's over the past 3 years, but none were as big as the last 8 months.
First back in December of 2013 Google stopped showing the photos of "lesser" authors and less photos overall in the SERP's. In my own testing, I found that the results varied between browsers and being logged into a Google account or not.
Then back in June 2014, Google said they are removing all photos from search results, as a way to make it more uniform with mobile search experience (almost half of Google searches come from mobile devices) and that they didn't affect click-through rates (ahem, really?!). While I do not fully believe that, arguing with Google serves very little purpose.
The 2 Reasons for Killing It
Google is a company that likes to test, tinker and take chances, remember Google Wave and Google Buzz? They also do it in ranking websites, like giving new sites a chance at the top of page 1 to see how they do. If searchers respond well to it and gives them value, they stay there. If not, they go to where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, on page 2, where no one ever finds anything.
One big problem with Authorship was that webmasters/authors were simply not using it or not using it correctly. It seems that with all the SEO hype around authorship, plus how easy it is to make a Google+ profile and implement authorship on blogging platforms like WordPress, it was still not enough.
Then the second problem, according to John Mueller, was that it wasn't giving enough value to searchers compared to the resources it took for Google to process Authorship data. I agree that a picture of the author, their byline and number of people in their G+ circles isn't that useful to me when doing a search. And if I did click-through because I saw a picture of someone, especially someone who I have seen or known before, am I really getting the best result?
How will it impact my current and future Content Marketing efforts?
The experiment Google Authorship might be dead, but the idea and logic behind the idea is far from it. Other than the hours that you spend trying to figure out how to mark-up your pages and posts with the technical implementation of it, nothing else was wasted.
Why? It is simple. The reputation of an author matters. For example, J.K. Rowling's book The Cuckoo's Calling surged basically overnight from 4,709th Amazon rank to the 1st best-selling novel on Amazon after the author's true identity was revealed.
So, you might not have written a best-seller, but if you continue to provide value to your human readers, Google will pick up on it, with or without Google Authorship.