My Take on Google Removing Authorship Photos
On the 25th of June, Google’s John Mueller announced that they were going to remove the authorship pictures and Google Plus circle counts from the search results page on a global scale. It’s now the 28th of June (as I write this) and they have already implemented the ‘change’ to the SERPs. The search results already look significantly different. I guess for the casual user they won’t really see the difference and this has really only affected article related searches and not really the product side of search.
So, why Google? What gives?
Google has put this down to a visual design “clean up” and with Google talking a lot more about the growth of mobile – they are simply trying to cater to a less cluttered GUI… or so they say.
There are some theories going around saying that the authorship snippet profile pictures were drawing too much attention away from Google’s much lucrative ads. And some even saying that they have removed the pictures because Google’s attempt to force people to use G+ has been a failure. Whether Google is telling the truth on why they are removing it is all too difficult to conclude, as they could have done this for any number of reasons. Hell, perhaps those images were contributing to a slower load time for mobile users and were adding that extra bit of latency? Or perhaps their analysis shows that too many people are clicking on the actual profile pictures (leading to a G+ profile page) rather than the actual articles that people searched for. It could be anything!
In my humble opinion, I put this move to remove the authorship images down to multiple reasons that have factored into this abandonment. I believe one of the reasons is this is just another update part of a mobile SERP update and just to be consistent they have rolled out the same update on desktop & tablet. If you look into it a bit more, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, stated at the recent SMX West conference that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if mobile search would surpass desktop queries this year. In 2010, Google’s Eric Schmidt announced that Google would do everything via “mobile first”. This could be fueling these changes and with Google wanting to be “consistent” across all platforms they’ve applied this sort of reasoning across all verticals. It sort of makes sense that they don’t just have one reason for this move, but multiple reasons.
I believe it’s based on these reasons:
- It’s drawing attention away from PPC ads and gives more visibility to organic search results. (which by the way already dominate the search results in terms of CTR splits; Organic vs PPC CTRs)
- It’s adding unnecessary latency for mobile users, which could be stalling the loading of a Google search result page.
- They are looking to make the results more simplified and usable for mobile users.
I think those are the main reasons and I am likely reaffirming what John Mueller is saying actually. But I think there’s more than just the UX side to it.
What do you think it is?