The “Google Authorship is Over!” headline and what it means for your website
Here at Locally, we like to keep all our online, local businesses up to date with the goings on of search engines and how they will, or will not, select your website for in their rankings. And one announcement that seems to have thrown the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons – in other words, it caught the tech world off-guard – is Google’s announcement that Google Authorship is over.
Whilst those ‘in the know’ all sucked in their breath, tweeting and emailing their surprise to one another, us lesser mortals have been wondering if this has any implication for us, for our constant, yet brave struggle to outrank the big bodies when it comes to search engine ranking and whether we need to really do anything…
Scratching our heads, we take to the Internet and research the whole thing, only to end up more confused. Some may say that is has no implications but others may be more cautious… in this post, we attempt to explain the whole episode and what, if anything, it means for your online business.
Let’s start at the beginning: what is Google Authorship exactly?
Acronym alert! SERPs means search engine results pages: the further up the SERPs you are, the increase in website traffic you should get (as you are more visible)
You will have noticed across a whole range of websites the G+ button, the Google plus account that some people and businesses have. If you have a G+ account, you will have a profile and circles of people, from family to friends and circles for acquaintances/colleagues/business associates… in fact, you can create your own circles as you wish.
When you find something you want to share, you can share it on this platform and send it around everyone, or a selected few; in other words, G+ is a sharing platform.
As part of this platform, you could also tell Google you were an authoritative writer, blogger or sharer of information… in other words, you ‘owned’ an ‘authorship’ (however, as we will see, this was not quite all that it was cracked up to be…)
Hence, whenever you search on Google for ‘search engine optimisation’, at one time the top few results in SERPs would be authors you would eventually become familiar with as they are seen as an authority on the subject. What would spring up is their photo and some of the blogs they had written on the issue.
Now, clearly, it is Google’s ‘baby’ and so some of us opted for a G+ account; you can customise your profile, add a delightful thumbnail photo that shows your best side (but there were rules on this – the photo had to be good quality, not a cartoon or any other kind of graphic; this was all about authority, don’t forget).
And it is these photos and additional information that has, it seems, been creeping up the ranking in previous years. But many of us were simply unaware that there were additional steps to getting the very best out of this account; this has all changed now…
… BUT, it only worked if the person verified their accounts (told Google they owned it) and only 12% of people using G+ are thought to have done this. On researching the topic of Google Authorship, we looked into how authors verified ownership of their G+ accounts and it seems it was not easy…
In a nutshell, Google authorship was a nod to the reliable, trustworthy information, blog etc. that searchers would find useful.
Well, Google has stopped placing weight behind these authorship accounts and have effectively removed them as signal to its algorithm. The effects seem to have been immediate, whereas you would have seen results with photos or graphics, you will now not see these.
BUT, it seems that companies/business/people with G+ accounts are still figuring in these rankings. Which seems a bit odd but look on it as a minor tweak which could affect some people, but for others it may not make too much of a difference.
Why is Google getting rid of ‘authorship’?
Well it seems, according to Google that it was not giving its users what they wanted; it was distracting; and they’ve done their research too. By not having the results high in SERPs (some people say that authorship was removed in October 2013…), it did not reduce traffic to sites nor reduce the number of clicks on ads.
In other words, no one really noticed. Google have since said it was an ‘experiment’ that last three years and they have been tweaking it along the way.
As a result, Google have released results from 3 years of data collection that show it was not working how they envisaged it would because…
- Those that did set up Authorship did not do so properly – in other words, profiles were completed
- Users did not find any value in it
Right, what do you need to do?
Well, it seems that this announcement has caught people off guard and wondering if it is all a ploy by Google to get people on to G+ as they are using these results in SERPs; some people see it as an aggressive tactic to get people to use G+ as most people doubly-serious about their rankings will do anything to get the edge.
What not to do – panic!
This is not a massive change to search engine optimisation for some people but, it may be worth looking at Google+ as another platform to add to your website as a means of being able to share your content, offers, business, ideas etc., especially if you do not have an account yet. SEO experts are currently leaning towards this idea simply because one thing that has been noted is that blog posts by G+ authors are coming out near the top of the rankings.
If you have a G+ profile, you may need to make sure you are using it but, Google are currently telling us that the results are not much different when it comes to SERPs it is always worth keeping an eye on any changes that this search engine creates – after all, it is used billions of times every day across the globe.
The basics have not changed: quality content, regularly updated on your website and plenty of social signals via your chosen social media platforms – it is still a marathon, not a sprint.
Coming up next: top tips on how to not be punished by Google and then we are off to the Cloud…