Another of Google’s Dodo Birds

Another of Google’s Dodo Birds

Google Authorship Becomes Extinct

Google has done it again! They have marked the history books of online search by adding another Dodo Bird to their increasing list of extinct projects that did not succeed in the intended fashion; this time it is the Authorship program.

As of last Thursday (8-28-14) Google has stopped showing authorship in search results. We lost the authorship images back in June, but this recent Google + post by John Mueller indicated that there will be no more authorship display of any kind in organic search results going forward. This Google program ran for just over 3 years, and supported the use of structured data markup that helped to identify content authors using the rel=”author” tags and provided both a rich snippet enhancement, and supposed ranking benefits to those individuals and websites that properly used the markup.

This program’s rise & fall have come full circle; for fantastic details (beyond my own post) on the history and research behind the loss of Google Authorship, checkout the excellent Search Engine Land article co-written by Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen.

Why Has Authorship Been Removed from Google Search?

Unfortunately after a great deal of review, Google’s experts felt that they had not met the programs goals with the success that was expected, and found that it was time to lay the poor beast to rest citing two primary areas that fell short:

  • Low adoption rates and unsuccessful implementation by authors and webmasters – the numbers of participants correctly using authorship markup did not meet Google’s expectations, and it became seemingly obvious that user patterns were not going to improve. Without better participation for using authorship markup, Google felt that it was not successfully evaluating & connecting content and authorship across the internet as it had hoped to (particularly for the amount of resources they were utilizing).
  • Minimal value to searchers- especially with the ever-growing mobile search market. John Mueller indicated that Google was seeing little difference in “click-behavior” and did not feel that authorship display was offering users any significant value.

What Should You Know Now that Authorship is Gone?

According to John Mueller (who responded to a number of expert questions posted in his blog regarding this change) the following are things that you as a website owner or webmaster should keep in mind:

  • Google is no longer using authorship structured data in anyway, including behind the scenes or for other data analysis.
  • This change only affects authorship markup, not publisher markup.
  • Leaving any existing authorship markup on your site is not an issue in Google’s eyes (it shouldn’t cause problems), and could still offer users important information about you as an author if they want to learn more.
  • Google is NOT yet saying one way or the other whether there is value in linking your Google+ profile to pieces of work that you create. The inferred answer is that there still is value in the linking created by these connections, and that ultimately you will want to be connected to that which you create for other reasons (that Google may assess in new & different ways). So the markup may not be necessary to include within your site going forward as authorship markup itself has no benefit, but linking yourself to content, and authorship in general may still have value. Only time will truly tell…
  • It appears, by spot checking several Google Webmaster Tools accounts, that the authorship markup testing tool has already been removed, and that Webmaster tools is no longer reporting on authorship related markup errors.

There are plenty of people who debate Google’s real data points and reasoning for removing authorship from search display,  but the bottom line is, Google didn’t feel that this bird was flying high enough to justify the processing resources it used.  And so, like many other Google programs, services & interfaces, Google Authorship has gone extinct… like the Dodo Bird.

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