Leave it to Google. After I wrote a five-part series on the whys and how-tos of establishing your Google Authorship presence, they decide to kill it altogether. And didn’t even ask me first.
In August, Google announced (via a Google+ post ironically) that Google Authorship functionality would be removed from its search results and Webmaster tools. In human terms, that move means that when you type keywords into Google, articles will still appear—but the author’s photo and bio information will no longer appear in the rich snippets. And actually, the photos stopped showing up in June of this year, but now the entire functionality’s been flipped off.
So if you’ve spent the past several months (or years) building up your authorship presence on your website and in Google Plus, you may feel like flipping off Google right about now. Well, hang in there.
I could try to explain the whys of Google’s decision, but that would be pointless. Their rules would probably change (or change back) before I even hit “Publish” on this post. They have their reasons, and I’m sure they’ve manufactured some PR statement on why they made this change. The bigger deal, though, is that it’s been done. So now what?
If this is the first time you’re hearing about Google Authorship, it’s probably worth a quick look back on the phenomenon.
In 2007, Google acquired a patent for Agent Rank that connected specific content to specific authors via a digital signature. And that connection was then used to score the quality and validity of the content. Four years later, Google started utilizing authorship markup and suggested we all start including rel=”author” and rel=”me” tags on our sites to link new content with an author profile. Oh, and a great place to create that profile would be via Google+.
And like little lemmings, we followed the pied piper…until August 2014.
Right now, there seems to be some uncertainty about the future of the Google Plus social media platform. Will Google pull the plug on this next?
We’ll still have to wait and see what’s next for this platform, but for now proceed as normal. Continue to keep your profiles current and keep posting/promoting your content as you have in the past. There are still millions of users there to engage with, so keep engaging.
Also—and more importantly—there is a difference between Google Authorship and Author Rank. The former, as stated above, was primarily a way to pique a Google searcher’s interest by attaching a photo and author name next to search results. That’s now gone away. But the latter was a scoring system of sorts whereby Google would seek out the validity of an author. If it could identify it, then it would boost that content’s ranking in the search results. And, for now at least, that still continues.
So that means you should continue to pump out great content. Don’t try out (or return to) any Black Hat SEO strategies. Keep posting real content, written by real authors. Google will still find you, and so will your prospects and customers.