**UPDATE – 26th June 2014**
Google has announced it is getting rid of authorship pictures in the SERPs for ALL authors, regardless of your authority. Its now one rule for all which kind of makes me feel less sore about having lost mine a while back. G
oogle’s official reason for getting rid of the profile picture is apparently, the click through rate with the uncluttered version is the same as before so its ok to do it but that’s complete rubbish in my opinion. The conspiracy theorists among us would suggest that it was driving too many clicks away from paid ads!
You can learn more about the announcement here:
Whilst authorship still does not work for my own author profile, an author I invited to write a post on Bing Webmaster Tools SEO Tips has now had his author picture showing for that article on my website in Google’s Serps:
In the meantime, my authorship picture is still not being displayed since Google removed it as part of their clamp down on authorship spam.
The conclusions I draw from this is that Google’s algorithm for determining whose picture gets to show and whose does not primarily relates to the strength of your individual authorship authority. The authority of the website however must have some influence though because my authorship does not show for my own website but does for other more established site’s I have written for.
So it looks like for me, I need to get more people to join my Google Plus circles to build up my authorship. Maybe with time, I will have enough people in my circles for Google to reward me with my authorship picture for my own site that was wrenched away from me!
If you are reading this, maybe you could help test that theory by adding me to your Google Plus circles, you can do that here on my Google Plus link. I try to write useful SEO related articles which I announce through my social media channels so please give it a go, if not just to read something new and SEO related!
Original article now follows below:
So a few days ago, my Google Authorship profile picture disappeared from my website listings. This is what pages of my website used to look like in the SERPs until very recently:
Yep, very pretty and very proud to have my face displayed in the SERPs.
However, this is what the same result looks like now:
To begin with, I thought this was just a blip by Google and that it wouldn’t be too long before the profile picture returned to my pages. However, a week later and still no joy.
The first thing I decided to check was whether there was something wrong with my webpages which I did by pasting the URL into Google’s Rich Snippet Testing tool but as you can see from the below image, all is as it should be:
So I’m fairly certain that whatever has happened, it isn’t to do with any changes I’ve made to my site recently.
My curiosity has been sparked further by the fact that my authorship image still displays in the SERPs for articles I have written on other sites. These sites are significantly more established and authoritative than my own so could it be that Google doesn’t see my site as being trustworthy enough to display authorship profile pictures in its SERPs?
This is interesting as we know Matt Cutts recently said at Pubcon in October that Google was planning on reducing the percentage of rich snippet enabled results in its SERPs by around 15%, most likely to counter the increasing spamming of rich snippets such as fake reviews.
So could it be that Authorship was included in that 15% and that Google is targeting sites it doesn’t trust as much rather than the authors themselves? It makes total sense to me that Google limits the display of rich snippets in its SERPs to only the most trusted of sites and that you have to work hard on your site over a period of time to build up sufficient trust before being rewarded with rich snippets. However, in the case of Google Authorship, I think this is the wrong way around.
For example, if I manage to get Rand Fishkin to contribute a post to my site and that the article is tagged correctly with this authorship data, is that not a signal itself that the site (or at the very least, the page) is an authoritative and legitimate piece of content? As an author, I would want anything I publish on the internet to be associated with me and Google Authorship is a good way of doing this. Seeing an author’s profile picture that you trust next to a search result of interest gives me confidence that despite what particular site the post is on, it will be a quality article that I can place trust in and by extension, trust in the website publishing the content too.
If Google has decided to only display authorship pictures for sites that it trusts, even if well established and trusted authors are contributing to that site, it seems more than harsh to me that that site does not get the benefit Google Authorship pictures in the SERPs having been able to get established, respected and trusted authors to write for it.
I am going to test my theory in the coming days by inviting some more established authors (yet to see their profile pictures disappear) to contribute some content to my site. If their profile picture does not display in the SERPs for the content, then my theory will be confirmed. If it does, well, I’ll have learnt something along the way!
I guess maybe I need to continue building up my Google Plus profile as well. I have noticed for sometime that none of my posts have the “in xxx circles” text that you see on most other listings with an authorship profile (see comparison pictures below). Could it be that for those that don’t have enough people in their Google Circles, your authorship picture doesn’t show? I know that I am only in 10 other people’s circles. Is there a minimum you need to be in before Google recognizes that you are a person with something interesting to say and that they measure this by the number of people who have added you to their circles? Kind of makes sense I guess.