A couple months ago, we posted a two-part article about Google Authorship, including what it is, why it’s helpful, and how you can set it up for yourself. Google Authorship has been a very helpful tool in establishing credibility for yourself and increasing click-through rates (CTRs) in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
If you don’t recall, Google Authorship basically allows you to make it so that the picture from your Google+ profile shows up next to the link to your webpage, usually a blog post, when it appears in the SERPs after someone’s searched for something relevant to that page. It was thought that people are more likely to pick a link with a photo of a person next to it, even if it wasn’t the top result. People have seen a 30-150% increase in traffic to their websites just by setting up Google Authorship.
Understandably, a lot of people are upset. Was the time spent setting up Google Authorship and building your Google+ presence a waste?
Why Are They Doing This To Us?
With Google, it can be hard to remember that they’re not out to cater to businesses. They’re only interested in their customers, and that means all users. Most users aren’t business owners.
The change was announced by Google’s John Mueller, who explained that the reason for the change was all about user experience – especially when it comes to mobile search.
We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count.John Mueller
This makes a lot of sense. On mobile devices, pictures are going to take up a lot of space. Better to get rid of them and make everything uniform. After all, a picture next to a link doesn’t mean that said link will take you to the most useful content.
Is your content not so great? Not really useful or interesting to anyone? No problem. Just set up Google Authorship and you’ll get a boost in your CTR, hurting sites that might have better content. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Taking the photos away might even out the playing field while also making Google more user-friendly. It’s a win-win for them.
How Will This Affect Me?
Always an important question. If you have Google Authorship set up, it makes sense to assume that you will see a significant drop in your CTRs and traffic. John Mueller, however, said that their tests showed little change when the photos were removed: “Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.”
This statement is a little vague, and Google’s predictions in these situations usually don’t work out the same for everybody. Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting listed some possible interpretations of this claim and why it seems counter to the conventional line of thought that photos boost CTRs.
Keep nurturing the Google Authorship tree. It seems very likely that it will bear some particularly tasty fruit in the future.