Google Removes Author Photo from Search Results

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

ljh images / Shutterstock.comSince 2011, bloggers and content creators have enhanced their profile in search engine results by having their image and info on their Google+ circles show on search results. All of that came to an abrupt end last week when Google announced they will be removing of your photos and view counts from both the desktop and mobile search result pages. This article will address what is known about the change and what the possible the effects will be for internet marketers.

Though eye-tracking studies showed the images drew the reader’s attention, Google has decided to remove authorship photos and information from the search results. The changes will go into effect this week.

“We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices,” wrote John Mueller, an analyst for Google’s Webmaster, in a Google+ post. “As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)”

The change isn’t an indication that the photos weren’t working. According to the post from Mueller, the change to author photos is part of several changes to the user interface that should improve mobile usability.

“This is really just about the UI shown in search,” Mueller replied in one of the comments to his post. “We’re always working on making Google Search better — we made 890 updates in 2013 alone.  We’ve decided this new design works better, particularly on mobile.”

Interestingly, the precursor of this change happened a couple a months ago when it was noticed that some authorship photos were going missing, only to turn up again shortly afterward. At the time, most assumed it was just a test or glitch with Google. It didn’t seem likely that Google would abandon such a key feature of the Google Authorship project.

Mueller’s explanation seems to indicate Google feels removing the photos won’t hurt click through rates too badly. If they felt the “less-cluttered design” improved CTR, they would proudly say so. It’s understandable that some fans of the Google Authorship project are having trouble taking Mueller’s assertion at face value.

“It was surprising to see John Mueller say, ‘Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new, less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one,’” wrote Mark Traphagen, creator of the largest Google Authorship Community, in an article on SearchEngineLand.

Before providing a few possible explanations, he muses.“Why would Mueller say something so at odds with the conventional wisdom of the SEO community?”

Authorship photos may simply be a casualty of Google’s “mobile-first” design policy. Google expects mobile search traffic to eclipse its desktop brother sometime in the next two years. Google wants to have a unified user experience across platforms, so if authorship photos don’t work as well on mobile, then they had to go from desktop as well.

As much ire as the removal of the authorship photo has caused, the only thing marketers can do is mourn its passing. The authorship photo was an excellent way for bloggers to establish credibility and build their circle right from the search results page. Though this particular change is disheartening, there are a bunch of other good reasons to love Google, read this article on our site to help you remember the good things.

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