SEO Update: Google Authorship Removes Photos and Circle Counts from SERPs

When Google news hits the wire the SEO community tends to erupt in two extremes on the emotional scale: the low notes (depression, frustration, fits of rage) or the high notes (happiness, excitement, intense hysteria). So when John Mueller announced on his Google+ that Google was removing the profile photos and circle count associated with Google Authorship from their search results I was more interested in the reaction from my fellow marketeers (because, really, people can be so hilarious and ridiculous). [Check out Moz’s take on the recent development.]

Some of my favorite reactions ranged from “authorship will cease to exist” to “I will miss my hot blurry selfie” to “Google+ will be next” to “IT’S THE END OF SEO AS WE KNOW IT!” OK, I made the last one up. OK, I made them all up.

Let’s wade through the emotional shit storm and look at the facts.

1. Remember the phrase “content is king”? Well, it’s still as true today as it was pre-announcement. Glamour shot, blurry photo or no photo, if your headlines and descriptions aren’t interesting, people won’t read your articles. This goes back to Google’s and Matt Cutt’s multiple claims that quality content is most important for the end-user experience. A photo might help prove you’re a real person, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an authority, and you may “steal” clicks from a more reputable source.

2. It was never guaranteed that the photo element of Google Authorship would work at all. Personally, it never worked for me. I’m all for removing what’s broken. And who knows, maybe a better solution will make an appearance in the future?

3. Google Authorship is not dependent on Google+ activity. According to Mueller, you can have Authorship without being active on Google+. And, also according to Mueller, they will continue to support Authorship markup. So, because of basic math, removing photos does not equal the end of Google Authorship. Or the end of Google+. There are plenty of people on Google+ that are not SEO professionals or authors who use the site only for Google Authorship. And if you’re a marketing expert NOT on Google+, you probably won’t be taken seriously. So don’t jump ship just yet.

4. The claim Mueller is making states that this is because of design/UI enhancements, particularly on mobile devices. That’s more important than your face on the SERPs, in my opinion.

5. Google isn’t the only search engine in the vast sea we call the Internet. Have you heard of Bing’s Snapshot tool? Bing is climbing as a go-to search engine, so don’t discount it. Turn your focus away from Google for a quick minute and make sure you’re optimizing your site for Bing and other search engines as well.


Bing Snapshot Search Results

I’m curious, like the rest of the SEO world, to see how this affects site traffic. But it never worked for me, so I’ll have to take your word for it.


This post was paired with pork loin in the crock pot with some herbs, lima beans, and apple sauce. I was feeling lazy on this Monday morning.


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