How The Removal Of Google Authorship Images Will Affect Businesses

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Newsflash: Google is changing things once again. In an unexpected twist last week, Google’s John Mueller announced that Google will no longer show author profile images and Google+ circle numbers in desktop and mobile search results, shocking marketers everywhere.

It’s also bad news for marketers and business owners. Let me tell you why.

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A Quick Google Authorship 101

First of, just for those who might not know what Google Authorship or Author Rank are, let me give you a quick primer on it.

Google started Author Rank in 2011 which gave authors an opportunity to connect their Google+ profiles with what they publish. The end result is that author photos would show in  search engine results pages (SERP)  along with a link to the author’s Google+ profile and the number of circles the author is in.

It usually took a couple posts for Google Authorship to start showing in SERPs but once you got blogging consistently, it showed. Your author photo had to be a clear portrait of the author. If the author photo was poor quality or had multiple people in it, it was very likely that Google Authorship would not work.

Nevertheless, Google Authorship was good for marketers and businesses and the announcement of this news is unfortunate.

The Evolution Of The Searcher?

Back in 2012, Google published a paper that concluded that social annotations in search (like images) didn’t have much of an effect on searchers. The study said that they were “useless” to searchers. But what’s interesting about that study was that it also said that searchers notice social annotations.

So you’d think this would lead to the eventual demise of social annotations and related markup appearing in search results, right? WRONG!

The behavioural patterns of searchers were changing, said Google in a 2013 paper they published. They said that there was a 60% chance that a searcher would fixate on an annotation if placed at the top of a snippet block.

So we can deduce that the results would be pretty favorable to businesses – and they were. Studies have shown that the click behaviour of searchers in SERPs generally gravitates toward results with visuals – including videos and images. We can see this in heat map results with actual evidence of this.

Moreover, some studies have indicated that rich snippets as a whole (not limited to Google Authorship) can improve click-through rates by up to 150%. Cyrus Shepard from Moz even concluded that the presence of having Google Authorship connected and working led to an increase of 35% in traffic.

How Will This Impact Marketers And Business Owners?

So how exactly might the loss of Google Authorship impact businesses? Authors who are credible and publish a lot will not get the preferential treatment of having their photo shown in SERPs.

Important note: This isn’t too big of a loss as most business owners are too busy to even think about what Google Authorship is and what it can do. Most in-house marketers are in the same boat, managing multiple channels everyday. In fact, a lot businesses aren’t publishing when they should be – and it should amount to some sort of prominence in a digital marketing plan. Again, it comes down to education and simply knowing that content marketing is important. Of course, all of our clients got Google Authorship set up (and benefitted greatly from it)!

Furthermore, there’s that opportunity lost. The opportunity lost in not having Google Authorship set up and its benefits. That is, the benefit of not being clicked on more in search results. That’s quality traffic gone straight to the toilet.

Is The Removal Of Google Authorship That Big Of A Surprise?

How much of this is actually a surprise? Remember that in January, Google actually cut

authorship in search results by 20-40%. However, the rationale for this was to put a larger emphasis on higher quality content. Moreover, back then, the algorithm that was rolled out was designed to show author photos of those with content most relevant to the query and interesting. Beats me how they figure out the latter!

How Businesses Can Move Forward With Their Content Marketing

I’ve got some easy tips – and believe me, they’re easy – for success in business blogging and content marketing.

  • Keep publishing.
  • Keep educating your readers.
  • Keep optimizing your content for user/reader experience.
  • Keep optimizing your content for search engines.
  • Keep to your content strategy

Lastly…

The real loss attributed to the removal of Google Authorship images from search results is all in the loss of opportunity – what you could’ve had. And maybe it’s what you’ve always been getting. But remember that anything you publish will be lumped in with all other results. It’ll look like any other search result on the page.

So make your content great and optimize! Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions so that they’re inviting for searchers! Educate them and they’ll come back. That’s what you want, right? It’s what we strive for with content marketing for all of our clients. We know content drives sales and we employ strategies that produce those positive results.