Google Authorship is the royal road to more trustworthy Web content, right? The key for publishers to build a sound online reputation, the path to meaningful search engine results, yes? It was certainly billed as all of these things. But now it’s been euthanised.
Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller announced its demise on his Google+ page on 28th August, with these somewhat low-key words:
“Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”
Originally launched in 2011 to help authors claim their work, it quickly morphed into a ranking factor. Integrated with Google+, it placed authors’ Google+ profiles next to their work in the search results. But maybe the first ominous sign that it was facing the chop came in June, when Google removed the profile photo from Authorship (the reason given back then was that it wasn’t conducive to mobile users).
With the benefit of hindsight, there’s been a progressive deactivation of Authorship over several months. Users, it seemed, simply didn’t engage with it sufficiently. And if there’s one thing that Google is devilishly good at, it’s measuring what works and what doesn’t. After three years, it was clear that Authorship just wasn’t cutting the mustard.
A lot of people involved in video production and content writing may be a little peeved, to say the least, to find that all the efforts they made to familiarise themselves with authorship and use it effectively have gone down the toilet with the initiative itself. A hiccup from a leviathan like Google can generate a tsunami of after-effects.
So, what do content creators do to enhance their content strategy now that the Authorship crown has toppled? Google says nothing will happen to search rankings, and that its committed to continuing its support for structured mark-up project ‘schema.org’, which is used by all the major search engines. SearchEngineLand.com’s founding editor, Danny Sullivan also reminds us that “Author Rank” (a signal used by Google to assign weight to an author’s content) is alive and well.
But please, Google, think of the effects of your hiccups before you try your next initiative.