Google announced today (via a post by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) that it would be revamping the way it displays search results that contain authorship. This includes the removal of profile pictures and Google+ circle counts in search results where authorship has been assigned to web pages.
“We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices,” stated Mueller. “As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count.”
Figure 1 shows how the revamped Google Web Search appears without the profile picture and the Google+ circle count:
Authorship has also been modified for Google News results. As Figure 2 demonstrates, the profile picture is now smaller, while the Google+ circle count has been dropped:
These changes, of course, don’t indicate that Google Authorship has been abandoned, but the service is undoubtedly undergoing a refining process. In fact, Google still encourages authors to link content they’ve created to their Google+ profiles. In order to set up authorship, authors need a Google+ profile with a clear and recognizable headshot as the profile photo. Authorship of content can be verified by associating it with a Google+ profile.
On the other hand, Google does not guarantee that author information will be shown in either Google Web Search or Google News results.
The New “Less-Cluttered Design” and CTR
Mueller went on to indicate that “click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.” This statement goes against the conventional wisdom being touted by many online marketers—that Authorship-rich snippets in search results would have higher click-through rates (CTRs). Eye tracking studies have shown that searchers’ eyes are drawn to search results that contain a profile picture, even when these search results are further down the SERP.
As of now, there is no clear explanation for this assessment, though it is possible that Mueller may have been referring to aggregate data for all Authorship results across all search queries. Using that perspective, it is possible that the CTR boost seen in more restricted tests may actually be rather minimal when compared to more comprehensive data.
Google Authorship is Being Refined
When Google Authorship was first introduced, the service was open to pretty much any content creator who had a Google+ profile and was willing to undergo the verification process. Hence, for the first two years, it was relatively easy to get Authorship-rich snippets to display on search results (though Google has pointed out that Authorship snippets were not an automatic feature, as Google would only show Authorship snippets when it considered the information to be useful for the searcher).
By December 2013, the number of search results with Authorship snippets had been drastically reduced. Many lesser-known authors saw their Authorship snippets disappear completely. Google is clearly in the process of refining Authorship; in the future, this service will most likely be reserved for top-notch creators who are widely respected and trusted in their fields.
In its mature phase, Authorship snippets could function as a brand of authority that alerts searchers when search results were created by industry leaders and experts.
Do you think removing profile pictures and Google+ circle counts from Authorship in search results was an improvement? Do you think these omissions will have a negative or positive impact on CTR?
Hit us up with a comment or make a reply-blog post.
Latest posts by Marketing Digest Writing Team (see all)
- How Taco Bell Struck Gold with Its Memorable Viral Marketing Campaigns - September 15, 2015
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud Releases New Instagram Marketing Tools - September 12, 2015
- Chrome Begins Pausing Flash Ads by Default to Improve User Experience - September 3, 2015