Back in October, Matt Cutts announced that a 15% reduction to authorship was on the horizon. Now, it looks as though the reduction is beginning to take form, as the number of authorship photos being displayed within search results has started to decrease. While it’s unclear at this time what the motive is behind this move, it could be an indication that Google is again moving towards quality content, perhaps limiting authorship to those individual Google+ profile owners who consistently post updates, are in a larger number of circles, and maintain an active presence on Google+.
When Google introduced authorship, its intent was to help associate specific websites and articles with their authors. Many early adopters added the appropriate snippet of code to their website, and voila…their Google+ profile pictures were now showing up within search results. However, setting up authorship wasn’t as simple as adding specific coding to your website.
To start, you had to have a Google+ profile. Whether that meant you already had one or you had to set up a new profile altogether, it was the first step in the authorship process. Next, you had to upload a profile picture that met the authorship guidelines established by Google. This meant no logos, no group pictures, no cartoons, etc. Basically, Google wanted your headshot, nothing more, and nothing less. Finally, Google required you to specify which sites you contributed to (via the “Contributor To” section). Once all of these steps had been taken, and you added the appropriate coding to your website, your authorship was established.
Unfortunately, that’s where it stopped for some authorship users. In many cases, profiles that had been created to establish authorship were abandoned, yet profile photos were still showing up within search results. Could this be one of the reasons why Google recently started removing some authorship pictures? Could it be that Google not only wanted people to jump on the Google+ train, but also maintain an active presence and use the website as an alternative to other social sites, such as Facebook?
While it’s no secret that G+ is Google’s attempt at chipping away at Facebook’s market share in the world of social media, it was never made clear on Google’s end whether or not an active presence on their social site would either benefit or hurt other aspects of a brand’s presence on the web, namely within Google search results.
While it’s pure speculation at this point, it could be that Google is limiting authorship as a means of rewarding more active Google+ users, and eliminating the benefit from users who merely setup their profiles for the authorship snippet and haven’t touched those profiles since. This theory does hold up when you compare it to other recent Google social updates, namely the introduction and offering of vanity URLs to individual Google+ profiles and brand pages.
In order to claim Google+ vanity URLs, you have to have an account that is at least 30 days old, have at least 10 followers, have a profile picture, and have an account in good standing. The first three points are self explanatory enough, but the fourth might give us insight into what Google’s approach is, and has been all along, when it comes to the various services and features it offers. That is, being active on Google+ is important. It shouldn’t be ignored, your profile shouldn’t be neglected, and you shouldn’t cry foul if your authorship profile stops showing up within search. Ultimately, it may just be an indication that you need to give your Google+ profile a little more attention these days. Remember, Google is ALWAYS watching.
To learn more about how establishing a presence on Google+ can benefit your social media and local search campaigns, contact the internet marketing team at SLS Consulting. Give us a call at (323) 254-1510 to schedule a meeting with our team.