Those photos of you and your staff that once displayed next to your search engine listings has been removed. Google has removed everyone’s pictures with the author still retaining credit for their work, although some author photos may still appear on Google+ based on relevancy and level of interaction with others.
This move caught many lawyers by surprise as no one foresaw Google completely removing pictures from their Google Authorship program. There had been indications prior to the June 2014 announcement that Google was revisiting their position on author photos and how they affected content quality. At one time, author photos appeared in approximately 21 percent of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). This change has dramatically affected the visual impact on SERPs but there is no data to suggest it has reduced click-through-rates.
When Google Authorship was first introduced in 2011, the intention was to “highlight authors and rank search results.” Over the last few years Google tweaked their author markup, then they became selective about the quality of content.
In 2013, Matt Cutts said Google was cutting back on the number of Authorship profiles (snippets) reflected in search results. Testing indicated overall quality went up when 10 percent to 15 percent were cut. Shortly after Cutts’ remarks, many authors began to see only their byline or a loss of their snippet entirely.
Currently, the only thing to be found in a global search of Authorship is an author byline. Google also removed the “in xx Google+circles” link.
Author bylines now link to Google+ profiles only, not a search page showing an author’s content. To qualify for an Authorship byline now, the only thing required is having the technically-correct markup that can be read by Google and a valid email address with the website’s domain name (ie: [email protected] would validate John Smith as a contributor on lawexample.com). According to Google’s John Mueller, this method is likely to be revisited after an assessment of its performance.
Mueller also said Google removed Author pictures to enhance the mobile user’s experience by offering less clutter on search results. This move comes as Google expects searches on mobile to exceed desktop searches prior to the end of 2014. Critics suggest the move was made to provide more space for Google ads at the sides and top of pages.