RIP Google Authorship

And Life was too cruel to you…

Pulling the Plug on Authorship

During Google Authorship’s final moments of life, it was tortured.

It got cut down, reduced to practically nothing, its smiling images were snatched from the search results, stats were no longer made accessible in Webmaster Tools for its regular health checks, and now… Now they’ve killed it off completely with a big sign hanging over its death bed saying “DO NOT RESUSCITATE”.

After much speculation over the health of Google authorship, Google have pulled the plug. Finally putting authorship out of its misery and releasing it from their burdens.

Authorship in web search

There were apparently two main reasons behind the tragic termination of Google Authorship:

  1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters
  2. Low value to searchers

Due to the lack of return on the invested time and effort spent trying to keep authorship alive, it was decided that it was: 1) Not liked by enough people; and 2) Of not much use to the people it was actually trying to please the most.

Imagine if you were handled with the same sadistic treatment.

Looking Back to the Birth of Google Authorship

Birth of Authorship

Authorship was born. And, oh! How we cooed!

Three years ago, Google painted a glorious picture of bloggers achieving A-list celebrity status within their industry, by logically increasing the value of quality content. Authors who regularly put out great content would finally get recognised and rewarded.

“We know that great content comes from great authors, and we’re looking closely at ways this markup could help us highlight authors and rank search results.”

– Google Webmaster Central Blog (Tuesday, June 07, 2011)

We nurtured this idea of Google Author Rank, soothing and caring for our precious author profiles as we watched our Contributor To list grow up to be big and strong.

Armed with an idealistic view that if we just wrote amazing content, maybe people will finally start to admire us for our contributions to the internet. Industry experts and talented writers could be bumped up in the rankings from a well-deserved pat on the back. There may even be sparkly-eyed unicorns. Somewhere in that vision. Somewhere.


But you can all go back to your ambiguous profile names and pictures now. (I do wonder how many people actually sold their online anonymity to Google, with the promise of better rankings, recognition and chocolate chip cookies?) After all that fuss, it’s finally over.

Or is it?

No, it definitely is. Or at least it is for the elusive Author Rank we’ve all been salivating over for the past three years. Preparing our profiles as we try not to get drool over our keyboard. Taking professional-looking photos that capture our smiley, friendly personality but still adhering to Google’s author photo recommendations that were more strict than passport photo regulations. Gosh forbid you would take your portrait at an angle, Google may not recognise it as a face! Then how would they know you were a real person, and not some kind of blog-writing monkey?!

But in all seriousness now, John Mueller from Google has confirmed that authorship has been completely removed from Google’s search results and Google will no longer be tracking or processing any data from the rel=author markup tag. However, search results will display Google+ content and prioritise pages that have been popular with your Google+ buddies. But you don’t need Google’s Author Rank to deem you an expert in your subject to increase your web authority. If you actually become an expert in your subject, then you’re going to eventually get that boost in the rankings of the pages you author anyway. So, you know… Keep your chin up, soldier. Don’t cry.


Where did it all go so wrong?

I think emphasis was placed on the wrong thing. I wasn’t really interested in seeing smiling happy faces glaring back at me with their dead, staring eyes from the search results. I was far more interested in the future implications of including author rank into the search ranking algorithm. Unfortunately those smiling happy faces were the candy to lure the children into playing the game. Kind creepy, huh?

Maybe in time the concept behind author rank will re-emerge, repackaged and resold to us in an entirely new way. Maybe then it will become a successful factor in Google’s search ranking algorithm. Until then though, I’m sure Google will still get to keep a hefty amount of those followed links on every single webpage that implemented authorship…

Goodnight, Sweet Prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.