Authors taking advantage of Google’s Authorship are in for a surprise this month as Google is removing authorship photos from the search engine results pages. After years of being able to see photographs of each article’s author in the results, it now appears that these features are going to be removed entirely. The change is rather surprising, considering that authorship might have been one of the main reasons why many bloggers chose to open up a Google+ account with their website. Further, it has been well-documented how these authorship photographs can increase conversion rates for pages that have them. Below is a full explanation of these new changes and how they could impact your blog or website.
After a minor decline in prevalence for two days before the change, authorship dropped off search engine results pages altogether on June 29th. Since this happened, there are currently no pages that will have authorship badges anymore for searches. This is even true for search queries requesting the author’s exact name. With these changes, it appears that the only place these badges are now seen, outside Google+, is on the Google News feed. Here, the usual author badges have been cut down to a third of their previous size. However, websites dealing with news will be pleased to learn that it appears these won’t be going away anytime soon. These changes are strictly related to search, although this is the primary place where these badges were used.
Reasons for the Change
Google has not yet revealed why it implemented the change, but search experts have come up with a few viable theories. Perhaps the most likely reason is that Google has seen these badges reduce conversion rates for their paid ads. Since these bring the attention of the viewer to these less lucrative links, this is a viable possibility. However, this theory cannot be proven and Google certainly isn’t going to say so given the pressure they are receiving from the European Union. This too could be the reason, possibly associated with the so-called “right to be forgotten” ruling that Google was forced to submit to recently. However, authorship badges still show textual names so this might be a less likely possibility.
Effect on Conversions
In the wake of these changes, many webmasters were concerned that conversions might decrease as a result of these changes. However, it is easy to exaggerate the importance of a Google+ authorship badge. In most cases, webmasters have reported effects less than one percent in terms of traffic loss. Although small, this could still be significant for websites dependent on low margins to drive sales. However, this is also creating new opportunities that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Current Authorship Advantages
As of today, the photographs are gone but the metadata is still there. Authors will still have their name next to each blog post and a link to their personal Google+ page. Since Google has talked about why they believe it important for authors to be open about their identity online, it appears that search advantages for pages using authorship badges will not be decreasing.
Since Google is often quiet about their upcoming changes, nobody can know for sure what their next move will be. However, authors can probably expect at least their names to remain next to articles they have written. Further, badges on Google News probably won’t be going anywhere as Google is still working to promote its Google+ service.