Removes Authorship Photos and Google+ Circle Counts from Search Results
Last week Google announced and executed a clean-up of the visual design of their search results to create a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. On Google’s toss list: author profile pictures and Google+ circle counts on desktop and mobile search.
John Mueller, Google’s webmaster trends analyst, suggested that the clickthrough rate on the new layout is “similar” to SERPs that included author photos. That part of the announcement has more than a few of us at G5 scratching our heads; eye-tracking technology has shown that search results with social annotations attracted more attention than standard results, even when they appear further down the page.
So why the change? Our best guess is that Google is refining its author rank system. In essence, Google is saying:
• we want to make sure that you are a real human being
• we want to stamp out anonymity and spam
• we want to regard you as someone who is willing to put your name on the line for the content you create and share
Bottom line, this is not the death of Google Authorship nor is it the end of Google’s long-term project of understanding author authority as a possible search ranking authority. Content creators should continue to set up Authorship connections between their Google+ profiles and their content anywhere on the Web. In fact, in its announcement of the current change, Google pointedly linked to its instruction page for implementing Authorship. Demian Farnworth wrote a detailed explanation of Google Authorship on CopyBlogger, summarized nicely in these lines:
“Google+ is the identity platform (which is why your Google+ ID is a long string of numbers, not unlike your Social Security or driver’s license number) … and now authorship markup is the digital signature.”
The tie-in with Google+ profiles creates verified connections between content on the Web and the creators of the content. This gives Google the ability to identify quality, human-created content and distinguish it from content that isn’t quite up to par.
Authorship may be the future of search. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Google’s Eric Schmidt. He sees a future where identity plays a big part in search results:
“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”