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The dust seems to be settling a bit after the rather unsettling news that Google removed author profile pictures and circle count from search results in late June. According to John Mueller’s post about this topic, the decision was in support of an effort to create a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.  Now instead of displaying the author’s head shot and circle count, Google displays the author byline.  The byline may display in Google search results when you are logged into Google and even if you’re not.

Google authorship results with byline only

And you also may see a profile picture displayed next to one of your Google Plus posts if it is shown in the results for a query when you’re logged into Google.

google plus post with author picture

Although the stated reason was to create a better user experience, many are speculating that the real reason Google deleted author photos was to boost Ad CTR (click through rate). After-all AdWords is the cash cow for Google, so it does make one wonder.

Whether you believe that Google made the decision on behalf of the user or if they did it to increase Ad revenue doesn’t really matter, the change has been implemented and now the question is whether or not it’s still worthwhile to verify your Google Authorship and actively participate in social networks, especially Google Plus.

Last year I wrote a post about the 7 benefits of authorship that go beyond SEO. (it’s hard to believe it’s been over a year ago!) The list I came up with is as follows:

Benefits of Google Authorship:

  1. Higher click through rates – statistically people click through at a higher rate on links with rich snippets
  2. Establish authority – a result with a headshot separates you from the back and reinforces that it’s a credible piece of content
  3. Keep your identity – a picture’s worth a thousand words – if you have a common name like ‘Beth Browning,’ you’ll be able to put the name with a face
  4. Beat plagiarism – the original author gets credit – wave goodbye to copy artists and article spinners
  5. Build Trust – it’s all about relationships and people and this is one more way to build trust in an on-line world
  6. Verify guest posts and comments – your profile follows along as you comment on blogs and publish posts on other blogs
  7. Elevate the value and role of writers – as businesses start to recognize the benefits, good writers won’t have to defend why they charge $100 or more for a blog post

Let’s take a quick look at each one and see whether or not they still stand true after the change was rolled out in June.

  1. Higher click through rates – this is an interesting one. Many tests were done to “prove” that click-through was higher on posts when the author photo was displayed. However there are also studies that show that authorship markup doesn’t seem to boost the amount of clicks for most types of results. If I were a betting woman, I’d bet that they increased the click-through rate for well known influence with large circle counts and little to no impact for the rest of us mere mortals, just my opinion. At any rate, it doesn’t really matter – just like always, the best way to get a good click-through is to have a good title.
  2. Establish authority – I think this one still holds true. IMO, a result with a byline still ties a “real” person to an article and can help to establish authority. Let’s also not forget about the topic of Author Rank. There’s been no indication that the notion of author rank will be abandoned, and I for one continue to believe that it will come into play sometime in the future. author rank definition
  3. Keep your identity – although a picture says a thousand words, a byline helps and having your identity associated with your content is nothing but beneficial, it makes it much less likely that your identity will be stolen by someone pretending to be you.
  4. Beat plagiarism – the original author gets credit – wave goodbye to copy artists and article spinners. This still stands true as well. Having your content properly attributed helps to make sure you aren’t outranked by scrapers and syndication sites.
  5. Build Trust – it’s all about relationships and people and this is one more way to build trust in an on-line world.  Yep, I believe this one still stands as well.
  6. Verify guest posts and comments – you can still associate your guest blog posts with your authorship and get credit for them.
  7. Elevate the value and role of writers – as the use  and value of authorship continue to evolve, so will the value of well-written authoritative content.

So, it looks like at least 6 of the 7 remain true and the one related to an increased click-through rate seems to be somewhat debatable.

Is authorship still worth it? I think so – what are your thoughts?