On June 26th 2014, John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst announced significant changes to Google Authorship. He stated that all Authorship profile photos and circle counts would no longer be shown in search engine results pages (serps).
The reason given was to unclutter the results pages and to make for faster loading times on mobile devices. By removing these two elements however, Google has quite likely removed the very two reasons that many people actually have Authorship in the first place.
So let’s look at the benefits of Authorship before these changes took place and then examine how these changes may affect your search engine optimisation (SEO) and click-through-rate (CTR).
Benefits of Google Authorship
Google Authorship is a way for content writers to establish ownership of their online content within a social media framework. Before Google’s changes, this meant that serps would display not only the Title tag and Meta description, but also the author’s name and photo, links to their G+ profile, their networking circles and links to more articles written by that author.
As you can see, the benefits of Authorship to a brand can be huge. However, there were also clear benefits to Google in establishing Authorship:
- Eliminate duplicated content
- Reduce spam
- Promote quality content (some ecommerce sites were inappropriately using Authorship on product pages)
- Increase the social orientation of Google’s search algorithm
All of which led to an improvement in the quality of the results presented to online searchers. There were however, also clear SEO advantages to having Authorship:
- More validated and credible search links led to increased reader confidence
- Results with author photos catch the eye, are visually stimulating and increase clicks
- Increased engagement between authors and readers resulted in greater leads
So Google Authorship seemed like a win-win situation – but is that still true now?
Will Google’s changes reduce your SEO and CTR?
John Mueller has stated that since the implementation of these changes, the CTR has not really changed. Research, however has clearly indicated that visual images do increase CTR with increases of 150% being claimed – even Google itself has studied this behaviour.
So why has Google made these changes? Well there are rumours about including author authority as a factor in their algorithms. Which means that we may see more changes in the near future.
However, for the time being, Google Authorship still has two attractive features that help SEO and CTRs:
- Bylines: Even though author photos have been removed, your byline is still included in the serps. This means that you have the benefit of brand promotion and brand recognition with Authorship, both of which help increase CTRs, sales and rankings
- Data: You can still access the same data on impressions, clicks, CTRs and ranking via Google Webmaster Tools – all of which help with SEO
Over the past few years, Google has clearly been moving towards presenting higher quality content in the serps. So to encourage a good place in the search rankings make sure you:
- Focus on your content
- Include relevant keywords in your Title tags and Meta descriptions
- Consider initiating keyword mapping – where you optimise individual pages based on specific keyword phrases
If you understand the nuances of SEO and thematic content and use your keywords judiciously, then your rankings will increase organically.