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On Thursday, August 28, 2014, Google pulled the plug on the grand experiment known as Google Authorship.

While we’ve been blogging extensively and touting the benefits of Google Authorship while implementing it for all our SEO clients, it seems that Google has decided it is no longer useful.

WHAT WAS GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP?

To recap, Google set things up so that Google+ profiles would serve as Google’s universal identity platform for connecting authors with their content.  In plain English, this meant that by associating your content with your Google+ account (which involved using specialized mark-up language in your website code), it would improve the search engine results for users who would be seeing more vetted content.  Left unsaid, but reading between the lines, we felt that by deploying Authorship by Google, your content would gain an advantage in the search engine rankings.  By using Authorship, you were basically validating and putting your personal identity behind the content you created, further assuring web visitors that the content you were putting out there was legit, from a real person.  You were standing behind your content and Google was, in essence, vouching for you.

From an SEO standpoint, Google Authorship gave you a slight edge when it came to ranking your content.  At Samson Media, we included Authorship for all our on-going SEO accounts who were committed to on-going content creation.  As a professional SEO company, we like to give our clients every edge possible and the proof was in the pudding:  our Authorship clients were enjoying many page one rankings for their webpages and content.

WHY DID GOOGLE REALLY INTRODUCE AUTHORSHIP?

We believe that Google was granting this privileged status to its own social media platform as a way to increase adoption of Google+ which has often been criticized as a no-man’s land and second-class citizen to the more popular social media outlet, Facebook.  Google claims they were doing it to improve the search results and weed out spammy content which was the gist of the entire Panda update earlier in 2014.  Whether Google Authorship was a way to encourage more Google+ adoption, improve user search results or both, all we knew is that it seemed to help our clients rank higher, better and faster.  Life was good.  So what changed?

WHY DID GOOGLE KILL AUTHORSHIP?

According to this Search Engine Land interview with John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools, they didn’t feel it was being adapted widely enough and other reasons, which for us, was just fine because we saw Google Authorship as our secret sauce.  Maybe most people didn’t understand the value and even fewer knew how to implement it, but we did, and we were using it to maximum effectiveness with some of our clients ranking on page one for their keywords within days.

Here’s an excerpt from Search Engine Land, in Google’s own words, why they pulled the plug:

1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters. As our study data later in this article will confirm, participation in authorship markup was spotty at best, and almost non-existent in many verticals. Even when sites attempted to participate, they often did it incorrectly. In addition, most non-tech-savvy site owners or authors felt the markup and linking were too complex, and so were unlikely to try to implement it.

2. Low value to searchers. In his announcement of the elimination of author photos from global search in late June of this year, John Mueller stated that Google was seeing little difference in “click behavior” on search result pages with Authorship snippets compared to those without. This came as a shock (accompanied in many cases with outright disbelief) to those who had always believed that author snippets brought higher click-through rates.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GOOGLE AUTHORSHIP?

Well, if you have the stomach for it, you can sit through a 90-minute Q & A session from the man himself, John Mueller of Google, in this Google Hangout found HERE. 

Mueller even goes so far as to speculate that one day Authorship may return in another form and then goes on to say that maybe Google would even pull the plug on Google + itself.

So who knows?

What I can tell you, is that if Google Authorship was implemented on your website it will have no negative impact.  Google has said whatever is in place is fine, they will just no longer factor Authorship as any kind of ranking signal.  It’s just benign.

What I can also tell you, is that we will continue to look for any legal, white hat advantage in SEO that we can pass along to our clients whatever they may be.  Stay tuned.  The SEO Rule Book continues to be written.

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