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August 2, 2016

Steven Wyer | Google Authorship Officially Gone

by stevenwyer

Google’s Gary Illyes has made it official: Google Authorship is no more, says Steven Wyer. After a relatively brief deployment, Google’s idea to match original content with a writer’s online presence has fallen out of favor with the search engine. Was it ever in public’s good graces? Steven Wyer believes not.

Theoretical origins

From the beginning, Steven Wyer says Google Authorship suffered from a lack of user interest. Authorship’s roots date back to 2007 and the implementation of Google’s AgentRank. Steven Wyer describes AgentRank as Google’s author ranking program, working in a similar fashion as Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).  AgentRank essentially gave authors a viable connection between pieces of content, strengthening their position as an authoritative voice.

AgentRank persisted as a theoretical idea until Google adopted markup standards in 2011, explains Steven Wyer. The same year, Google unveiled Google+ and announced that the newly implemented Authorship markups would be universally connected to an “agent” via their Google+ account. However, Steven Wyer notes that even in-depth video tutorials by Google failed to give webmasters and everyday bloggers the technical ability to tag their content correctly. According to Steven Wyer, just under 1/3 of the users who would have benefited from Authorship used it, and many of those did so without success.

Google not ashamed of failure

Steven Wyer says Google is famous for trying new ideas. With dozens of high-profile services launched and later nixed, Google has demonstrated there is no shame in failure. Steven Wyer nods to services such as Google Health and Aardvark, which were limelighted and then left for dead, the later after a $50 million investment.

Falling short of expectations

The Authorship experiment fell short in two key areas, says Steven Wyer – low adaptation and perceived low value to search engine users.

Authorship participation was, at best, spotty; according to Steven Wyer, it was virtually non-existent in some verticals. By 2012, Google realized there was a problem with Authorship implementation. Citing concerns by webmasters and nontechnical site operators, Steven Wyer reports that Google’s next move, attempting to automatically attribute content, was a comedic miscarriage of technology. One of the most noted misattributions was a NY Times piece written by Elizabeth Bazelton. Steven Wyer reports that the article, which outlined abortion initiatives, was misidentified as written by Truman Capote. Capote, though a talented novelist, never wrote for the Times, and certainly not 28 years after his death, notes Steven Wyer.

Google has acknowledged that Authorship had a negligible influence on user click behavior, says Steven Wyer. Though many expressed outright disbelief at this revelation, Google remained adamant that searchers paid little attention to the Authorship “snippets” during search queries, especially from mobile devices. Steven Wyer says that it was a shift to mobile searches that also prompted Google to ditch author photos in search results.

So what does this prove? Steven Wyer believes that completely shutting down the Authorship program is a statement by Google giving credit where credit is due. With Authorship markups no longer being a factor in search results, will the SERPS continue to accurately filter original content posters to the top? Only time will tell, concludes Steven Wyer, and it will be interesting to watch how the change unfolds across the web.

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