googleEnd of last month Google pulled the plug on Authorship that allowed linking up content with a Google+ profile. This worked either by "rel =" author "or with a link to the Google+ profile of the author, so that Google could recognize properly who wrote the article.

In the search engine result pages (SERPs) of Google the Authorship had the effect that, in addition to the search result, an image of the author, his name, and the number of Google + contacts appeared. Unfortunately, Google never hit it big and got out of the experimental phase with its authorships.


Of course, Google wanted to push ahead the growth of its network Google+ with the Authorship and had the patent on Authorship and the related Agent Rank respectively, already patented in 2007. From Authorship, Google hoped to get, over the long term, a reliable factor to evaluate the quality of content on the net much better, as unlike links, Authorships are difficult to manipulate. Furthermore, an image gets more attention in the SERPs, which leads automatically to higher click-through rates (CTR), not to mention that for the user an author’s picture is a sign of quality.

An article Authorship markup comes across as trustworthy and allows faster estimations whether the target article is of high quality and therefore worth reading, besides preventing duplicate content as Google knows now the original author and may punish plagiarists in a targeted manner. Hence, the Google Authorship is important for copyright protection, too.

A quote from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, actually leaves no doubt that Google wanted to go into this direction, staying: „Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results […]. The true cost of remaining anonymous then might be irrelevance; even the most fascinating content, if tied to an anonymous profile, simply won’t be seen because of its excessively low ranking.”


There have been indeed plenty of good reasons for the use of the Google Authorships, especially for authors who want to build up a strong reputation on the Web, although there would be a loss of anonymity. Pity, therefore, that Google couldn’t develop it to its full potential and it doesn’t answer the question “Why not?” either. 

The idea to influence page rankings based on the reputation of its authors by using digital signatures is great, scoring trusted agents higher than those who didn’t earn a good reputation, yet. Only around three years ago Google began to encourage webmasters to use the rel=”author” and rel=”me” tags for pieces of content that an author wrote, and when Google+ was unveiled, the entire Google Authorship plan came together as there was a way to connect content with its authors.


In the end, the idea probably didn’t take off as expected due to the low adoption rates by webmasters and authors and the fact that it provided no sufficient added value for searchers. 

In his post, declaring the end of Authorship, Google’s John Mueller stated that the displayed author information seemed not to have been “as useful to our users as we’d hoped, adding, “with this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing Authorship in search results.” However, he explains as well, Google is “strongly committed to continuing and expanding support of structured markup”, such as, since “this markup helps all search engines to better understand the content and context of pages on the web”, confirming that Google will continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.

That sounds as if Authorship is coming back one fine day – and then for sure much stronger!

By Daniela La Marca