What Happened to Claiming Google Authorship?
This article (updated in 2018) is a review of the beginnings of Google Authorship, how it got started, how it worked, changes it went through, and the reason why it was no longer supported since August of 2014.
I'll discuss the following:
- What Was Google Authorship?
- What Were Authorship Markup Tags?
- Why Authorship Markup Methods Kept Changing
- Why Google Authorship Failed
- Authorship Included a Headshot in Search Results
- Are Author Images Still Showing in SERPs?
- What Replaces Authorship Markup?
What Was Google Authorship?
In 2007 Google patented an algorithm for “Agent Rank/Author Rank” to influence page rankings based on author reputation. This was later implemented as Google Authorship in 2011.
The method used author tags as HTML markup code with reciprocal links between an author’s content and their profile page, one was able to establish proof of authorship.
I quickly claimed my Authorship in 2011 by adding the required markup code to my personal website. In addition, HubPages implemented the markup code, linking articles with each author's profile pages. HubPages always kept up with the latest Google trends, which is why I feel it’s the best content publishing site for professional writers.
What Were Authorship Markup Tags?
Back in July 2011 Google announced that they began supporting the authorship markup tags that were part of the HTML standards. (HTML is the language that's used to create web pages).
Google created a way to actually prove an author's identity by implementing a reciprocal link to and from one's Google Profile by using these two HTML tags:
The rel="author" tag was used to point all content pages to one's author profile page. All profile pages can point to each other with a rel="me" in case an author has more than one. This would be the case if they write on more than on website platform.
People with their own websites would add this markup code. Many sites, such as HubPages, started doing this automatically so writers didn't need to get involved with HTML programming.
See how these tags point to each other in the drawing below.
Why Authorship Markup Methods Kept Changing
I was one of the first to implement the authorship markup, so I saw what was going on. Unfortunately, when all this started, Google quickly discovered problems that needed to be considered.
Some people complained that they didn't have control over HTML programming on some sites where they published articles. They did have the ability to enter URL addresses to their other sites, so Google added a new method that would work with that. This eliminated the requirement to do HTML programming.
Google also kept the initial method so as not to break what people already had done. I followed along in forums and saw how people were getting confused between the two methods.
As a computer programmer myself, I have been able to interpret Google's instructions, but Google didn't appreciate that many writers are not programmers. They made the implementation difficult for most people to understand.
Why Google Authorship Failed
Google had a lot of problems with the Authorship implementation. Many people incorrectly installed the markup code. Proper linking was necessary for proving authorship.
Few people ever tested their implementation to be sure they did it right. I understand that non-programmers will make mistakes with complex HTML programming. That's why it's so important to check one's work. I suppose Google got frustrated with that.
Google even tried to automate the process to eliminate human error, but then their algorithm ended up attributing the wrong headshot images to the wrong people. An example is the well-publicized fiasco with Truman Capote being shown as the author of a New York Times article written long after his death.
Many tweaks to the algorithm were continuously being done in an effort to fix bugs and achieve the results originally intended. Google’s research has shown that Authorship Status didn't seem to change click-through rates anyway.
In 2014, two important personnel had left the company1:
- Sagar Kamdar, Google’s former Director of Product Management on Search
- Othar Hansson, the developer of the Authorship Project.
It was hoped that Claiming Authorship would enhance traffic to one's articles, but Search Engine Land reported that Google said the experiment failed.2
In August, 2014, Google abandoned the program, discontinued all authorship functionality, and announced that Authorship markup was no longer supported in web search.3
Authorship Included a Headshot in Search Results
This is how it used to look in the SERPs with the author's image displayed. This example was my previous tutorial about claiming authorship.
Are Author Images Still Showing in SERPs?
For a while Author Images were still included in search listings, but only when the author was in the searcher's Google+ circle.
Does that really matter? What are the chances that someone following you by placing you in a Google+ circle will happen to bring up one of your articles in a new search?
It can happen. I read in Search Engine Land that the Author Image also still is displayed for Google+ posts when the person searching is logged into their Google+ account.4
However, even Google+ is turning out to be a failure, so this isn't going to be a game changer for displaying author images in SERPs. Google+ was meant to compete with Facebook, but never could keep up.
What Replaces Authorship Markup?
Is there anything that replaces the markup code that was used to claim Authorship? Yes. Google is making a strong commitment to the use of Structured Data in Rich Snippets.
This is a way of improving search results without the crazy linking that Authorship Markup required. However, it requires a total understanding of HTML and Structured Data implementation.
That’s not the subject of this article, so I’ll just leave you with a simple explanation:
Google bots use Structured Data on web sites to understand the content of the page and format special search results.
Here are two examples:
- Structured data in a recipe article can help Google display the recipe as a graphical search result.
- Proper structured data with bullied lists or tables can help Google display a Featured Snippet of important content from one’s article in the search results.
Professional content hosting sites, such as HubPages, do these things automatically for publishers when the right editing tools are used.
Life goes on. Google is always experimenting with methods to improve search results.
- Gina Badalaty (June 21,2014) Google Authorship: Why You Should Use it. WebHostingSecretRevealed.net
- Eric Enge (August 28, 2014) It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results. SearchEngineLand.com
- Authorship in web-search | Google Support
- Aaron Friedman (August 6, 2014) Google+ Authorship Images Live On. SearchEngineLand.com
© 2011 Glenn Stok