In 2013, Google slowly began removing author images from its SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). The removal reached a critical point on June 25th 2014 when author images disappeared completely.
Previously, Google Authorship had been hailed as an ingenious way for authors and content creators to establish themselves as authorities in their fields.
Having Google Authorship meant that alongside your search result Google would display your image, by-lines, links to other posts, and analytic information from your Google + profile. This allowed you to build up your online reputation even if people did not select your result.
It was designed to rule out spammers and to give lesser known people a chance to become well-known. However, this has all disappeared. Now all that is displayed is your by-line and a link to your Google + profile; but not on every SERP and only if you’re a verified author.
Is Google’s change for the better?
Critics argue that the change goes against the belief that authorship is an important factor in increasing CTR. Others believe that the change makes it impossible for new comers to make it to the top.
Whilst both views are valid, the loss of author images is because Google is making SERPs more mobile friendly.
It is not long until users will be doing more searches on mobiles than on any other device, with predictions indicating that mobile searches will overtake the desktop searches as early as the end of this year. This is an opportunity for you to make your search result as mobile friendly as possible.
Pictures and unnecessary links clutter up the results pages, and make it more time consuming for the searcher to find what they are looking for.
Furthermore, the images were potentially competing with Google Ads. Google was also concerned that too many results on SERPs were through people intentionally using authorship incorrectly to rise up the search rankings under false pretences. This was lowering the overall quality of the authorship program.
Google insists that there will be no detrimental effects on CTR because of this change. Their own studies have shown that there is no difference in CTR between results with author images and by-lines and those without.
However, it should be noted that this flies in the face of results from other studies which show a CTR increase of 30-150 per cent for those results with rich snippets.
Is authorship still important?
In spite of the contradictory studies, Google assures us that their goal continues to be to create higher visibility for those results that are credible and popular.
Google authorship is still worthwhile, using the programme means your byline and links to your profile are still displayed; which will promote your name and increase the chances of web surfers recognising it.
It indicates that your result was written by a real person and this will help to build up your online reputation. Your ranking, and therefore CTR, will increase with Google as you build up your popularity and authority, and Google Authorship will help to do this.