Around a fortnight ago, Google’s John Mueller announced Google were limiting the appearance of Google Author photos.
Around a fortnight ago, Google’s John Mueller announced Google were limiting the appearance of Google Author photos being shown in the search results pages, by removing the profile photo and circle count from their results pages.
Google have cited the need to clean up the visual design of their search results in order to provide a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.
There has been much speculation within the SEO industry since the announcement as to the real reasons behind the change. Google+ guru Mark Traphagen seemed to indicate that he feels Google did not wish to imply that they ‘endorse the quality’ of each authors content so explicitly, when he stated that:
I believe that after much testing and evaluation Google may have decided that author photos for now send a disproportionate signal to searchers. That is, the photos may have been indicating an implied endorsement of result quality that Google is not yet prepared to back up.Mark Traphagen
Larry Kim, who owns search marketing software company Wordstream has suggested that there may be more to the story and describes Google’s explanation as an ‘excuse’ when he said:
It’s pretty clear that Google’s excuse for removing author photos from organic results – decluttering and improving user experience with no effect on CTR – just doesn’t hold water.Larry Kim
Similar speculation followed on Twitter by many industry experts, including Moz’s own Rand Fishkin on Twitter, who stated that the author photos were seen as too competitive with Adwords listings:
I’d be interested to see how this develops, but I am of the opinion that Google will certainly use information they’re constantly gathering on each verified author on the Google+ network whenever they index web pages and content that’s linked to a Google+ verified author. It is therefore imperative that you at least set up a Google+ profile and link this up to the content you produce by setting up Google+ Authorship. Furthermore, I still feel it will be important to build up your online authority within the industry you operate in by posting content that is likely to add value to popular subjects within your industry.
Ben Wood is the owner of Woodcutter Media, a specialist search marketing consultancy based in the UK.