Google

The Real Reason Google Plus Authorship Photos Are Gone

By Larry Kim July 02, 2014 Posted In: Google Comments: 20

Googler John Mueller shocked the SEO industry last week with his announcement that Google is removing authorship photos and circle counts from the SERPs.

The big question is: WHY? Why would Google kill a feature they had said would instill user trust in quality search results and help valuable content stand out?

Why did they want us all to implement it in the first place?

Was anything we were told about Google+ authorship markup and profile images in search true to begin with?

It didn't take Moz's Rand Fishkin long to tweet his thoughts on the motivation behind the change:

google authorship

And even more pointedly:

google plus authorship

Since Google+ authorship and the rich snippets with photos in search results were implemented, we've seen eye tracking studies point to additional attention for the enhanced results. We've seen research from Catalyst and Cyrus Shepard – and even Google itself – supporting the notion that results with authorship photos have higher click-through rates than their plain text counterparts. Our own internal research also confirms this.

google authorship images

Image via Moz

It does seem more than a little disingenuous for Google to suggest now, after all the work they did encouraging and convincing people that authorship photos in the SERPs would get them more clicks (and it wasn’t exactly easy to set them up), that authorship photos are actually costing people clicks or don’t help at all. So what’s going on?

Google+ Authorship Clicks Had to Come from Somewhere

Clicks on the search results page are basically a zero sum game. If there's an increase in CTR for one part of the SERP, some other part is losing that click. There must be a decrease in CTR elsewhere. And that includes the ads.

We know images in the SERPs have a big impact on users and are intent- and click-sucking monsters. Google knows this, too, which is why Google's Shopping Ads (formerly Product Listing Ads) aren't plain text.

Maybe Google realized they were giving away free branding with authorship markup – at the expense of paid clicks. Besides, they have their own Sponsored Posts on Google+ for authors who want to promote themselves.

Was it another way for Google to "break the spirits of SEOs," by taking away a feature they had adopted wholeheartedly? That may be taking things too personally.

However, it's pretty clear that Google's excuse for removing author photos from organic results – decluttering and improving user experience with no effect on CTR – just doesn't hold water.

UPDATE: Check out Elisa's alternate theory on why Google+ author photos are going away.

Google Alerts RSS Feed




If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment.

Comments

Wednesday July 02, 2014

Glynn Davies (not verified) Said:

“We've seen research from Catalyst and Cyrus Shepard – and even Google itself – supporting the notion that results with authorship photos have higher click-through rates than their plain text counterparts. [...] However, it's pretty clear that Google's excuse for removing author photos from organic results – decluttering and improving user experience with no effect on CTR – just doesn't hold water.

From the Google research cited above:

“We expected subjects to fixate on peoples’ pictures more than names due to their saliency, yet our data suggests that pictures and names are noticed at about the same frequency (18 name fixations versus 22 picture fixations).”

That seems to correspond exactly with John Mueller's assertion that “click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one”. 

Wednesday July 02, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Wasn't this when looking at a SERP with both the picture and the name? It doesn't follow that people would fixate equally on the name in the absence of an accompanying author photo.

Wednesday July 02, 2014

Brian L (not verified) Said:

Agree 100% Larry. This is the best explanation of the reason Google removed the authorship icons yet. I concur with Rand Fishkin's tweet on the subjet too!

Thursday July 03, 2014

Jeeshan (not verified) Said:

Well explaination larry I was wonder where all pictures have gone in SERP. You renoved my courisity

Thursday July 03, 2014

Kimberly (not verified) Said:

Hi. Thanks for the insight. How is your picture still showing up on the search page? Can I replicate this?

 

Thursday July 03, 2014

Elisa Gabbert Said:

It appears Google is still using authorship photos in News results, but it's somewhat difficult to qualify to appear in Google News.

Thursday July 03, 2014

Miranda Miller (not verified) Said:

There have also been reports (I think Mark Traphagen noticed this first?) that you will still see authorship photos for people you are connected with on Google+.

Thursday July 03, 2014

Bill Slawski (not verified) Said:

Google has conducted and published usability studies explaining why they have removed smaller photos for social annotations in search results when people endorsed or shared those results. It had nothing to do with less clicks on ads, and everything to do with no one clicking on those results.

Thursday July 03, 2014

Joe Preston (not verified) Said:

If I had to guess why Google removed authorship photos, I'd speculate it was because clicking on those results did not lead to increased satisfaction for the user with the search. It's easy to see why they would like it as a search improvement. Google has chased the myth that "blog = authority" since blogs were invented, however their whole business and the tremendous trust they get from users is predicated on satisfaction with search results.

Thursday July 03, 2014

Inzamam (not verified) Said:

Google circles were a part of SEO now.But Google did something good for itself than caring for us by removing Google plus authorship.

I Also heard that you will authorship photos in search results with those your are connected on Google plus.

I don't know whether it is true or not .Would like to know it.

Friday July 04, 2014

Diogo (not verified) Said:

The most shocking thing for me isn't the removal, but the fact that "John Mueller" using an obvious lie as justification.

It’s a shock to see how Google allows something like this to go forward. The CTR improvements were a top point when this started and confirmed by almost each one of use who implemented it.

They can have whatever reason to implement this – IMO to avoid having to deal with future abuse and allow better CTR for ads -, but they should never make a big lie public as an excuse.

It’s absurd and Google needs to realise every time something like this happens, Webmasters have one more reason to doubt their words and question their do’s.

Saturday July 05, 2014

Steven J Fromm (not verified) Said:

Well that is real kick in the face.  I worked pretty hard to get this set up and to see it gone in an instant is unfair to say the least.  I was one of the few attorneys to get this so I am more than a little upset.  Way to go Google. 

Saturday July 05, 2014

Bill Hubbell (not verified) Said:

Larry,

Thanks, in the midst of a Situation where not much makes sense, it was a pleasure to see this article. What also just doesn't

make sense is that not long ago, The Plus Ad Was Getting somewhat of a Buzz. Stone Temple Consulting did a HOA wiith

a Google Employee about The Plus Ad. Research was done to illustrate the elevated CTA & CTR.

Toyota was involved in a Plus Ad, and for a moment they (Google) gave the appearance that Loyalty would be rewarded as

one of the qualifiers for the Plus Ad, was the requirement of a 1,000 or more G+ Followers, and that the Ad had to be relative

and would be vetted.

What a SCAM!   I concur 100%, "They Lied", or in other words got caught perputrating a Fraud. I wonder how many loyal

Googlers are saying, "Not my Google!".   Yes, "Our Google Did That", and they will forever wear the Hickie on Their Neck.

They Promoted Loyalty, and alluded that it would be rewarded, then did a 180. Could this be the real answer / reason as

for, "Why Luc Left G+?"

As he would rather leave (and do so before the Betrayal Came Out), than stay in bed with someone he could not Trust as

an Employer. Definately on of those things, "That make you go HMMMM."

Back in late 2012 when MOZ Published the Artical, "Author Rank is The New Page Rank", it made a lot of Sense, and I

made changes to ramp up personal branding via Social Media, and Content Curating where I am the The Author instead

of Admin for my Employer. Pre Panda and Penguin a lot of SEO's could manage clients by controlling the links they built

and having the ability to turn the switch (re=follow) on or off. To where now the Social Media Link Wheel became the new

switch board of Links.

A lot of People Quickly adapted and even made Business Models out of Google Plus, and their value was Holistically

built. They promoted the Heck out of G+, The Word was out, "G+ is Where it is At! Come on Over and Join The Party". It was

quite the Party, and then the recent change more less took it from Party Status, to Happy Hour. Personally I feel that Google

made a Tactical Error; however time will be the Judge of that, not me.

I am so loyal to Google, that even after this Ploy, G+ Remains my Social Platform of Choice; however the saying, "Google

Plus is Google", no longer resonates and makes me feel "Warm and Fuzzy", and that the Time on Site is well Spent. I have

since started ramping up on other Networks / Platforms that I had downgraded after Google Plus came out. Could this be

The First Ever Platform "Faux Pas / (noun): An Embarassing or Tactless Act or Remark in a Social Situation"?

I just asked my Phone, "OK Google Now, what is the Definition of Faux Pas", if that is not irony and a definition that fits

like a glove to the situation at hand, then I do not know any better way to vocalize my true feelings. Thanks for reading my

humble thouhts. If anyone has any Feed Back I would sincerely appreciate it. Also, thanks again Larry and all your Great

Team Members that tell it how it is, All of You Are Appreciated!

Sincerely,

+BillHubbell

Saturday July 05, 2014

Neil Ferree (not verified) Said:

I think the guys at Moz articluated very well the impact, influence and dynamcics of the Google Authorship Photo.

Since Google+ authorship and the rich snippets with photos in search results were implemented, we've seen eye tracking studies point to additional attention for the enhanced results. We've seen research from Catalyst and Cyrus Shepard – and even Google itself – supporting the notion that results with authorship photos have higher click-through rates than their plain text counterparts. Our own internal research also confirms this.

My personal research of my articles, videos and G+ Posts that found their way to page 1 SERP are totally in sync with Rand and Cyrus comments.

social shares is becoming the new seo

The good news is Google has not removed the custom video thumbnails from the SERPs so when one of our videos finds its way to a page 1 SERP, the video thumbnail could / should help the CTR on these?

Friday July 18, 2014

Cotta (not verified) Said:

The video thumbnails also seem to have disappeared (just within the last few days), except for Youtube videos.

Saturday July 05, 2014

Al Remetch (not verified) Said:

From reading this I see that many people still don't know the difference between pure organic search results and personal search results. If you see somebody's photo in the search results these days it is probably from somebody you have in a circle and it is linking to a Gplus post. This is a personal search result that not everybody sees.

Monday July 07, 2014

Megan Marrs Said:

Ah, so that's why those pics disappeared! And here I thought Google just hated my face. I don't doubt the authorship pics obstructed paid clicks. Follow the $$ and you always find the answer...

Wednesday July 09, 2014

Ramesh Ranjan (not verified) Said:

You (and Rand) are spot on, Larry. Google can't afford to miss out on potential ad revenue. Can you blame them? It's their money machine!

Sunday July 27, 2014

Jennifer (not verified) Said:

Thank you for the great overview, Larry!  I'm fairly new to the industry and am amazed at how quickly things change.  I recently completed a ClickMinded Digital Marketing Course and industry changes were discussed in detail.  I didn't consider just how fast these changes occur!

Wednesday August 20, 2014

Joshua L. Sherman (not verified) Said:

We can only hope may be a brief testing part and hope authorship are going to be enabled yet again in few weeks.

Leave a Comment

Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.
 
Free Keyword Tool

Get thousands of relevent keyword suggestions - more,
faster, free!

Free Keyword Niche Finder

Discover profitable pockets of keywords for your
business.

Free Negative Keyword Suggestion Tool

Identify wasted spend before it happens and increase
your paid search ROI.

Contact Us | Company | Support | Site Map | Trademarks | Privacy Policy © 2007-2014 WordStream, Inc. All rights reserved.