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Google Authorship Is Over: 4 Reasons To Justify Its Removal

When we wrote about Google Authorship and the Possibility of an Author Rank, little did we know that Google authorship would be doomed so soon. Panda, Penguin and Pigeon updates aside, this is one update that has come as a shock to the SEO and blogging world. That’s right, Google authorship is over. It has been discontinued for many reasons; reasons we are going to discuss today.

But first let’s take a tour of Google Authorship’s ambitious three years of existence. This was one project that gave authors high expectations about getting well-deserved recognition on Google search and earning a reputation to influence the ranking of their content on search (a.k.a. author rank).

A Quick Look At Google Authorship’s Short Life Story

Back in 2011, Google made an annoucement about Google authorship and encouraged authors and publishers to connect their Google+ account to the site where their content resides. The owners of those Google+ profiles were then acknowledged in search results as authors of that content. It was a part of the structured data markup that was used to produce rich snippets in search. As a result, Google search results started looking colorful, with photographs of authors in some search snippets, as shown below:
Author Photographs Shown In Google Search Results
Author Photographs Shown In Google Search Results

From Google’s point of view, there were bugs to fix and spam to fight on the Google authorship road. Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst from Google Switzerland, John Mueller, subtly announced the demise of Google authorship toward the end of August 2014.

John Mueller’s primary role is to connect webmasters with engineers at Google, which means he manages to effectively communicate feedback from webmasters to Google engineers. Apart from Google authorship he was closely associated with the Google Webmaster Tools and Sitemap teams.

From the users’ point of view, Google authorship made some blunders, most notably where a man was attributed as the author of an article 28 years after his death. Flaws aside, Google authorship did give a certain authority to content with a recognizable human author. It encouraged authors and publishers of online content to carve their niche with quality content because they got credit for it. It was also considered a way to improve clickthroughs in search results.

In June 2014, however, Google discontinued displaying author photos. This was mainly because they occupied precious real estate on Google’s mobile SERPs. Instead, they limited the display of author information to names and the number of Google plus circles they were in for blog posts and article snippets. By the end of August 2014, they completely removed Google authorship.

Justifications For Taking Down Google Authorship

There are more than a couple of reasons for taking down Google Authorship. The first two listed below are directly given by Google, the third is deduced by renowned SEO experts and the fourth one is our own. Let’s take a look at each of them in detail.

1. Not Useful?

Google is all about user-experience and they introduce many products and technologies to enrich that on a regular basis. Google Authorship was primarily released to attribute content to human authors and put a futuristic agent rank or author rank into practical use. But it also made sense to consider the fact that search engine users would trust content that is attributed to a human author and prefer them over syndicated, automated, machine generated or thin content with no name on it.

This eye tracking study conducted with LookTracker on fifteen test subjects, proved that among a list of search snippets, the ones with an authorship caught the most attention than paid ads or the first organic search result. Three types of study was carried out and the conclusion was that even though the few search snippets without authorship on the top garnered user attention because of their position, towards the lower end the snippets with authorship captured the user’s eye. The ones without an authorship placed towards the end were not viewed much, as compared to the ones with authorship.
A screenshot of one such heatmap result is shown below:
Heatmap Study On Influence Of Authorship Search Snippets Among Non-Authorship Ones
Heatmap Study On Influence Of Authorship Search Snippets Among Non-Authorship Ones

According to John Mueller, however, the main reason to take down Google authorship is because there is no notable difference seen in the search behavior of an average person, with or without authorship in the snippets. In their tests, the absence of authorship did not cause a reduction in traffic. They say that not only does it seem to be less useful to the average searcher but it may also be a distraction to them.

Mueller was probably talking about mobile users here, as an author photo, name and number of circles takes up a lot of screen space and may distract the mobile user from his/her primary search task. As for desktop users, we don’t think it was a distraction. It certainly was useful in filtering manned content from unmanned. Anyway, as the drift of search traffic is increasing rapidly on mobile, this is probably a wise decision.

2. Improve Mobile Performance

Almost two months ago, when search results were sans author photo, John Mueller explained that the reason for this was to improve the mobile experience. And like we mentioned above, authorship information on search results probably did distract mobile users of Google search.

3. Little Or Incorrect Implementation Of Authorship

According to other search experts, such as Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen of, the authorship markup was not implemented by the majority of authors around the globe. Even if they did implement it there were often mistakes in adding the rel=”author” tag on their sites or adding their site URL to the ‘contributor to’ section on Google+.

This is probably because Google+ was fairly new and people without a digital marketing background wouldn’t know how important it was to have a profile on Google+ to link authorship to their content. Google has been spotted automatically attributing content to authors in some cases where authorship was not implemented but there were errors in that too.

4. Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon

Taking into consideration all the reasons for shutting down Google authorship as stated by Google staff and SEO experts, we also have a deduction of our own. One of the reasons for this unforeseen step taken by Google would be its algorithmic updates. Search results have become so clean after introducing the Google updates at regular intervals, that content probably doesn’t need to be tagged to a human author as a mark of quality. So, with or without the author information, Google seems to be serving quality content to users and thus authorship does not matter anymore.

These are the four major reasons for the shocking yet understandable death of Google authorship. As for authors who think that Google may use the authorship information for their own reference, we can tell you that John Mueller confirmed in the comments section of his Google+ post that they would not.
John Mueller Confirming Google Authorship Not To Be Used Anywhere
John Mueller Confirming Google Authorship Will Not Be Used Anywhere

NOTE: We’d like to clarify two things that remain unaffected by the removal of Google authorship.
1. The publisher markup is not affected by this update. John Mueller has confirmed that in the comments section of his Google+ post:

John Mueller Says Publisher Tag Remains Unaffected
John Mueller Says Publisher Tag Remains Unaffected

2. When logged into Google+ you can still see posts and pages from people and pages in your Google+ circles, both in the main search results and on the right hand-side.

Things We’ve Lost Since Google Authorship Was Taken Down

  • Author Recognition: Bloggers all over the world finally got to be known by their names and faces thanks to Google Authorship. Their work was credited duly in search results with a photo and a name. People recognized these faces but this is not the case any more.
  • Social Recognition: Authors were also recognized on their respective social media profiles that contained the same author photo.
  • Author Rank: Since authors were given due credit for their work, there was a possibility of an author rank being introduced in the future. There remains no current hope for an author rank.
  • Google+ Significance: Many authors started to use Google+ profiles to share useful content in order to increase their Google+ profile authority. Since the Google authorship take-down the significance of Google+ for authors remains a big question.
  • Click-Through Rates: As mentioned above, Google reported no significant increase in click-through rates in snippets containing author information and photographs. To some readers, however, who started to develop a sense of trust in a certain author, click-through rates on other posts of the same author increased. This will no longer be possible.
Google is not to blame though – when it introduced Google Authorship back in 2011 Google referred to it as ‘an experiment’. Three years down the line the experiment did not yield the expected results in global online presence, so it had to be taken down.
Google Authorship Was An Experiment

Google Authorship Was An Experiment

Hope is not lost. We can always expect Google to use the concept of agent rank or author rank in the near future in a better way.  Maybe they’ll come up with a new way of bringing back all the benefits that Google authorship once offered.

How Will Changing IP Addresses Impact SEO?

Never has something so simple as a string of numbers inflicted as much fear and confusion as IP addresses. Add SEO complications into the mix and you’ve got some very frustrated webmasters.

IP addresses are a little complicated – they’re hardworking things after all. But there’s no need to fear them. In this blog post we’ll explain what IP addresses are and what you can expect if you decide to change yours. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot simpler than you’d think!

Firstly, What Is an IP Address?

Every machine connected to the internet – including your personal computers and the machines that store website data (servers) – has a unique IP address. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a string of numbers that acts as an identifier for all devices. It’s essentially a code that allows all machines (regardless of location) to ‘talk’ to each other via the internet.

An IP address consists of four numbers (of one to three digits), separated by a single dot. Each of the numbers can range from 0 to 255, so an IP address might look like this:

IP addresses are the single most important thing in technology today. Without them we simply would not be able to use the internet. IPAddress explains further:
IP Address Checker - WooRank Blog
“This innocuous-looking group of four numbers is the key that empowers you and me to send and retrieve data over our internet connections, ensuring that our messages, as well as our requests for data, will reach their correct internet destinations. Without this numeric protocol, sending and receiving data over the World Wide Web would be impossible.”

Will Changing IP Address Impact My Website’s SEO?

Websites also have IP addresses, assigned by the server on which they are stored. If you move your website to a new server (also known as a hosting service) the IP address of your site will change. This puts many people off making the move because they fear that such a drastic change will have a huge impact on their website’s SEO. All that hard work optimizing their website undone in one fell swoop.
But are these concerns legitimate or is this another myth borne from Google’s notorious secrecy? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that for the most part there’s little to worry about. According to our research, the SEO impact of changing IP addresses is minimal.

Image shared by LeadQual once they changed their IP
LeadQual, a US based marketing agency, recently moved their website to a new hosting service. They were interested in the impact of such a move on SEO and so carefully monitored their rankings for six weeks after the deed was done. They noticed no decline in their rankings during that period. In fact, LeadQual claim their rankings actually improved ever so slightly.

Many other word-of-mouth reports suggest similar stories. Rankings were either unaffected or slightly improved by moving to a faster server.

Of course, as with most things there are a few possible exceptions, such as geolocation and server ‘quality’. The location of the new server is especially important – if, for example, you are targeting an American audience, it is advisable to use an American server. As for the quality of a server, if it is especially slow or you move to a blacklisted neighborhood, you may notice a drop in your rankings.

How to Change IP Addresses Seamlessly

SEO may not be an issue, but there are other things that can go wrong when you change IP addresses. It’s a highly technical process which involves transferring all of your website files from one place to another. It’s a bit like moving important physical documents from an office in London to offices in New York. Documents could be lost in transit or filed wrongly when they arrive in the new location, causing confusion and chaos.

Google’s very own Matt Cutts (an expert on all things SEO) provides a solid, easy to follow guide for moving to a new webhost. The best thing about Cutts’ method is that he has tried and tested it on his own website, so it’s based on practice rather than theory. By following Matt Cutts’ five step method you can move to a new IP address without having problems in Google or suffering any downtime. This means if you need to change your hosting service for any reason, you can do so without fear of losing business.

How To Recover From A Penguin Penalization

By now, you’ve probably heard all about Google’s algorithms. If you’re not familiar with Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird (the algorithm’s cutesy code-names), be sure to read this excellent, in-depth guide.

Google’s not-so-fluffy algorithms have been sending the SEO community into a spin since 2011, when the first (Panda) went live. And frequent updates have continued to wreak havoc on unsuspecting websites.

If you’ve been hit by an algorithm penalty, it may feel like it’s the end of the road. Watching your rankings tank and your organic traffic decline can be devastating, but it is possible to recover. In fact, it’s even possible to improve on your pre-penalty rankings and traffic.

A few blog posts ago, we showed you how to recover from a Panda penalty. Today, we’ll be showing you how to bounce back from a Penguin penalty.

A Brief History of the Penguin Algorithm

Before we go on, let’s first take a look at what the Penguin algorithm is and does. Announced in April 2012, Penguin decreases the search rankings of websites that violate Google’s guidelines. More specifically, it targets sites using manipulative black-hat tactics such as link spam and keyword stuffing.

There have been 5 further updates (confirmed) to the Penguin algorithm, which amounts to roughly 2 or 3 a year. The most recent was on October 17, 2014 and it impacted around 1% of all English search queries. This number may seem insignificant, but in reality it means millions of pages were de-ranked.

Identify the Penalty

If you wake up one morning to discover your rankings have suddenly tanked, you’ll probably want to leap into action. The very first thing you need to do then is identify the penalty. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know what it is.

There are two types of penalty: manual and algorithmic. Manual penalties are easy to identify – you’ll find a message from Google in your Webmaster Tools account. Google won’t let you know if you’ve been hit by an algorithm penalty, but a severe and sudden drop in traffic will give it away.

Sudden Drop In Website Traffic Indicates A Penguin Attack

Sudden Drop In Website Traffic Indicates A Penguin Attack
To find out which algorithm has affected your website, use Algoroo or Mozcast to check for recent updates. If for example you noticed a decline in traffic after October 17th penalty.

Analyze Problem Areas

Bad links and on-site spam are the usual suspects for a Penguin penalty. First, you will need to analyze all of your sites inbound links and get rid of harmful ones. Second, review your website for issues with keyword stuffing, hidden text and link cloaking.

Jason DeMers claims that the overwhelming majority of Penguin penalties are doled out because of link spam, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. Bad inbound links might include:
  • Paid for links (not advertising)
  • Links on article directories and link farms
  • Links in non-industry specific directories
  • Links embedded in spammy content
Use Google Webmaster Tools To Check Inbound Links To Site

Use Google Webmaster Tools To Check Inbound Links To Site

You can use your link profile (found in Google Webmaster Tools) to search for these types of links. This may be a long and tedious process, especially if you have thousands of back links but it is absolutely necessary for recovery. Here is a really useful guide to performing link audits. However, if you don’t have the time and/or patience to do it yourself, consider enlisting the help of professional auditors.

Remove and Disavow Bad Links

Now you have a list of all suspicious looking links, it’s time to get rid of them. There are a couple of ways to do this – you can ask the source website to remove the link or you can disavow them. It’s important to note that just disavowing links may not be enough, so you should absolutely try to have them removed first.
Disavow Tool - Blog WooRank
Google Disavow Tool

Contact the webmaster of the source site and ask politely that they remove the link/s. There’s a great email request template at the end of this post (though the whole article is worth a read). Send a follow-up email after a couple of weeks if you don’t hear back. In some cases your request will be denied or ignored so this is when you will need to disavow the link instead. Some SEO’s recommend performing disavow requests on every bad inbound link, even the ones that have been removed. This is entirely your call of course, but it’s definitely worth considering.

Reassess Your SEO Strategy

‘Prevention is better than cure’ or so the old saying goes. The cost of being hit by a Google penalty is too great to ignore. It’s time to clean up your act.

You need a new SEO game plan that plays by the rules. Familiarise yourself with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, shun all spammy practices and focus on creating a marketing strategy that will make your mother proud. The three pillars of excellent SEO are: killer content, a great social media campaign and natural inbound links.

Remember, the tactics that worked a few years ago are old hat today. Don’t risk another penalty by continuing with these shady SEO tactics.

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