Don’t take a sledgehammer to your writing yet (image: weekofart.com)
At the end of 2013 I posted an article titled Bold SEO Predictions for 2014. Well it seems I have a penchant for fortune telling because within a few days of that release item #3, which stated that Google Authorship would start to get strict, began to come true. As we enter the third week of the new year it is now even more obvious that this move from Google has taken full effect. Webmasters from all corners of the world are reporting a partial loss of their beloved Authorship. “Partial” you ask? Yes. You see, up until a few weeks ago you either had Google Authorship connected to your content or you didn’t. Authorship as we knew it was evident when our Google+ profile photo and full name accompanied a search result link on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). Not only have studies shown that a higher click-thru-rate (CTR) accompanied results with “trustworthy” authors connected to the articles, it simply provided online content editors/writers with a sense that they were on the right track. Remember how good it felt the first time you saw your picture up there next to an article on Google Page One? But now, hoards of authors have lost their little photo, leaving only their name. Not all is lost, but it sure is a bummer, leaving many to wonder what happened and what, if anything, can they do about it?
What You Need to Know About the Google Authorship Update
1. Class Division
First of all, it is evident that Google Authorship at the moment has been divided by two classes. There is “first class” which is the same Authorship from before. Those sitting in the first class get to enjoy all the benefits of Google Authorship as we have known it. Your profile photo and full name are on display on the SERP, resulting in higher visibility and most likely a higher CTR. Then for those of you sitting behind the curtain, there is “economy class”. Economy class has removed your profile photo, leaving only your name in subtle digital ink, noticeable, but certainly not as enticing to someone scanning for photos on the SERP. Below I am providing an example. In one instance you see my Authorship evident after a search for “get on google page one” – first class all the way! However in the next instance, within minutes of the first search you can Google “best tiki bars in america” and you will find another article by me on another site on an entirely different topic, but sans photo. What gives?
#2 position on Google page one w/first-class Authorship (above)
#2 position on Google page one w/economy-class Authorship (above)
2. PageRank Update Correlation
Why did Google seat me with champagne and caviar for the first search and then relegate me to a mini-bag of pretzels and tap water in the second? Page Rank has something to do with it. Over a month ago we were delivered an update to Google Page Rank. Reports from webmasters that have dropped in Page Rank post-update also have coincided with a loss of their photo in Authorship. Now the second site that I casually contribute to was actually rewarded with an increase in Page Rank but it still only has a PR 2, whereas this internet marketing website holds onto a strong PR 4 score. Thus it makes sense that the first class Authorship was maintained in the first instance. The takeaway here is that all efforts should be made to follow the webmaster guidelines that Google judges websites by with its PR score – cleaning up your backlink profile is the first step, and reading further below will provide further insight.
3. Content Frequency
Another reason many of you are sitting in economy class is because you have not been updating your content on a regular basis. If it’s been weeks since you updated your site with content (informative pages, blog articles, internal press releases, etc…) then this may have caused your profile photo to disappear. I have not contributed a new article to the second example (economy class) in two months which may have contributed to the text-only Author cred. Start writing new content the minute you finish (and share) this article.
4. Content Quality
The fact that you’ve kept your Authorship in any form after the update indicates you still are providing high quality content for users to consume. If you were not, you would have lost it altogether. However regardless if you are in first or economy class at the moment you should seek to increases your content quality even more to ensure you either keep, or improve, your status. If you are not the sole contributor to editorial work on your website (which I am not for the second example) then it is important that you remind anyone providing submissions that nothing less than high-quality original content will suffice. If you are outsourcing your content overseas for example, you may reconsider for the sake of quality.
5. Google+ Engagement
While there is no proof that your activity on Google+ impacts your Authorship status common sense dictates that it does. Think about it. If your Authorship is born from your Google+ profile as it connects to your content then certainly your activity, or lack thereof, on the G+ networking platform will have some sort of influence. Hop on Google+ daily and contribute to communities that relate to the content where you have Authorship. Post your content within G+ the second it’s been published on your website, interact with those in your Circles, and answer questions in discussions on G+ at every turn.
The verdict is still out on this recent change to Google Authorship. Some theorize that the loss of photos is a temporary glitch, and I do concur that in some cases it is, but evidence suggests it is a combination of the above. Either way by following the above tips I am confident that you will return to your first class seat. Google updates always come down to content so play by the rules and your pretty little picture will once again be on full display for all to see (and click!).