After significantly scaling back Authorship in June by dropping author photos from search, Google’s John Mueller finally announced in a Google+ post on August 28 that all authorship functionality would soon come to an end, including the tracking of any rel=authorship markup data.
Authorship, which was started as an experiment by Google three years ago to connect authors with their content, now joins the ranks of the dozens of other discontinued products and services that have been sunset by the company over the years.
So what happened? According to Google, and their ruthless internal testing metrics, Authorship failed for three major reasons:
- Low Adoption Rate: Even after three years, Authorship was not widely embraced by influencers, SEOs and the regular Google user. The major complaint was that it was “too difficult.” Google attempted, starting in 2012, to help “spur” the adoption of authorship results by implementing auto-attribution but this resulted in many instances of incorrect attribution, some quite hilarious.
- Low Value to Users: According to Google’s internal testing, authorship snippets reported no discernible increase in CTR over other results on the page. This caused a lot of consternation in the SEO community since many believed just the opposite: results with profile pics were getting clicked more in relation to non-authored results.
- Dilution of Mobile Experience: Google believed that authorship snippets took away from their goal to optimize for the mobile user. Mobile devices have both limited bandwidth and screen size making it difficult to display full authorship snippets. And even with Google, there exists processing limits that require prioritization of internal resources.
Bottom line: Google has always been RELENTLESS about testing search quality. And with Authorship, at least at this point in time, the value is not there for Google to devote the resources necessary to keep it going.That being said, as of this writing, Google Authorship snippets are still fully viewable when logged-in to Google+ personalized search.
If you have claimed authorship or had placed a lot of resources in advising your clients to set up Authorship markups we certainly DO NOT advise you remove them. It’s always possible that Google circles back around to authorship in the future. Further, it’s never a bad idea to provide Google every possible signal they can to determine identity and authority, beyond just simple bylines.