Google has announced that it is doing away with author photos in most search results, and that has left some web site owners upset. Some are left wondering why Google would revert back to a photo-free search page. Then there are those who want to know why Google would make its proprietary social network, Google+, less relevant.
Cyrus Shepard, who recently wrote about the latest change in a post for the popular SEO blog Moz, said it perfectly. “Along with many SEOs, I constantly advise webmasters to connect their content writers with Google authorship. Up until now, would-be authors clamored to verify authorship, both for the potential of increased click-through rates, and also for greater brand visibility by introducing real people into search results.”
So why the change now?
A Cleaner Visual Design
Web analyst John Mueller was the first to break the news on his Google+ page. His announcement claimed that Google was working to clean up the visual design of its results in an effort to create what he called a “better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.”
This makes sense. Google has already announced that it was moving towards a more mobile-centric design, and all those author photos do take up a lot of virtual real estate, especially on tiny screens.
However, many want to know why Google would be moving backwards when everyone else seems to be moving towards a more visual web experience. The comment by Mueller about Google cleaning up its visual design sounds good, but what about YouTube and other video thumbnails that will likely still remain? Will those be done away with, too?
A Way to Phase Out Google+?
Some bloggers feel that this move by Google is a way to silently phase out Google+. Usage of the social network has been falling for months now, and this move by the search giant will most likely make the situation even worse. Will it still be valuable for website owners to build up their Google+ profiles when authorship is no longer a reason to do so?
What About the Improved Click-Throughs?
Author photos were supposed to enhance click-throughs. Google has been telling us that for months. But Mueller claims that click-through rates are about the same when comparing author-free results to results with author photos. How can that be? Don’t most people appreciate the fact that a real person wrote the content they’re about to click on and read?
Regardless of what will happen, we can probably bank on the fact that Google+ and authorship aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Google hasn’t announced that they are going away completely and the search giant must still have some future surprises. So if you have been working hard to build up your Google+ profile continue doing what you’re doing. Most people writing about this subject feel that Google will reward your efforts eventually.
As for the disappearing author photos, there are some who suspect that the images were interfering with Google’s ad clicks. Any decrease in paid ad clicks would effectively cut into Google’s bottom line, which could be the reason. Was Google losing too much ad revenue and that’s why it backtracked on authorship photos? If so will that mean increased click through rates in the future for Adwords accounts?
We’ll just have to wait for more information to emerge. Until then, keep watching for the photo-free changes, which are being rolled out globally in the future. Hopefully Google will provide a replacement that will help users determine that the content they are seeing is coming from a credible human source.