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Google dropping profile images from Authorship Results

     
12:00 am on Jun 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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John Mueller of Google announced today that Google is dropping the display of profile images and circle count from its search results. The reason given is improving the visual display on mobile results and maintaining "a more consistent design across devices"....

John Mueller - Google+ - June 25, 2014
[plus.google.com...]
...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.)

For more information on using authorship on pages of your website, check out
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1408986 [support.google.com]

Thanks to Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land [searchengineland.com] for the heads up on this.
12:36 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Well, good. After all, it's been quite a few decades since most employers and universities figured out that asking applicants to include a head shot can lead to unintended consequences. Or intended ones, as the case may be. Same principle applies to searches. ("This must be the best recipe. The author looks nothing at all like my mother.")

Then again, maybe somebody noticed that every added image makes your SERP load that much slower.
1:44 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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unbelievable
1:45 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Oh well, I'll get rid of it then. I only did it for the picture. Didn't seem to help in any way.
1:56 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Like many Google things, the use of author images was a kind of public beta test. Did the photos add value to the search results? Not much. Did they help users find better content? Probably not. Did they invite abuse by SEOs and marketers? Absolutely yes. Will they be missed? Not by many, and not for long.
2:07 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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For the more savvy social media experts here, what would you suggest as a strategy for this move?

Our experience in posting original material has resulted in an almost 2 to 1 ratio FaceBook / Google Plus in terms of followers.

Google Plus authorship is dead from what I am reading on other forums.
2:45 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google Plus authorship is dead from what I am reading on other forums.


It isn't dead, it's just been stripped down to a byline and an identity platform.

Of the two, the identity platform is the one that matters.
3:05 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Bottom line profile images were drawing clicks away from the ads. No profile images more revenue for G.

Its all about money.

They need to remove it from G mail while they are at it.
3:17 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@breeks

"Bottom line profile images were drawing clicks away from the ads. No profile images more revenue for G. "

I think this may be behind it.

When using Google to search for something, I would more go for the Google Plus Author who I was already getting used to recognize and respect and ignore the other junk / big brands in a niche where you want independent advice.

This may be a relief for non-photogenic authors who never dared show their mug ;o)

[edited by: mromero at 3:18 am (utc) on Jun 26, 2014]

3:17 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Bottom line profile images were drawing clicks away from the ads. No profile images more revenue for G.


If Google didn't want author photos to distract people from ads, it wouldn't have used the photos in the first place. Or it would have restricted the use of author photos to SERPs without ads (not a bad idea, since that would have been a nice weapon against stupidities like claiming authorship for purely commercial pages like real-estate listings and corporate sell sheets).

Fact is, the authorship team was disbanded months ago, and the head of the project moved to another job. The handwriting was on the wall.
4:44 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't think it is a good idea to add profile google in search results, it doesn't help.
5:28 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The problem is Google wants to be social but it doesn't know how. I thought the images in the SERPs added a more human touch to it, a more social feeling. I find the images make locating certain sites and blogs so easy, I really liked it.

Google probably assumed, incorrectly, that tons of people would jump on the bandwagon for authorship instead of the handful of SEOs that did it.

IMO, this would be a prelude to dismantling G+
6:18 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Fact is, the authorship team was disbanded months ago, and the head of the project moved to another job. The handwriting was on the wall.


Could you share a link with more information about this?
7:34 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@micklearn, the article was linked to here: Google+ Is Walking Dead [webmasterworld.com...] back on April 24th this year.
7:38 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If they do something with Video markup spam I'll die happy!
7:55 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I think they should replace all authorship images with the Matt Cutts Twitter selfie.
8:19 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Could you share a link with more information about this?

micklearn - That Walking Dead article is pure link bait.

The disbanding of the Authorship Project was described in thoughtful terms in the opening of the AJ Kohn article that I link to in this thread about authorship...

Google Authorship deemphasizing markup, moving to entity extraction?
Oct 2013
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4619465.htm [webmasterworld.com]

AJ's article is worth a careful read. The article suggests that the shuttering of the Authorship Project did not signal an end to Google's pursuit of Authorship attribution. I don't believe that the dropping of profile photos from the serps signals an end to Authorship either. As with rich snippets, Google is relying more on authority and trust, and it is constantly refining its abilities to extract named entities.

It's also worth emphasizing that the photos have been replaced by clickable bylines, probably less likely to pull the eye away from the ads ;) ...and, for those who care, more likely to emphasize the author's name....

Author names in search results
https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/3382004 [support.google.com]
11:07 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Whenever I see a face in the SERPs, I figure that it's probably either a spammer or a wannabe and make sure not to click it. So if the faces are gone, I won't have that clue anymore.
11:49 am on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This is worth a read too.

Finding Entity Names in Google's Knowledge Graph
06/05/2014 - Bill Slawski
[seobythesea.com...]
.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:57 am (utc) on Jun 28, 2014]
[edit reason] added article name, date, and author's name [/edit]

2:35 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Another thought:

When author photos were introduced, they gave site owners an incentive to use Google Authorship markup.

Now that Google is using other techniques to determine authorship ("entity extraction," as AJ Kohn called it in his article that was mentioned above), that incentive is no longer needed.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying this is the only reason or even the main reason why Google decided to scrap author photos, but it certainly made the decision easier.
2:50 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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...profile images were drawing clicks away from the ads.


I like your way of thinking, it's good to look for connections. It's how things get discovered. Nice! So let's verify.

I checked the latest Google earnings report and it turns out that clicks are up year over year, not down. First quarter is down over the fourth quarter, but that's expected, post Christmas etc.

The idea that Google removed author profile pix because it drew clicks away from ads is not supported by the facts. ;)

http://investor.google.com/earnings/2014/Q1_google_earnings.html [investor.google.com]
3:23 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The idea that Google removed author profile pix because it drew clicks away from ads is not supported by the facts. ;)


Google is making tons of money and want more.

Profile pictures were giving a very slight advantage to some of the people that write Google's content (webmasters)

Even shifting .001 percent of the searchers away from the results to ads could mean millions of dollars more for G

Google is a business not your friend
3:41 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I wonder if "sponsored content" might be yet another reason why the Google search team might be skeptical of author photos now that they've inherited the project. Even The New York Times is getting into online advertorial in a big way:

[dish.andrewsullivan.com...]

I can't see Google wanting to display author photos next to results for advertorials--or wanting to expend the resources needed to keep that from happening. IMHO, the increased blurring of editorial and advertising is just another nail in the coffin of author photos.
3:43 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This is and interesting topic.

I'm sure over-use (or abuse, if you prefer) of the system contributed to google taking a review.

Adding pictures was taking up real estate, so it's no surprise Google decided to remove the pictures, making more space for other lovely stuff.

According to google's research, it did not affect click through. Clearly, it's the content that people seek, however, i'm surprised it gave similar click throughs.

Only the users losing their image will probably be able to tell if there's been a significant drop.
3:46 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Martinibuster, your conclusion would only be valid if no other changes had been made over that period.

In reality the knowledge graph, serps changes including panda and penguin, number of ads shown on pages and various other things all affect the number of clicks on any part of the page, so it is quite possible for a positive / negative effect due to one change being masked by negative / positive changes elsewhere.

That's not to say that I accept that they removed author photos in order to affect click rate elsewhere, just that the limited evidence available is insufficient to either confirm or deny it. I am surprised by the claim that:

Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one


Since that implies that the photos neither influenced the selection of results made by users or attracted clicks themselves, and therefore people were uninterested in whether a particular entry was by someone they were familiar with - which kind of undermines the whole 'social web' idea they have been pushing.
6:32 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Imagine serving up 10kb of images to a page. Not a big deal.

Imagine adding 10 kb of images to over 6,000,000,000 pages each day. We are talking massive bandwidth, slows down pages, impacts usability, and introduces maintenance issues to name a few headaches. If I had to guess they were tolerating these headaches in the short term to support Google+.

When trying to figure out Google's decisions and motives we should remember not to look at the issue through our eyes and based on our experiences. We should approach it as if we were Google. Big G is on a different scale and faces different issues that many webmasters have never even thought about.

I don't think this means Google authorship or Google+ is dead. Google knows that the link data which influences rankings is heavily abused. They have been seeking an alternative & Google authorship is a possible alternative. By removing the obvious profile images it can help lower the attention to authorship making it a more useful ranking signal and less abused.

ps Let's not forget orkut. Google never killed that so why would they ever kill Google+
6:52 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm quite glad to see it go, I had my photo up there, but was never comfortable with it. As a few of my competitors had their photo, I felt I should do it too.

To be honest, I don't think that it gave me more clicks. When I am searching, I am not particularly influenced by a photo. This is one decision I am happy about.

I also feel the need to be less reliant on Google products, including google +, which I've never really "got". The less of their stuff I use, the better. I trust Google about as much as I trust the government. They give and then they take away.
6:55 pm on June 26, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one


That's probably true, if they're talking about clickthrough rates on the SERP (as opposed to clickthrough rates on the individual results that had photos).

Also, if user metrics had shown that searchers were more satisfied with the "rich snippet"-enhanced results than with other results on the SERPs, there might have been a justification for keeping the photos. But we have no reason to assume that was the case.
3:57 am on June 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google paid 1 billion for twitch tv recently. Twitch tv streams games live online, with commentary. The site has its own facebook and twitter profiles prominently displayed in many places on the site, which is odd considering Google owns the site. Could this possibly be the beginning of the end of the G+ experiment? Google couldn't beat the competition(twitter/facebook) so perhaps they are joining them(smart, since that's where the people are)?

That's what I think when I see Google unlinking things that lead to G+(like profile images) given their zeal for making all roads point to G+ over the past year. youtubers revolted at being forced to have a G+ profile, did Google learn? If so, I hope we see more unplugging from G+ in the near future because forcing it from everywhere left a bad taste...

Many webmasters won't have much use for authorship now since they didn't use their G+ accounts anyway.
7:46 am on June 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I agree that G+ isn't going to go away. If anything, i've noticed Google themselves are using the platform much more.
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