The Rise and Fall of The Authorship Experiment

  • Written on Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Geoffrey Cooling

Google ends Google Authorship

After three years, Google has completely dropped all authorship functionality from the search results and webmaster tools. For those who have been paying close attention, it isn’t exactly out of the blue. It appeared last year that Google wasn’t quite happy with how things were working out with Authorship.

In the last eight months the made two dramatic changes that cut the attractiveness of Authorship down, by first limiting the amount of Author photos in a search return and then removing them entirely. Although they left the author byline intact.I think most people were expecting it to end there but it seems that Google have decided that the work handling Authorship mark up is not worth the result.

So what killed Google Authorship?

The premise behind Google Authorship seemed extremely promising. The idea was to influence page rankings based on the reputation of its authors by using digital signatures. In this way an Author could become trusted and given authorithy for the content he or she wrote. The introduction was met with great interest by the SEO world who believed it delivered great promise. The initial mark up instructions were released quickly followed by the linking to a person’s Google+ profile which rounded out the equation.

Initially introducing the mark-up on your site was not particularly easy, even for someone with technical knowledge. Teething problems abounded but settled down after a few easy tools were released to make the process easy. However, the take up of Authorship was not what it was first envisaged to be.

This low adoption rate, combined with a few embarrassing instances of articles being attributed to the wrong Author have definitely contributed to the end. However, it appears that during the testing period of Authorship, Google believes that it actually did not deliver value to searchers. In his post declaring the end of Authorship,  Google’s John Mueller stated that the research has found that displayed author information “isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”

Gone for the moment?

The premise behind Google Authorship was valid, it provided authenticity immediately for users who were searching for trusted members of a niche area. Whilst it hasn’t worked as well as Google had hoped, Google is still committed to delivering on that premise. John Mueller also said that Google will continue to expand “support of structured markup (such as This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”

Authorship as we currently know it may well be dead in the water. However I believe that Google will keep working to find a solution. I think we may see Authorship come back under a new guise even better and stronger in the near future.

What now and what does it mean for your content?

Don’t panic, you don’t need to do a thing, Google have said that the Rel Author tag will just be indexed as normal structured mark-up. So you don’t need to do anything, just go on as before. If you have been writing good relevant content that has been been ranking well for the search terms you have targeted. It will still rank well without the Google Authorship. So, it has been no loss to you, you should continue to write good, relevant content that targets the search results just as before.

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