For those who loved Google Authorship, the last few years have been an on-again, off-again affair.
While Google killed Authorship back in 2014, the search engine was still proclaiming that marketers shouldn’t remove the authorship markup from their sites as much as a year later.
Today, Google is adding fuel to that fire once more.
Recently, Google’s Gary Illyes made a statement at SMX West that marketers who already have authorship markup on their pages should leave it be because teams at Google are currently looking for ways to use it.
So, what gives? Is Google Authorship making a comeback or can its fans expect to be disappointed once more? Here’s what you need to know:
What is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship was a platform that allowed marketers to link their content to their Google+ profiles. Authorship worked by allowing users to connect dozens of pieces of content to a digital signature that could be used to identify the author. That digital signature was then used to provide authority signals that helped the author rank in Google’s SERPs. During Authorship’s heyday, a user could enter a query into Google and be met with a rich snippet of content alongside the author’s photo and byline. If a user wanted to, he or she could click the author’s byline for a complete list of content published by that author.
The Downfall of Authorship
Anyone who is familiar with Google knows that the search engine thrives on testing. Each product Google releases goes through rigorous testing phases designed to ensure that the tool is meeting the needs of Google users. If the testing reveals that the mechanism is falling short, Google isn’t shy about cutting it off at the knees.
In the case of Google Authorship, the death knell was due in large part to low adoption rates and a virtually non-existent influence on user click behavior. These things, combined with the fact that Google is consistently rolling out other tools and platforms, spelled the end for Authorship.
Is Google Bringing Authorship Back? Three Things to Know
Despite the fact that Google pulled the cord on Authorship a few years back, many experts agree that the search engine seems to have not given up entirely on the experiment. While there are many different theories swirling around the Web, here’s what you need to know about the future of Authorship:
1. Google has dozens of more promising programs
In the sea of Google products, Authorship is a relatively small fish. While Gary Illyes’s statements whipped the SEO and content marketing world into a frenzy, it’s important to realize that just because something is a possibility doesn’t mean that it will ultimately become a reality. While Google may find some way to use the rei=author tag, it’s unlikely that Authorship as we know it will make a comeback. Google is always working on new products and the spotty performance of Authorship the first time around may mean that the search engine will invest its efforts in more promising endeavors.
2. Authorship markup may help organize information
One of the reasons that Illyes and others may be calling for authorship markup to stay in place is that it allows search engines to make sense of information on a website. Even if the rei=author tag never gets used for Authorship purposes again, there’s no denying that it’s helpful for Google when it comes to linking certain content with certain authors. This, in turn, can help organize search results and may even help authors build their personal brands.
3. Authorship may not work for mobile
In addition to low adoption rates and a lower-than-expected influence on click behavior, Authorship wasn’t great for mobile platforms. 2015 was the first year that mobile search surpassed desktop search, and it’s likely that trend will continue forever. In light of that, Google has been working feverishly to create simple, streamlined, clean SERPs that work well across all mobile platforms. Unfortunately, Authorship snippets don’t exactly fall into this category. In addition to cluttering a small screen, Authorship snippets don’t provide the level of value that necessary to justify their inclusion in mobile search.
The Future of Google Authorship
While we can argue back and forth about whether Google will bring Authorship back, the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to know until there’s a product on the table. As it stands now, Google has made no promises about Authorship and it seems unlikely that the tool will come back in its original form. In addition to small user numbers, Authorship doesn’t provide the value that modern Google users needs in their SERPs.
That being said, however, it’s completely possible that author authority will begin to feature more prominently in Google. Even if the Authorship markup isn’t completely active right now, it’s possible that the rei=author tag is helping content creators link themselves to a body of content within Google.
As Google continues to get more intelligent and clip along on its mission to “organize the world’s information,” it’s clear that the need to identify authors and link them with their content will eventually become pronounced. At the end of the day, Google wants to be able to connect people with web content, so there’s no doubt that author authority will become an incredibly important ranking metric. The possibility that it will appear in the form of Authorship snippets, however, is unlikely.
As Google continues to become more advanced, its SERPs will follow. While Authorship snippets were a great experiment, they ultimately proved to be too clunky and not valuable enough to current users. Going forward, it’s likely that Google will take the rei=author markup language and use it to create more intuitive and streamlined forms of author authority in its SERPs.
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