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Ryan Smith
by Ryan Smith
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Google Authorship: So... That Happened.

11/06/2014
Google Authorship: So... That Happened.

Like any good SEO agency, the Dirigo SEO consulting team took a flying leap onto the Google Authorship bandwagon, to the benefit of both our clients and ourselves.

example Google Authorship rich snippet

It worked pretty well if you did it right. We saw not only increased SERP CTRs (and thus increased organic traffic), but increased Googlebot activity as well. But even before we had our anecdotal confirmations to back us up, the big G was giving us every indication that they were in this game for the long-haul.

So it followed for our clients... Our practiced explanations and nuanced logical arguments. Our soundbites of veteran industry-insider analysis. Our impassioned futurist soliloquies. Our invoices. Endless client hours spent so wisely on implementation of Authorship, and with such satisfying results!

Then came that familiar moment to which SEOs have become forcibly and routinely accustomed. On August 28th, Google's John Mueller announced the abrupt end of the authorship program.

My old boss Danny Sullivan co-penned with Mark Traphagen a definitive memoir of the whole affair over at Search Engine Land, which included a bit more detail from Mueller:

John Mueller told my co-author Mark that test data collected from three years of Google Authorship convinced Google that showing Authorship results in search was not returning enough value compared to the resources it took to process the data.

Mueller gave two specific areas in which the Authorship experiment fell short of expectations:

1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters.

[...]

2. Low value to searchers.

Fair enough, I guess. But for those of us who did adopt and properly implement authorship, where does that leave us? Well, according to Mueller's G+ post, it turns out it wasn't really wasted time:

It's also worth mentioning that Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they're relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today's authorship change doesn't impact these social features.

In addition to results authored by members of your G+ circles, Sullivan also confirmed with Google that authorship markup is still being used to display author rich snippets for in-depth article results , and makes the case for continuing to apply authorship markup to active blogs (and not just because Google isn't the only search engine that may be using authorship markup, either):

...Google has other ways to determine who it believes to be the author of a story, if it wants. In particular, Google is likely to look for visible bylines that often appear on news stories. These existed before Google Authorship, and they aren't going away.

This also means that if you're really concerned that more Author Rank use is likely to come, think bylines. That's looking to be the chief alternative way to signal who is the author of a story, now that Google has abandoned its formal system.

We know that structured markup of any kind will give our clients more and better opportunities for visibility in search, including those yet to be devised. We also know that the future evolution of search does not solely depend on the vast algorithmic and computational innovations that the search engines must make in order to better understand the human meaning of web content and of user search queries.

It also depends on the content publishers (site owners and their expert online marketing strategists) to meet the search engines halfway by providing whatever semantic hints their algorithms can use to understand our businesses, our markets, our ideas and our value propositions accurately enough to connect us with more searchers who are genuinely interested in them.

This will remain the core mission of Technical SEO for the foreseeable future.

 

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