Google blandify the web by removing profiles from search

28 June, 2014 by Tom Elliott

Today, Saturday 28th June 2014, seems to be the day that Google have fully removed authorship profile pictures and circle counts from search engine results as recently announced here. The old landscape of plain links and descriptions have returned, albeit with a minor change to the author name appearing alongside results.

I think this is a shame and like many others, I don’t like it. There are a number of reasons why I thought profile pics were a good thing:

  1. Authorship gave the SERPs a more personal touch – we could see immediately some of the real men and women behind the content behind the internet
  2. It allowed us to easily identify and pick out respected industry leaders from a visual cue. I liked the fact that I was immediately drawn to articles for example from people like Chris Coyier and David Walsh who I know will have something valuable or useful to say about the topic I’m searching for.
  3. It helped us more easily distinguish between result types. For example blog articles by individual authors are more likely to have profiles than pages from forums or commercial sites.
  4. It varies up search listings with a richer, more aesthetic visual appeal

Sure, you have to sign up to Google+ and update your site in order to enable authorship in the first place, but I think this was totally worthwhile – especially for smaller publishers and hobbyist bloggers like myself, who had been given the chance to add a bit of a visual dimension to our words in the SERPs.

It’s too early to say how these changes will impact traffic to authorship enabled sites (I might update this post with results if they’re interesting). I’ve seen a number of examples of sites that enjoyed increased traffic through the use of authorship profiles, along with interesting and positive experiments with more professional mugshots. But these experiments were all done in isolation, alongside the presence of other profile enabled results… so I don’t think this levelling of the field by Google will have as big a negative impact as some might think.

Why have Google done this? The official response is UX led; to “clean up visual design” and to provide a “better mobile experience” but many, like Dan Shure, speculate this is a move to phase Google+ out. Others make a case that by having a blander, more uniform set of links, then people are more likely to click the (increasingly looking) bland and uniform ads.

After all G+ hasn’t exactly been a romping success for Google in it’s attempt to carve a chunk of the social media pie. Google+ has often seemed to me to be a hive of activity for marketing, SEO and PR folk and a bit of a graveyard for everyone else.

In fact, the main reasons why I (occasionally/sporadically) use G+ myself is not because I particularly like the platform, but to share blog articles (hello do-follow links) and try and build up circle count (immediate indication of authority in SERPs). I suspect many others primarily use G+ for this same reason and I would love to see the stats showing a drop in usage for the platform after today.

So there you have it. The Big G take away a nice feature from search, people are sad, and we’re left to moan about it with words that will appear in bland and uniform links on the web.

Getting your profile pic to appear in Google for blog posts (Google+ Authorship) »


  • sarah says:

    Great article. I find it annoying when google has one feature and then takes it away. At first I assumed that the links with photos were sales people, but the profile pics grew on me. Funny how google pushed their new focus on design at the google I/o conference, cause they still are just experimenting. They’ll probably pull back on design if that seems necessary. Goolgle seems to be more willing to do what’s necessary to get the job done, than to hold onto an idea and take the risk that it could suck for a while, but then become the new found favorite. I think google+ is great for groups and virtual meetups. I really enjoyed seeing president obama in a google hangout. I’m taking an online class and the google community is what makes it feel more like classroom. Facebook has groups but its not the same.

    • Tom Elliott says:

      Hey Sarah, thanks – yeah, I agree. I should try not to get too attached to anything Google do because there’s a good chance they can take it away again. Like I read in a recent article, it’s like they’re throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks!

  • Luke Johnson says:

    Nice blog/site and article. Just two quick comments:

    Totally random, but I found it funny when I read the first line of the article (“Google have fully removed authorship profile pictures and circle counts…”), which is different than how we use the English language in my country (in the U.S., we’d say “Google has fully removed…”), and my suspicions were confirmed when I looked at your contact page. I just think it’s interesting how we “Yankees” refer to companies more in the sense of them being unique entities, whereas I guess you would most likely refer to companies as the collection of individuals therein? Correct me if I’m wrong on that. So that really has nothing to do with the content of the article, but it was the first thing that jumped out at me. Also, I realize that American English is the offshoot and not the original, so I’m in no way denouncing your usage, just so you know.

    The other thing I was gonna say is actually related to the article. Maybe it’s a little bit cynical, but I think at the end of the day, Google is a company that wants to make money just as badly as any other company, so regardless of whether Google+ is going away or not, I could definitely see them pulling the authorship photos so as to avoid losing revenue from paid search.