Since 2011, writers and bloggers have had the option to have their photos displayed alongside articles and posts they have written that show up in Google’s search results. But that’s all about to change with alterations coming into effect over the next few days following an announcement by Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller.
Gradually taking effect across all Google search engine results pages (SERPs), author photos will no longer show up against search results. Also disappearing is the author’s Google+ Circle Count; that’s the number of circles the author has been added to in Google+. Here’s how the change will appear:
This loss of author photos may come as a blow for many bloggers who have benefitted from increase standout in cluttered SERPs. Eye-tracking studies have also verified that having a photo against some search listings can effectively double the number of clicks it receives. In future, however, bloggers will have to make do a simpler, less impactful SERPs listing like that shown in the ‘after’ example above.
Google says the motivation behind this change is to further improve the user experience for Google searchers. It’s certainly true that some author photos are quite distracting and affording an automatic right to anyone to appear if they knew how to set up a Google Authorship profile has made some SERPs look messy and confusing. This change also supports Google’s ‘mobile first’ ambitions, bringing greater consistency to results served to both desktop and mobile users.
Note, however, that for results that are picked up as News stories in Google, the authorship photo will now appear, as well as the article’s featured image. If you have the privilege to write for a recognised news producer, maybe a newspaper, journal or broadcasting channel, then your photo and “written by [NAME]” will soon begin appearing in News related listings.
The burning question is: will this affect traffic to authored content online? Early evidence suggests the answer is yes, at least in the short-term until a new level playing field is established. Moz has already recorded a 10% reduction in traffic to authored content. Time will tell if this change leads to a long-term dip in traffic to content created by writers with established Google Authorship credentials.
It’s still well worth making sure your Google Authorship setting are in place and verified. Work through this Google Support page to get started.