With promises of a higher position in SERPs and an increased click-through-rate (CTR), content publishers jumped on Google+ when the Google Authorship program was first introduced in 2011. Then, just three years later in order to ‘create a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices’ Google announced removal of all Authorship images from SERPs in June. Although Authorship images were removed, the byline and link to the Google+ profile remained and the search community held out hope for authorship. However, on the 28th of August, Google’s very own John Mueller announced the Authorship Program was being dropped altogether.

Google speak out

With much speculation amongst the SEO world, we will provide an overview of the argument - why Google says it has chosen to remove the Authorship Program and how webmasters have reacted.

Low adoption rates: With low rates of adoption amongst webmasters, Google’s John Mueller stated ‘we’ve observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from results’. Following this announcement, webmasters retaliated saying they didn’t adopt Authorship as they were of the opinion it would soon be withdrawn such as other products i.e. Google Reader, not because they perceived it to be a bad idea.

Mobile clean up: when it was announced authorship images would be removed from SERPs back in June 2014, John Mueller stated it was to ‘visually clean up the SERP to create a better mobile experience’, as it did not display well on mobile devices. Following the removal of images, with more mobile searches and the introduction of Android Wear and the Apple Watch, it became particularly important for Google to continue to prioritise and focus their efforts on mobile SERPs.

Traffic and ads: in order to clear up concern, Google has confirmed the removal of authorship ‘generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites nor does it increase clicks on ads’. The decision to remove Authorship was, in their eyes, purely to enhance the user experience.

Moving forward

In his Google+ announcement, John Mueller has confirmed that although Authorship has been removed, users will still be able to view Google+ posts from friends and pages providing they are relevant to the search query.

Webmasters stance

With regards to the traffic and ads, there has been further speculation following a theory first proposed by Moz’ very own Rank Fishkin - authorship acted as a distraction from the ads, hurting Google financially. However, many other webmasters are less critical, stating although images and bylines may have detracted attention away from the ads, they don’t think Google would compromise the overall search experience as a result.

Secondly, when Google stated Authorship was not useful to it’s users, this caused a storm with many confirming it was very helpful in identifying quality content. In viewing an article with a well-known industry name, they were more likely to click than if it was only the article title which was displayed.

What our SEO experts have to say

We have spoken to our digital marketing team to see what they have to say about the removal of authorship;

“After three years, Google Authorship is indeed dead. While it’s not overly surprising, as Google constantly changes and refines its offering, we are disappointed to see it go. Author Rank, however, is an SEO concept that existed long before Google Authorship and has the potential to live on through Authorship’s legacy. Based on the same principles as authority scoring (trusted sources are given higher prevalence in search via higher domain and page authority ranks) Author Rank may help to verify content, thus promoting it higher in search results. So, at least any time spent on updating your site for Authorship has not necessarily been in vain. We recommend leaving any rel=”author” code in for the time being, as this will not have any negative impact but could well still add credibility to your content for other providers.”

While many webmasters are sad to see Google Authorship go, Google has announced they will continue to work hard in understanding the content of each page in order to provide the best search results to its users. Yes, Authorship has now been removed from SERPs, but in months to come who knows what may be put in its place. Watch this space!