After three years of touting its Google Authorship program, Google has pulled the plug. Google introduced the Authorship experiment in 2011 as a way for people to link the content they create with their Google+ profiles. Its appeal to webmasters and content providers was its implied promise to boost search results. This decision, then, seems a bit of a conundrum at first.
Just last summer, Google engineer Matt Cutts said, “I’m pretty excited about the ideas behind rel=’author’. Basically, if you can move from an anonymous web to a web where you have some notion of identity and maybe even reputation of individual authors, then webspam, you kind of get a lot of benefits for free. It’s harder for the spammers to hide over here in some anonymous corner.”
Sounded promising. And many authors believed the program was successful in increasing their click-through rates. So, what went wrong? In an Aug. 28 post announcing the decision, Google analyst John Mueller gave two central reasons why the experiment did not live up to expectations: low adoption rate by authors and webmasters and lower-than-expected value to searchers.
First signs of trouble popped up last fall when Google decided to reduce the amount of authorship results it showed by 15%, saying the move would improve quality. And just a few months ago, Mueller announced the elimination of author profile photos in global search. The reason? Google had noticed very little change in click behavior on search result pages.
Although Authorship is now history, don’t be surprised to see Google announce new ventures in the months ahead. As Mueller explained in making the announcement, Google will continue to expand “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, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”