In this episode Alex explains what Google Authorship is, why Google ended it, and what we can learn from Google’s experiment.
Hi, my name’s Alex Cleanthous, chief strategist at Web Profits, and today, I’ll be talking about the death of Google Authorship and what we can learn from it.
Now for those of you who don’t know me, I have a stutter and it comes out when I get excited… and this stuff is exciting. So let’s get into it.
Google Authorship was launched in 2011 to allow authors to markup the content they published so that their Google+ profile photo would appear in Google’s organic search results. The aim of Google Authorship was to help highlight great authors and rank search results better. The added benefit of Google Authorship was the increased click-through-rates that rankings with Authorship provided.
Well… after 3 years, Google has now ended their Authorship program.
So what can we learn from this?
It’s no secret that organic search listings with Authorship had a higher click-through-rate, with eye-tracking studies showing that people’s attention was drawn down the page when a profile image was displayed next to the listing.
We know that Google is in the advertising business, not the search business. Which means that anything that reduces the click-through-rate on their ads, will need to have a massive user benefit to remain – obviously Google Authorship didn’t.
We’re now seeing similar things happening with Google Local listings – you know, those 7 maps listings about halfway down the organic search results – we’re seeing Google experiment between including the maps listing section, and integrating them directly into search results. Don’t be surprised if these follow the path of Google Authorship.
The aim of Google Authorship was to give publishers and authors a reason to link their Google+ profiles to content they published online. Speculation in the industry was that this was a step towards Author Rank, where authors with greater authority would rank higher in the search results. Obviously this isn’t the case. If Google is working towards Author Rank as a ranking signal, then Authorship isn’t part of it.
Google Authorship provided a click-through-rate benefit in search results, which was a good reason to do it. To receive this benefit you needed to setup a Google+ profile and link to it from any article you posted online. In some instances, such as guest posts, you would just link to your Google+ profile and not to your website. It was a good way to push the usage of Google+, and there was a lot of talk that having a Google+ profile would be a core part of an SEO strategy – that’s simply not the case anymore. My advice is to only use Google+ as part of a social media strategy, not as part of an SEO strategy.
The biggest thing we can learn from Google’s Authorship experiment is not to blindly trust that everything that Google is doing will make a long-term difference to organic search results. The only way to really know what makes a difference to SEO rankings that actually drive traffic and conversions is to look at what the top ranked websites in your market are doing. Review their backlinks, review their websites, review their social profiles, and review what’s common between them. That’s how we approach every SEO campaign we implement for our clients, and that’s what you should be doing as well.
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I hope you enjoyed this episode of Web Profits TV and I look forward to speaking with you in the next video.