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Is It Still Worth It to Claim Google Authorship?

What Google giveth, Google can also taketh away.

The search engine giant announced recently that it will be removing author profile pictures as well as Google+ circle counts in the results it serves up on both desktop and mobile. In the surprising announcement, Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller cited a desire to “clean up” the visual design of its search results, working toward a more uniform approach across devices.

Mueller claimed that click-through behavior on what he called the “less-cluttered” design was similar to when authorship information was displayed. But of course, the announcement caused panic in the search engine optimization community, because Google Authorship has proven such a potent way to increase traffic in the past.

Is it even still worth it to claim authorship? Will this impact author ranks and make it harder to build traffic? Why in the world is Google doing this? Those are the questions on everyone’s minds.

The Rise of Google Authorship

Introduced in 2011, Google Authorship is essentially a portable byline that writers can carry with them to different sites. So if you write a piece for website A and website B, you’ll still have the same byline across both posts. It also includes information about your Google Circles, which essentially tells people that you are widely read and widely appreciated.

This is hugely useful because Google likes authors with credibility. It also likes authors who use Google products. You put together a plethora of bylines and great Google+ credentials, and you’ve got an article that will rise to the top of search results. Google Authorship also helps articles stand out from other search results; it’s almost like putting a “verified” seal of approval on an article, meaning “this wasn’t written by a content mill hack.” Articles can see huge traffic gains with implementation of Google Authorship.

By doing away with the author photos and Google+ information, however, it will become harder to discern credible authors. You may have recognized someone’s picture from past searches before and clicked on them again when their profile came up in a search. Now you’ll have to actually remember their name to do that, which seems like a stretch.

Why Do Away With Photos?

As many have noted, Google’s decision to do away with photos and social information seems counterintuitive to the search engine’s goals. It has said it wants to bring high-quality content to the top of search results, highlighting the best authors. And many of the best and most knowledgeable writers are those who take the time to use Google Authorship.

It may simply be that Google didn’t like the SEO games people play with Google Authorship, trying to game the system by getting more traffic using photos. There’s certainly nothing Google hates more than people playing SEO games.

The Future of Google Authorship

Regardless of why Google made its decision, the question going forward is whether writers should continue to use Google Authorship. Is it worth it anymore, now that pictures won’t be included in results? Studies showed those pictures drew people’s eyes away from other results on a page which is one of the big benefits of using the authorship tags.

Though removing pictures and social media information may seem to devalue the use of Authorship, the truth is that Google probably has an endgame in mind for this decision that will eventually justify the change, and the end result could be rewarding top authors even more.

Google has often said in the past its goal with Google Authorship was to give the top authors in different subject areas a lift. And truthfully, this isn’t the first time Google has messed with the program. Last year Google pulled back on the Authorship results found in searches, a hint that it had other plans on the horizon for the program.

There are no indications that Google plans to abandon this tool. In fact, in announcing the changes, Mueller made a point to link to the Google Authorship page, which he would not have done if the search giant was trying to discourage people from using it or planning to phase it out.

Should You Still Use Google Authorship?

The bottom line is that despite the change, there will still be benefits to using the Google Authorship tag, including:

  • Building yourself up as an expert. It’s still desirable to get as many bylines as possible on a subject, which people can find through your Google Authorship.
  • Gaining name recognition. No, your photo won’t be there to tip people off, but there is something to be said for name recognition. People will notice when your name comes up time after time when you write about a certain subject.
  • Long-term benefits. At the recent SMX Advanced Conference, Matt Cutts continued to sing the praises of using Google Authorship to build up authority. The benefits may not come tomorrow but they will build over time.
  • Google loves Google products. This is the notion I keep coming back to. Google search results just adore anything Google-related, so if you continue to use Google Authorship, at the very least you are not going to be punished.

The Bottom Line

This is Google, people. It’s a company that likes to show it’s one step ahead of SEOs on everything, and sometimes it likes to do things for no discernible reason, other than it can. When it notices that people are using Google Authorship to spark traffic, it’s going to play around with the formula to try to throw people off.

But Google’s one downfall is its vanity. It developed Google Authorship, and it’s not going to abandon it, even if it’s displeased with the way it’s been employed. Some people may take a reactionary approach and stop using the “rel=author” tag. Don’t be one of them. This is Google’s way of refining the product without tossing it aside. There will be other changes, too, but in the end, you’ll benefit from continuing to use Google Authorship with all your articles.

About the author


Adrienne Erin

Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like D&P Injury Law succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.


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  • It was a trick of Google, played since 2011 to use hard work and efforts of millions of professional to rapidly grow their G+ network.

    Since now, they’re established enough with G+, now they’re kicking off the authors, whom Google used as a tool to make their social network.

    These Google guys are crooks and should be imprisoned for their malicious business practices.

  • Hey…

    Great Article Adrienne Erin.

    Thanks for your marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.
    Distilling the details down to a broadly digestible level is an art form you’ve perfected.

    Thanks again..

  • It was first when the initial launch to be excellent writers also that images appear in a google search page.
    Apparently this will also apparently removed by google

  • Google has developed a lot of projects in the past just to abandon it, so I don’t think they care. What they care thou is to cut as much SEO as possible and promote PPC.

  • According to me it would be wise if we seriously concentrate on Google+. Google might have dropped the authorship picture and circle info from organic search but I guess they may use those signals internally as a ranking factor on SERP in future. As the author very rightly said that we should look at the ‘Long-term benefits’. I agree on this point completely.

  • This has nothing to do with the future of authorship. Google is a data driven company and frankly click through rates on ads suffered since they introduced these on to SERPS..

    Just follow the money trail, people…

  • I searched “Matt cuts” But there is no his photo showing in search result !!

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if Google says this has to do with the recent European court verdict to remove people from their search results. We have seen it before and will continue to see it. Google launches a tool, webmasters make it popular then they change and announce misuse.

    I still believe Google may reward creditable authors in a way or the other with or without authorship photos.

  • Google is definitely trying to force everyone to adopt AdWords. Just about all my clients have rejected AdWords as being far too expensive. What needs to happen is that Google allow people to use SEO again for more than just one place. For instance, if a company serves more than one community, and those communities are listed in the body of at least the first page, those communities should also be included in the search results. This is not SPAM Google. This is good search engine optimization to ensure that a company expands its reach. Not everyone can afford AdWords the way you have it right now. Instead of a pay-per-click system where everything accrues month after month, you need to adopt the model that just about all other forms of advertising use – per week, per month, per year subscriptions. People cannot budget for pay-per-click, regardless of what Google says, because there is way too much unpredictability.

  • Great article, thank you. I am sure that this is a ploy to get us to use ppc. Let’s face it, if we could get to the top organically (and I often have with the help of Google Authorship) then we wouldn’t need to pay for advertising. Clever!

  • Right on time article. I was just trying to decide to link my google plus account to my blogs, but what the use if there tactics keep changing..

  • It makes about as much sense as the rest of the nonsense that Google does…

  • What if we say the reverse? Google is playing game with SEOs, arising confusions… and bang!!! Google wins (again).

    We know exactly how it happens, and here is the common cycle:
    1. SEOs know what tactics to implement after inventing the ways to optimize a specific or some Google’s features.
    2. Google then finds out that the new feature(s) cause something not expected.
    3. Google tackles the tactics and says that SEOs are playing games: makes new rules, bans sites, removes some features, update algorithms, etc.
    4. Google creates “new games”
    5. Back to number 1.

  • I can believe that they have taken the authorship photos away, I think they are great for consumers and for website owners. do you think they will bring this back?

  • I always say just use pure organic white hat and stop worrying. All my clents have top placement on page one organically and on the maps for their keywords and phrases because I get them ranked for relevance.

    I’ve never used the author tag, just pure organic white hat. And I never have to worry about Pandas or Penguins. My work is clean and pure. No smoke and mirrors.

  • It’s obvious why Google removed authorship from results: AdWords. They probably noticed a drop in Adwords CTR, so the best way to get back on track is to remove other visual elements which distract people attention from Ads.
    It’s all about Adwords!

  • Hi Adrienne
    Great article, needed by the way.
    Just one comment on “It’s a company that likes to show it’s one step ahead of SEOs on everything”
    Google is not running one step ahead – they are always running behind what SEO´s do. Google makes a move and the SEO´s try to take advantage of this new scenario, then Google is again obliged to run behind this SEO tactic and make new corrections to strengthen their “anti SEO position”.
    Vanity, or business greed, we will see this battle running for a long time!
    Thanks again for your great article.

  • I just started to use Google authorship and don’t find this to be a big deal. Like the article states, its about being the sole proprietor of what you write! There is allot of plagiarized articles out there and this helps you stand strong to who owns that original article.

  • Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! If you have already actioned authorship links there is no benefit to be had by removing them.

    Although your picture or G+ stats won’t show your author name will still appear and although not shown the stats will still be collected and even used in future algorithm updates.

    There is no guarantee or confirmation but there is every liklihood that it will still be valuable at some level perhaps even yet to be decided at the Googleplex.

    It’s main impact might be whether there is a continuing uptake as some ‘authors’ might not think the effort is worth any possible returns as it’s always been difficult to measure how much social media activity contributes to your bottom-line.

    The corollary might be that those who continue to use and add authorship facilities to their site/blog content will benefit more in the future having taken the effort and shown good faith in its real or perceived value.

    Agree with the conclusion of the article but time will only tell!

  • Without a mugshot showing in SERPs, Google + authorship still remains, although the photo is “below the surface”. So Google might still give brownie points for authorship + pic while also not distracting searchers by showing photos in search results. Don’t drop Google authorship until Matt Cutts says, “Ah, ye know, at one point, a few years ago, it used to be, you know, somewhat important but now, well, you should concentrate on simply creating great content for users…”

  • “But Google’s one downfall is its vanity”…lol…. a virtual narcissist! As far as Matt Cutts goes, I always try to read between the lines, he announces some great information, we as SEO’s just have to decipher it!

  • Hi,
    I am thinking to link my Google Plus profile to my upcoming website, is it this will help in Search Engine Ranking.

  • Hi,
    Still is plays some important role in search engine optimization, we can use this as a part of search engine optimization strategy.

    Website Designers & Search Engine Optimization Expert

  • I must say that I was strongly surprised about analytics tracking code affecting search rankings.
    Great structured word, thanks for sharing your info!