Why Are Google Authorship Snippets Declining?
One thing we can always expect from Google is change.
Last October Matt Cutts from Google announced there would be some big changes to how Authorship is shown in the Search Results. We’ve had several some queries from our clients asking why their Author Photo and other information is no longer being displayed in Google Search so note to self, decided to update everyone here. I have personally seen the same thing, and there is a reason for it,
It’s NOT because Authorship isn’t working.
A few months ago many of us noticed this drastic and almost instant change implemented by Google for Authorship in Search.
Further evidence that this change is underway can be seen in this screen cap from the new Moz Google Features Graph. It shows the amount of Google Authorship snippets showing in the SERPs for the 30 days (up to 18 December 2013).
Has Google Begun to Purge Google Authorship in Search?
As you can see, it appears Authorship snippets started to decline around the beginning of December, then took a nose dive around the 12th, and after a couple of days of leveling off, have taken another plunge. It’s true that if you look at the scale of the graph it’s only about a 3% reduction overall so far, but given that Authorship has been pretty steady in the SERPs for a long time, that’s still a significant change.
In his keynote speech at Pubcon Las Vegas this past October, Google’s Matt Cutts said that they had been testing a reduction in the amount of Authorship snippets shown in search results, and they found that when they reduced them by about 15%, “quality went up.” Cutts did not make clear whether it was the quality of the authorship results or the overall quality of the SERPs that improved, or for that matter, even what he meant by “quality.”
But one thing seemed clear: at some point the amount of Authorship snippets in search would decline, and that “quality” would be the reason, and perhaps the criteria.
For reference, here’s exactly what Matt Cutts said at Pubcon:
We want to make sure that the people who we show as authors are high quality authors. And so we’re looking at the process of possibly tightening that up. It turns out if we reduce the amount of authorship we are showing by just about 10 or 15 percent, we’re radically able to improve the quality of the authors that we show. Which is another nice signal for those searchers and users who are typing into Google and say, “Ah, I see this picture, I see this person is an author. This is something I can trust. This is content that I really want to see.” So it’s not just going to be about the markup; it’s going to be about the quality of the author.
Three Classes of Authorship
Another change being noticed by Authorship observers is that there now appears to be three “classes” of people who use Google Authorship in terms of how they show up (or don’t show up) in search:
First Class: Full Authorship Snippet – These authors still tend to get the full authorship snippet (author photo + byline + [optional] number of Google+ circles).
Second Class: Byline But No Photo – These authors still get an author byline under the link text in their search results (and sometimes the number of Google+ circles they’re in, at least in the US), but no author photo.
Third Class: No Authorship Rich Snippet At All – These authors used to get authorship rich snippets for some or all of their content, but no longer get it.
Interestingly, it appears you can have all three on the same website, different posts:
What is most interesting here, of course, is that new “second class.” We used to only see that kind of authorship result when the author already had another result on the same SERP showing an author photo. Google only allows one author photo per author per search page. But now we are seeing these “headless snippets” appearing all by themselves. They indeed seem to be a new “middle class” of authorship rich snippets.
What Authors Are Being Affected?
It’s too early to say for sure if there are definite signs or telltale common characteristics among authors who have dropped to the second or third class of authorship. But we are seeing the emergence of some patterns from the anecdotal reports we are receiving from users whose authorship has dropped. So far the primary patterns seem to have more to do with sites than authors. In addition. there has been no discernible rankings change for most authors. So this does not appear to be an “author rank” update, but rather a culling out of sites that are not meeting some undefined threshold of quality for showing full author snippets.
Well-established authors who regularly publish in-depth content on trusted sites and whose content tends to get a lot of links and social shares appear to have been spared. I have yet to receive a report of anyone at that level who has dropped to second or third class.
It is looking more and more like this may be a site-by-site assessment by Google rather than author-by-author. Connecting authorship to pages that violate the guidelines in the Google Authorship FAQ published earlier this year may cause one to drop in Authorship class. These are pages that don’t “convey a real person’s perspective or analysis on a topic.” Examples given include product pages and property listings.
This definitely DOES NOT mean you should stop using Authorship.
One thing which stands out and needs to be mentioned is that when you use Authorship, you should use it ONLY when you are creating quality content. Do not use it for everything. I am personally going to create a separate User name on my sites with ZERO Authorship connections and will change my regular the Author of Pages, Product Pages, and Custom Post Types which are general in nature to this general User name. By doing this these pages/ content will now just be listed under my Google Publisher status versus Google Authorship. I believe this will elevate my personal AuthorRank and the overall quality ratings of my content, thus elevating the level at which Google perceives my authored content to be.
*Remember, when in doubt, you can always check your sites Authorship status by using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
**Portions of this Article were Curated from: WP Social
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