The word is out in the digital circles. Goggle has ended its three year old experiment with Google authorship. While some industry experts saw it coming, for others it was a surprise move! But before we dwell deeper into this matter, let’s have a little recap
What was Google’s experiment child all about?
Google authorship was essentially a markup which linked an author’s content with his Google+ profile. This two way connection was vital for verifying ownership.
Initially, anyone who would have a Google+ account with some content pieces was eligible for authorship. From being everyman’s tool they went on to identifying top authors of a particular topic (By rel=author markup)
One of the most noticeable advantages of using authorship was seeing your display picture with your articles. An eye tracking study conducted then revealed that articles with display pictures enjoyed a higher click through rate (CTR) i.e – people’s eyes were drawn to articles containing photos )
Going beyond display photos, Google authorship also helped in verifying author’s work by providing a content authenticity check.
It linked the author’s profile with other articles that he had written thus providing a “read more” list to the audience
Was it an experiment gone wrong?!
We have all had experiments that have tanked and Google is no different
“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” – John Muller, Google-webmaster tool
John Muller confirms that Google+ will no longer track data from content pieces using rel=author markup. The pretext for discontinuation was UX (user interface) modifications and improvements for mobile usage, since photo snippets of authors did not work well with limited space and bandwidth
The assumption here was that at some point, mobile surfing would outdo the conventional internet browsing mode as the primary way individuals access the web.
This comes in as sad news for all those who have spent hours linking their content in an attempt to feature higher in ranks of a search result page.
Why was this experiment a dud?
There are numerous reasons why Google authorship failed to create the magic it promised. The major ones are as follows:-
Low participation by webmasters and authors – Google observed that the participation in authorship markup was minimal and those who took efforts to link often made errors. Research indicates that 72% of 52 sites that attempted mark-ups had errors.
Further non-tech savvy authors found the process too complex. 50% of 216 authors had no profile on Google+
Cases of misattributions – In order to increase mark-ups and authorships, Google started auto-linking articles to authors. However, the practice witnessed certain embarrassing incidents such as Turman Caproe being shown as the author of New York Times after 28 years of his death.
Low value to users – As mentioned previously, there were hardly any differences observed in the click through rate after and removal of author snippets. Thus ascertaining the fact that the users were not getting an major ‘value’
The slow death: phasing out Google+ Authorship!
The first phase out was observed somewhere around 2013 December when lesser known authors saw their snippets disappear from search results and one by-line as description. The refining led to reductions in the number of authorship results By 2014 June all the photos from global searches were removed in order to unify browsing experience via mobiles and computers. Also, there was no significant difference observed in behaviour with or without photos.
While some suspect Google+ as the next on to be ticked off the list, others hope that Google+ would re-launch a revamped version of Google Authorship! Google is in a constant process of evaluating its products. John Muller explained in one of his interviews “Google will continue to expand its support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web” Would there be a 2.0 version for content authenticity check? We must wait it out for only time could reveal what’s in store for future! To conclude, Google authorship worked more in the favour of the writer’s ego than for escalating the users’ experience