The Death of Google Authorship: What it Means for Your Brand

If you’re a marketer who is up to speed on online marketing tools, Google Authorship isn’t a new term. If you’re a brand or individual just entering the world of online marketing, you may have heard about Google Authorship  but are a bit fuzzy on what exactly it does or how it works — so let me sum it up for you: Google Authorship was an experiment created by Google to help the search engine in determining which content was relevant within individual search results and create a better search user experience. In search, it often resulted in individual search results showing the authors photo to the left

Google Authorship

Google Authorship

If you’re a marketer who is up to speed on online marketing tools, Google Authorship isn’t a new term. If you’re a brand or individual just entering the world of online marketing, you may have heard about Google Authorship  but are a bit fuzzy on what exactly it does or how it works — so let me sum it up for you:

Google Authorship was an experiment created by Google to help the search engine in determining which content was relevant within individual search results and create a better search user experience. In search, it often resulted in individual search results showing the authors photo to the left of the given search result.

The enhanced search result was created when the author of that content linked his or her Google+ profile with the content they were authoring, through Google Authorship. This process involved adding a reference code on each page of authored content that linked back to your Google+ profile.

If you’re not too familiar with the Google Authorship process, that description may sound a little confusing …

… and that’s OK because, as of this blog post, Google Authorship doesn’t exist anymore.

Wait, What? Where Did Google Authorship Go and Why?

Over the past few months we have seen Google Authorship become increasingly inconsistent for our client brands. New Google Authorship didn’t seem to “take” in search results and previously established authorships would display inconsistently at best.

According to Google, the Google Authorship program has been discontinued primarily due to the following:

Lack of adoption across industries.

According to this article co-authored by Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen, the majority of content creators did not adopt the Google Authorship model. Surprisingly, many of the top social media and content marketers had yet to adopt this free resource to enhance SEO. Odd, but true.

Lack of relevance for users.

Even though we were being told (and telling others) that Google Authorship increased click-thrus, apparently it wasn’t really making a significant impact. Google alludes that the Google Authorship program lacked overall relevance for the end user experience, which could mean mean users didn’t see the rich snippet integration as relevant.

Or perhaps the surge of content marketers trying to game the system was overwhelming and therefore disregarded in the pursuit of truly relevant content … the marketing world may never know.

What Does this Mean for Your Brand (and Blog)?

Content is still king.

This change in the services offered (for free!) by Google do not mean that they will discontinue the search for relevant, targeted content. This change does not mean you should discontinue blogging or decrease the frequency in which you blog. Instead, keep producing consistent, targeted content that holds real value for your target audience.

Then, share that content on all your social channels, within your e-newsletter and display it prominently on your website.

A clear message wins. 

One of the core obstacles within Google Authorship was that of how to actually implement the process. When you did implement it correctly (at least what you thought was correct at the time) it would take a while for search results to reflect your efforts. In the meantime, you were left to  question whether you missed a step or entered the code correctly.

In my opinion, this was a major flaw in the Google Authorship experiment. The process was not explained clearly from the beginning and due to its complex nature and Google’s tendency for continually updating its processes, Google Authorship could have been re-explained for new users.

Whether you are running a consumer contest or communicating a change in executive leadership: Don’t overcomplicate your message or be unnecessarily vague.

If a process or ask of your target audience (including key stakeholders) seems too complex or cumbersome — it most likely is and should be reworked or disregarded.

It’s OK to experiment but you must also DITCH what doesn’t work.

One of the standards Google has set is that of a consistent move toward improvement within its product and service offerings. We’ve seen website search (SEO) ranks flux based on the relevance of their content due to Penguin and Panda, we’ve seen the changes in Google Keyword Tool and Google+. Google has consistently demonstrated they are not afraid to experiment and then DITCH what doesn’t work.

This has ruffled feathers for many over the years but transparent communication through videos, blog updates and social media have helped to explain changes and quell fears along the way.

Summary: Use Google+

In an upcoming post, we will explore rich snippets along with some SEO setup basics for your website. In the meantime, don’t stop blogging. Get your blog editorial calendar firmed up, create a schedule and stick to it.

Keep using Google+.

Even though search results from webpages do not include your lovely face, Google+ posts STILL DO. So, it’s perhaps more important than ever for you to post your authored content within Google’s social media platform.

That’s it. Goodbye Google Authorship. In the meantime, rest assured that Google will come up with an even better (and perhaps more visual?) format for search as they continue to improve search engine result quality.

Have you been using Google Authorship for your blog?

What changes will you make going forward in light of this strategic move by Google?

Kate Finley

Founder + CEO of Belle
Currently thriving in Puerto Rico