Google has announced that it is discontinuing its Google Authorship program. Practically this means that the search engine will no longer be tracking data from content using the rel=author markup.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller had this to say, “I’ve been involved since we first started testing authorship markup and displaying it in search results. We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”
When Google Authorship was introduced search results would show an author’s profile photo and the number of people who had circled them. Google Authorship was a way for authors to identify themselves as the content creators for display purposes. The image here shows a historical snapshot of such a result.
In discontinuing this feature Google explained that including Authorship in the search results did not affect the amount of traffic to sites. But more importantly many blog and web site owners felt the process for markup and linking was too complex to implement. A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting discovered that 70% of authors made no effort in connecting their content with authorship.
The author profile images were actually dropped back in June. At the time Mueller stated in a Google+ post that the decision to remove the photos was to simplify “the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results.” Now the bylines are gone too.”
Mueller adds, “It’s also worth mentioning that Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they’re relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features.”
For more on this latest development and how it affects you I recommend these two excellent articles: