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:
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.