I’ve always been a big fan of the photos that appear in the Google search results when the author of an article or blog posts has claimed their Google Authorship for that content.
Maybe because I’ve always tried to claim my Google Authorship on everything I write, and have always had great success when it comes to my photo appearing in the search results. But now, there’s official word from John Mueller at Google that the Google Authorship photos as we know them are essentially going away.
Here’s an example of my Google Authorship photo appearing in a search result for “search engine optimization audit services”. Note that my search result listing isn’t the first one. I’m not ranking number one for that keyword phrase. However, because my photo appears in the search results, I believe I get a lot more clicks than @sugarrae’s company, who doesn’t have a photo.
So imagine my disappointment in this news, that the photos as we know them are going away.
John Mueller says that this is all based on CTR behavior.
Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one…
Sure, I can understand that a less cluttered design probably is going to get more clicks and not be as confusing for users. But we don’t have access to the kind of data that Google has. What I suspect is going on here is that at this point there are only a select few authors whose content is “good enough” or “trusted enough” (read: AuthorRank?) to warrant display of their photo for most search queries. The majority of the authors who have claimed their Google Authorship on their content does not have their photo appear in the search results. Not sure if this is a trust factor or the author doesn’t have high enough of an AuthorRank to warrant it. After all, there have been some claims recently that even when people have claimed their Google Authorship their photo is not appearing in the search results. I’ve written about that before on the Globe Runner blog.
But nonetheless, Google has made the decision to slowly start removing photos from the main search results. At the writing of this post, my photo is still appearing and I’m seeing several other authors’ photos appear. But at some point apparently they’re going to go away.
Does having your photo in the search results give you an increased benefit?
Well, honestly since I do a lot of branding of my name and my photo, I believe I benefit a great deal because my photo appears in the search results for most queries. I don’t know how many clicks others are getting without their photos appearing, but I can tell you that I’ll be watching closely to see if my clicks go down or if they remain about the same. I don’t think my rankings are going to change much for some keywords, as I’ve ranked for a long time for some. How will I be checking the CTR of this, as my photo disappears from the search results?
Google Webmaster Tools’ search queries feature will show you how you’re currently ranking. It will show you how many impressions your site is getting for certain keywords. So, for certain queries I’ll be tracking to see if the CTR goes up or down on these queries where I *KNOW* my photo was appearing.
To track this yourself, log into Google Webmaster Tools, click on “search traffic” and then “search queries” to see your data. See the screen capture above for an example of the search queries report in Google Webmaster Tools. Over time, in the future, you’ll be able to see if your individual CTR is going down because your photo was removed from the search results.
Should you forget about Google Authorship Now?
At this point, since one of the perceived benefit of claiming your Google Authorship has been that your photo appeared in the search results (supposedly garnering more clicks), should you stop verifying your Google Authorship on content you’ve written? Well, absolutely not! Here’s why:
I really think that Google still loves it when they see a proven author, someone who they know has claimed the authorship on the content that they write. The author isn’t hiding, they’re being very transparent. In fact, as Google will at some point start using AuthorRank as a part of the algorithm, it will be less transparent that you’ve verified your authorship on your content, which will have the appearance of ‘leveling the playing field’ so to speak when it comes to actual users knowing whether or not you’ve verified authorship. It will be less transparent. At some point I believe Google may even remove the indications and author names from the search results, as well. A stripped down version of the Google search results, without all the fancy pictures, is liked more by Google users than a version of Google that has all sorts of “busy” graphics, images, photos of people in the search results.
And, there will be less complaining and moaning about the fact that your photo isn’t showing up in the search results. If they remove the photos, well, then they’ve leveled the playing field yet again.
So go ahead, claim your authorship and claim your publishership wherever you can. It’ll only be more important in the future to do so, even though it will be less “transparent” in the search results.