Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) webmaster and trends analyst John Mueller revealed yesterday that the company would no longer display authors names in search results because it doesn’t seem to affect which links people click on one way or the other. But what’s more surprising to people webmasters who deal with SEO on a regular basis is that authorship won’t be used by the algorithm at all.
“We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information,” Mueller wrote on his Google+ page. “Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results.”
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Readers don’t generally care who wrote an article
The most obvious reason to add authorship to search results is so that people can see who wrote a page before going to view it. If that person is a high-profile expert it would give the page more validity, but most of the time people are more aware of the websites they trust than the specific authors so the lack of interest among Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) users isn’t a shock. Besides, Google’s algorithm changes are based on extensive testing of similar search results with slight tweaks, so it’s safe to assume that whether an author’s name and picture pop up next to search results really doesn’t make any difference.
Google’s authorship was meant to be a tool to fend off spammy pages
But the other reason for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) to emphasize authorship was to give it another tool against spammy, content-mill style web pages. Creating another field of linked data lets Google’s algorithm mark an author as more or less reputable across the board, even if it never shows that to the end user. Mueller says that this sort of algorithmic use for authorship is also finished.
“We treat it like any other markup on your pages… links are links, but we’re not using them for authorship anymore.”
The one exception to this is if you’ve added someone to your Google+ circles, then it will still push that person’s articles higher in your personal search results and display their name and Google+ photo. It’s also not clear whether publisher markup (showing what company is behind the article) still matters to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s algorithm or not. Considering that most people have more online publications that they trust than online writers they follow, it probably should.