In 2011, Google announced the widespread implementation of Authorship markup, an official means for authors to claim and be credited for their work. Enthusiasts saw the move as a way to cut back on spam and give honest writers the credit they deserved. Critics suspiciously surmised Authorship to be just one more way for Google to play Big Brother.
In 2014, however, Google closed the book on the last visible signs of Authorship. Once-prominent thumbnail photos of writers in search results disappeared along with visible bylines.
Did Authors Really Benefit from Google Authorship?
For a while, bona fide writers were smiling big. Finally, they were getting full credit for their work. And it seemed like it was just a matter of time before employers would be hiring their scribes based on Authorship Ranking (a much-bandied concept that never really materialized). Competent, well-ranked writers would be able to demand huge salary increases or writer fees, based on their respected standings.
For almost two years, hopes ran high, and beyond the conjectured (but obvious) career benefits to authors, there were other desirable results:
- Writers would be able to use Authorship as one more tool to build their personal brand. Readers would see the author’s profile photo every time one of the writer’s articles appeared on the page.
- Since many customers must know, like and trust someone before doing business with them, Authorship would pre-sell searchers on the idea of the author’s trustworthiness.
- Since the author’s photo made the entry stand out prominently, searchers would be much more likely to click on their articles, boosting CTR (click-through rate) and helping enhance the writer’s influence on a higher scale. Good writers would shortly be famous.
In the end, though, the perceived benefits really never played out. Google’s John Mueller spelled it out pretty well on the fateful final day of the Authorship run, saying, “[Authorship] information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”
How Does the End of Authorship Affect Writers Now?
The three-year Authorship ordeal has about as much lasting effect as the wind in the night. In fact, many people aren’t even aware of its passing. All the hours spent getting the markup implemented correctly aren’t lost to writers completely, however. Links still go to writers’ Google+ pages, but Google won’t be affording any more special benefits beyond that.
Writers are once again actively setting up websites to build their brand and delivering content to help drive business and encourage new clients. The best writers, though, are studying the tea leaves to glimpse into the future, and they won’t miss one more thing Mueller recently mentioned:
“Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”
NOTE: The change to Authorship does not affect Publisher markup. If you take Authorship links down, avoid removing the Publisher markup. It is still helpful to tie your website and Google+ page to Google+ Business results.