Fini. The end. That’s all, folks! After just three years, Google has announced the end of Google Authorship. According to an announcement made by John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools, the search engine will no longer be showing Authorship results in Google Search, and it will stop tracking data from content using rel=”author” markup. Why? It simply wasn’t as useful as Google thought it would be. If you’re interested in learning more about Google Authorship’s life and death, please scroll down.
The End of Google Authorship
If you’ve been following the progression of Google Authorship for very long, this news should come as no surprise. Google Authorship underwent two major reductions in the last several months. In December, the number of author photos shown per query decreased, and in June, all author photos were removed from global search. At that point, many people (correctly) predicted that the end of Authorship was near.
However, in the aftermath of its death, let us not forget that Google Authorship had a very hopeful beginning . . .
A HOPEFUL BEGINNING
When Authorship was first patented in 2007, Google was very excited about the idea. Using the reputation of authors to influence page rankings (using digital signatures) was clearly a promising idea. The more trustworthy and authoritative an author was, the higher their content would rise in search rankings.
The plan became a reality in June 2011. Google encouraged webmasters to use rel=”author” and rel=”me” tags to label content they had written, linking it with their author profiles. When Google+ hit the scene, the information combined and allowed readers to easily connect authors and content.
Unfortunately, Google Authorship didn’t live up to its early promise. Participation was weak. In fact, only 30% of people used authorship markup on their own blogs (source), and many sites failed to use the markup correctly. Plus, Google often accidentally attributed content to the wrong author. Finally, Google realized that there was little difference in “click behavior” on SERPs with Authorship compared to those without it. Although it seems obvious that Authorship would make a search result more appealing and increase click-throughs, Google’s data showed another story. Authorship wasn’t helping drive traffic.
Responding to these shortfalls, Google implemented the two major reductions we mentioned earlier (decreasing author photos first and then eliminating them). Clearly, the end was near.
AND SO WE COME TO THE END
Ultimately, Authorship failed to meet Google’s expectations. The original idea was strong, but two main deficiencies sealed its fate: (1) lack of participation by authors and webmasters and (2) little value to searchers.
Time and time again, Google has shown that they are willing to abandon ideas that fail to meet expectations, which is exactly what they’re doing now: recognizing their failure, learning from it, and moving on. However, don’t be surprised if you see Authorship pop up again in the future with a new identity; the concept remains strong. Some day in the future, it could rise from the dead!
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