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Authorship Dropped from Google Search Results

authorshipWebmaster trends analyst John Mueller announced in an August 28 Google+ post that Google search results will no longer display page authorship, also known as rel=author markup.

Mueller stated that Google tests found that taking authorship away did not reduce traffic to websites or increase clicks on ads.

Regarding the display of authorship information, Mueller wrote, “Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”

Google Authorship was implemented in 2011. The goal of authorship markup was to was to connect pieces of content to author profiles on Google+. The schema.org standards, which are still used in rich snippets, were used for this and other aspects of structured markup.

The end of authorship follows two recent reductions in authorship in recent months. Last December, Google decreased the number of author photos shown per query. In June, Google removed all author photos, so that only bylines appeared on Authorship results. The change was attributed to the goal of making search results more viewable on mobile devices.

Google drops authorship from search results: what should your firm do?

Authorship was not widely adopted by authors or webmasters, who often found that the process was too complex. Even those who tried to use authorship markup often did so incorrectly.

According to a recent Stone Temple Consulting study on rel=author markup usage, 70 percent of 500 authors from 150 different media sites did not attempt to use the authorship feature. Only 48 percent actually had a Google+ profile, and only 30 percent had a profile with links to their publishing site. Use of authorship markup was poor across the 150 media sites, and many sites made errors in their attempts.

Additionally, authorship markup was not valued by searchers, and produced no difference in click-through rates. While it many webmasters accepted that authorship was associated with higher click-through rates, Google’s testing over the past three years found that no such correlation existed, which contributed heavily to taking away the feature.

Google will continue to support rich snippets in search results, and Mueller encouraged webmasters to use rich snippets to improve their search results.