It’s Curtains for Google Authorship

Google Authorship EndsNews broke in Nerddom last week that Google had declared an end to Authorship, citing poor adoption by webmasters and low value to searchers.

“Stone Temple Consulting discovered in a recent study that 70 percent of authors made no effort in connecting their content with Authorship,” according to a Forbes article.

My first thought was wondering what this means for search engine optimization experts who work diligently to ensure their clients’ websites rank high in organic search. Every SEO expert I’ve been affiliated with has pushed Authorship as an important element of an overall SEO presence since its debut. What now?

The end of authorship is disappointing for Ali Husayni, CEO of the Internet marketing company Millionairium.

“I understand that Google’s data suggests click-through ratio didn’t improve much with the authorship info,” Husayni says. “However, it was a great feature Google was providing for site owners. It had many benefits, including prevention of plagiarism.”

It seems the main reason they abandoned the idea was lack of participation from Web masters and blog owners, Husayni says, referring to information John Mueller explained in the letter he published regarding the end of Authorship.

Chris Ratchford, owner of Prodentite, an online marketing firm that caters to dental professionals, is happy with the announcement.

Setting up authorship for his clients who wrote blog posts was becoming “too much of a process and I really couldn’t see the results,” Ratchford says. “I’m disappointed that we did all this work for nothing.”

Husayni agrees.

“Perhaps a study group or launching the program only for a limited number of Web masters would have prevented companies like us from spending numerous hours getting their clients authorship-compliant,” he says. “It turned out all of our efforts were in vain.”

As we look back on this experiment Google has deemed a failure, let’s examine the pros and cons.

Pros
Prevention of plagiarism was the most important element of Authorship, Husayni says.

SEO experts wanted to get their clients’ headshot attached to their blog posts because it was supposed to help with conversion and click-through rates.

Also, the search results looked nicer with individual images and links to authors’ profiles.

Finally, Authorship promoted Google Plus participation and popularity.

“With Authorship gone, G+ will never get a chance to compete with Facebook,” Husayni says.

Cons
Ratchford says he never added Authorship to clients’ websites for authoritative reasons because it was difficult, given the fact that his clients aren’t always dedicated bloggers.

“For an expert in SEO who always writes content, or someone who works for a newspaper, or a real author, Authorship was a lot more important,” Ratchford says. “But for regular business owners who don’t have time to put out content for that niche that they’re an expert in, you don’t see benefits outside of conversion.”

As is the case with most well-intended SEO tools, there were those who began abusing Authorship. Ratchford would set up Authorship only on the pages of a client’s website that made sense: the home page and the blog. But overzealous Web masters began placing Authorship on every page.

Another down side: it was complicated to set up a site to have authorship.

“It took us months to learn exactly what we needed to do to make it work,” Husayni says.

What does this mean for companies that handle SEO for clients?

Ratchford hasn’t changed the strategy. A business owner still must provide good content, and “put it out there” to attract others to read it. The more information you have that’s high quality, the more it helps with your overall online presence.

“Authorship was just a tool,” Ratchford says. “The process and overall goal is still the same. If authorship was your top priority, then you were doing it wrong from the beginning.”

The SEO expert’s job becomes easier now that Authorship is gone.

“Dealing with Authorship was difficult, and clients complained if their Authorship was not set up perfectly,” Husayni says. “In some cases after we set up everything perfectly, Authorship wouldn’t work properly. So the nightmare of dealing with Authorship is finished.”

Going forward, it’s important to remember SEO is an ever-changing arena.

“Normally, changes to Google’s algorithm make our job more difficult,” Husayni says.

This time, that isn’t the case.

While it’s curtains for Authorship, Google still cares about the quality of your content, and still will continue researching ways to deliver the most meaningful results to search users. I love this excerpt from Chris Abraham’s blog post yesterday:

“Even though 70 percent of all publishers, platforms, sites, papers, bloggers and writers ignored Google Authorship, Google rewards everyone who works happily and merrily toward making Google happy, and they’ll surely find a way to not deprecate the hard work we put into their effing terrible, unpopular, and alienating Google+, Google+ Pages, and Google Authorship.”

Although he does it less colorfully, Mueller says as much in his post about the discontinuation of Authorship:

“Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). 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.”

What if I have Authorship on my site?
If you or your Web master went to the trouble to set up Authorship on your website, you might be relieved to know leaving it on your site is A-OK.

“We’re no longer using it for authorship, we treat it like any other markup on your pages,” Mueller wrote on Google Plus. “Leaving it is fine. It won’t cause problems, and perhaps your users appreciate being able to find out more about you through your profile, too.”

More Great Information
I found three good reads on the topic, so check them out at Search Engine Land, Forbes and Sword and the Script.

Did you add Authorship to your website? What are your thoughts on its discontinuation?