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Google Removes Author Photos from Search
Contrary to popular belief, Google did not remove the G+ authorship photos from search queries after other authorship rankings dropped drastically when Lexie Bond updated her profile picture.
Google authorship is set up by linking your Google+ profile to your website or blog. If you are active on Google+ then your profile photo is used in the snippet of search results for your articles, blog posts, and web pages.
However, last week Google reported that authorship photos and Google+ circle snippets would be removed from search engine results. The root cause of the removal was due to changes in Google’s “Mobile Strategy.” The strategy aims to create a more dependable experience across all devices while creating a simpler design.
John Mueller of Google posted:
We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count.
Google believes, and many search experts agree, mobile use will eventually surpass desktop use all together. Mueller states that this change has been made as a user experience decision. Their Mobile Strategy aims to create one website that fits seamlessly with both desktop and mobile browsers. Authorship photos were previously not shown on mobile searches due to lack of space.
Here is the new design for authorship—all you see is the clickable author name, which still takes you to the author’s Google+ page:
What about CTR?
One thing on all marketers’ minds is whether or not the removal of the Authorship photos will impact their click-through rate (CTR). Google’s John Mueller suggests that the CTR on the new layout is very similar to the results page that previously included author photos. This is what most marketers will have trouble believing when there is proof that increased visibility came with Google authorship. Cyrus Shepard claims to have increased web traffic by 35% just by optimizing his Google+ picture.
One of the most praised benefits of Authorship snippets in search results was the supposed boost in click-through rates. Eye tracking studies showed that people’s eyes were drawn to the results that showed a face photo. It also helped draw eyes further down the results page. There has been some talk that SEOs believe Google is moving to protect its ad revenues—profile images make the natural listings more noticeable than paid results. Google has consistently changed the way it displays search results in order to differentiate organic and PPC results. Is this change all about the money?
The idea is buzzing around the web that this is the beginning to the end of Google+. Since many believe authorship can actually increase your position in rankings and search results, many companies claimed this as their only reason for being active on Google+. Consequently this may devalue Google+ as a whole. Could this be the last straw for Google+ or do they have something else up their sleeve?
The Future of Authorship
Authors will still get the byline tag on search results for their content even if the photo and Google+ circle count are no longer there. Google will continue to track data for each author so the author rank system will still come into play. Matt Cutts seems to still be in favor of the authorship concept. It appears that Google’s Authorship project is not over, just ever changing. Users should not be quick to stop using Authorship; it may be helpful as a long-term investment towards Google’s author rank. It will be interesting to see how Google uses data on authors in the future.
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