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Can Google Authorship Hurt Your Rankings?
Have you noticed that there are fewer search results with author bylines and photos? In a recent article, Moz reported that its MozCast showed a significant short-term drop in the number of tracked searches displaying authorship mark-up—a relative drop of 15.5 percent.
Back in October, Matt Cutts announced that a 10-15 percent reduction in authorship seemed to improve search quality—hinting that Google might cut back on the listings it displays with authorship markup. And in December, Cutts confirmed that authorship results were being intentionally reduced.
“We want to make sure that the people who we show as authors are high quality authors. And so we’re looking at the process of possibly tightening that up. It turns out if we reduce the amount of authorship we are showing by just about 10 or 15 percent, we’re radically able to improve the quality of the authors that we show. Which is another nice signal for those searchers and users who are typing into Google and say, ‘Ah, I see this picture, I see this person is an author. This is something I can trust. This is content that I really want to see.’”
Should You Remove Google Authorship?
So if Google is displaying fewer searches with Google authorship, should you remove your authorship markup? Short answer, no.
Basically, if you have high quality content and don’t violate the search engine’s quality guidelines, having authorship markup on your website shouldn’t cause you to lose any rankings.
In addition, you might still notice that you rank for the same keywords and searches, but that Google simply chooses not to display (or fully display) your authorship markup. (I’d be interested to see how this impacts click-thru-rate, as I think the listings with photos stand out more and likely attract more clicks.)
If you happen to have low quality content, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, call Blue Corona for content marketing services. Third of all, it is unlikely that authorship is going to help you rank.
Think About Google’s Intent with Authorship
Well. We might debate a little on this. I’d like to think that Google introduced its authorship feature to discourage the crappy, anonymous Web writing that the content marketing revolution has spurred. By awarding authors who produce high quality content with boosted rankings, it reduces some of the spammier content that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
But it’s also likely that Google just wanted to promote its unpopular search network—Google+. Back in August, my coworker Jake wrote
“Here’s a dirty little secret that Google doesn’t like to talk about: Google+ isn’t doing well in the main stream. As a matter of fact, as recently as June, Google+ had 24 percent of logins for social media, but only 2 percent of shares. While Google+ is trending upward, it isn’t quite the community it wants to be.
“So why even bother? Because Google still has that $250 billion chip in its pocket: its search rankings. By registering on Google’s social network, telling them you’re an author in a specific field, and publishing your content through Google+, Google will begin to recognize you as an authority.”
Because you have to have a Google+ profile to use Google authorship, it encourages more people to use the network in they want to rank.
So Is Authorship Good or Bad for Rankings?
I think Moz said it well:
“It’s important to realize that, while losing authorship mark-up for some of your search terms may be upsetting, this is not a penalty in the traditional sense. Google has lowered the volume, so to speak – they seem to feel that authorship was too prominent and that the quality bar may have been set a little too low…Ultimately, authorship mark-up is a nice-to-have, but don’t bet the farm on it.”
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