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Why Google dropped author photos in SERPS

Google & search.

The never ending merry-go-ground of playing catchup with Google takes another pointless turn. Or a major step forward to change how information on the web is indexed, sorted and displayed.

Google + never worked as a social network, not really (it might have secretly been a fab data-gathering tool instead).

As a result, Google are mostly dismantling the network that companies and peoples have invested millions of hours into since it’s launch 3 years ago. One of the more useful functions was the way search results displayed a small picture of the page author.

It was nice, and gave some credibility and personality to a lot of very faceless data. It was probably the only visible sign outside of the Google Plus network of anything going one with Plus. Especially as most of the inhabitants of Plus were agencies and companies pushing content and pages, not consumers of information.

It might have been Google’s last major off-site measurement metric. Anyway, without warning Google dropped them in search results, potentailly hiding an estimated 500 million mugshots from view.

Except they haven’t … as it’s a cute move that maybe double pronged.

  • Google Authorship is still very much alive and kicking, it’s the little thumbnail that’s been dropped from regular search. The rest of the process, including validation is still being used and is likely to be used more in the future – just not so visible
  • Google News have embraced the authorship, adding additional information (including the thumbnail) for those site that pass the Google News Test.

What’s up next

We know Google haven’t really abandoned Google Authorship, and we know that Google is focussing more than ever on the quality and credibility of on-site content.

It suggests that Google Authorship could become more important in the future.

However, it was thought that the credibility an author brought to an article came from her activity on the Google Plus network (frequency of posts, number circles, follows etc) – this as open to abuse and manipulation. Just maybe, the credibility will be acquired from the content they post. That would be good.

You can easily imagine a world where all content is validated as coming from a real person and the publishing history of that real person is mapped, open and available for all to see. That would make for a much more authentic web.

By Martin Dower
Google Validated Author … since 2010