Authors will no longer be able to display their image in Google’s Rich Snippets; a controversial decision that causes large decreases in click-through rates.
You’ve probably been asking yourself these days, “what happened to my author image?”. Well, nothing, Google has decided to delete our mugs from the SERP’s :-(.
Translated, John Mueller’s words to all SEOs sound like this:
“We’ve been working hard to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular, creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design for devices. As part of that, we’re simplifying the way Authorship is displayed in desktop and mobile search results, removing the profile photo and number of circles. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior across this new, less cluttered design is similar to the old one.)”
How do you stay…? With this decision, Google is also eliminating one of the factors that have contributed the most to encouraging authors and webmasters to join its social network.
But I don’t want to delve into the reasons for this decision until we have gone over some preliminary concepts. I’m sure many still don’t know what a Snippet is, where the author photo appeared, or whether Authorship is battery powered or plugged into the mains ;-). Those of you who follow me know that I like to break down information so that everyone can understand it. And if you already know what the topic is about, you can skip some sections and continue reading later.
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What are Google Snippets?
Snippet can be translated as “fragment” or “snippet”. Snippets are nothing more and nothing less than each of the search results that appear when we make a query on Google. The classic snippet form consists of three parts:
- Link: in blue. We click on it and it takes us to the site where the information comes from.
- Text: in black, an excerpt with information about the content.
- Url: in green color.
It’s no big secret. We have seen this a thousand times.
What about Rich Snippets?
On the other hand, the
are, literally translated, “rich snippets”, and provide extra content that is displayed in the SERP’s, and have a much more visual and attractive appearance.
I do not intend to delve into this. I will probably do so in future posts. I am only interested in defining the terms so that no one loses the thread. There are several types of Rich Snippets: some show little stars with the votes that a post or other content has received; others show videos; some display a logo and extra information about an organization, products, events, recipes… And the type of Rich Snippets we are interested in, showed the profile image of the author of the content, until the multinational company of Mountain View has decided to kill it. Google gives it to you, and Google takes it away!
It does not come with a plug, nor with batteries… In fact, in our language it means “authorship”. This is simply the last of the Rich Snippet variants I just discussed. Displays the author of the content. It is a way to connect your site with your Google+ account. Among other advantages, it allowed the photo with our face to appear. But not only that, but also the author’s name and circles on Google+. Now there is only the name and little else…
Why was the image so important in Autorship?
Because, even if it was something as seemingly superfluous as a photograph, it increased the CTR of a web page or blog. CTR stands for Click Through Rate, or “click through rate“.
The reason for this increase, as in many other issues related to online marketing, is rooted in that back room of the mind we call the unconscious. If you have come across a search result with Authorship’s photo, chances are you clicked on it without thinking about why you chose that result. That’s the great advantage of Rich Snippets for authors! If you are looking for information on how to set up an online store, for example, you want someone with a solid understanding of e-commerce to explain it to you. But the anonymity of the Internet means that anyone can pass themselves off as an expert, even if they have no idea what they are writing about. However, when someone puts their face next to the content, we automatically take it for granted that they are an expert who knows what they are talking about. Or would you show your true identity if you tried to pull a fast one?
Yes, yes, you are absolutely right. The appearance of a photo is no guarantee that the content is valuable. That’s why I say that we attribute authority to him “unconsciously” 😉
But there is more. Although not officially recognized by Google, it was an open secret that the image in the Google Snippet improved positioning. The reason? Because Google prioritizes the pages that receive the most visits. It is one of the important factors that the algorithm takes into account when ranking search results. The more visits, the more positioning; the better positioned a website is, the more visits… And so in a circle of happiness that every webmaster hopes to enjoy.
But what is fundamental here is to realize that, if Authorship’s image increased visits, something that is more than proven, John Mueller’s statements that I have shown you at the beginning, are a lie, and a big one! Anyone who has their Google+ account connected to their website or blog, and who knows their way around Google Analytics, can verify this.
Why Google has removed the image from Snippets
We finally arrive at the key question that makes sense of it all. What motivated Google to take our smiley faces out of the equation? Precisely, the Authorship photo was one of the attractions of being part of Google+, a social network that does not quite catch on with the average Internet user (you know, the one who spends all day on Facebook).
Google has gone to great lengths to encourage the use of its social network, almost to the point of extortion! How? Well, by shoehorned in, through exclusive advantages for Google+ users. The importance of the +1 button for SEO and Authorship for CTR are good proof of this.
If one of the main attractions of opening a Google+ account was to connect with the website to get the Authorship photo, it might seem that Google is throwing stones on its own roof. But there is another way of looking at the question: what is more important to Google than its social network…? (Drum roll…).
The answer is obvious, and this is what the vast majority of SEO experts have thought. The only thing more important, for Google, is its main source of revenue: Adwords.
The sponsored links system moves a lot of money, and it is logical to think that the big search engine has realized that, by attracting clicks to the Snippet with author photography, it is taking them away from its Adwords clients. And as far as Google+ is concerned, they have ensured that the Snippet does not disappear from the content shared on this social network, which appears in the SERP’s as if it were a site. Is it understood? No? Again: if you share a post on Google+, if someone performs a search that matches its content, your image and the post may appear, leaving a record that you shared it. Logically, it is a way to maintain a certain incentive for being part of Google. And that is the sad, faded shadow that remains of what Authorship’s profile picture once was….
At the end of the day, the Google guys are neither the safeguards of the quality of information on the Internet (as they believe), nor the conspirators who aspire to monopolize the Net with dark intentions (as many SEOs believe). Google is a company that looks after its economic benefits, and due to the great power it has acquired, it does and undoes at will. In the end, the simplest explanation is the one that always hits the nail on the head ;-).