By 9 months ago in Search Socialised

Author photos removed from search results: Google+, you had one job

Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that the search engine has moved to drop author profile photos from results pages.

Google+ now demands a huge show of faith from marketing professionals – the enigmatic Author Rank has been in the pipeline for several years and the increased click through rate that comes with author photos in the search results is something we’ve all been guilty of clinging to.

Is it time to abandon Google+?

Well…no, is the simple answer, because there’s not really anything to abandon.

Building the profile of individuals in any organisation is just good PR. It’s a tactic we use for many of our clients and it helps to get them featured on some of the biggest sites in their industries…and having their photo in the search results is just the icing on the cake. Implementing authorship markup and sharing the post via Google+ take very little effort and cost so there’s still no reason not to do it.

There are also other benefits to authorship that don’t fall into the same category as Duke Nukem Forever and Chinese Democracy – things that can have a real impact on SEO strategy right now.

+1s do affect rankings, for instance…

…for people who are signed in, when those +1s come from friends. Adoption of Google+ is still fairly high, so there are still tangible benefits for people who write popular articles.

Arguably there are still more benefits for organisations than individuals – particularly with Places currently tied into Google+, and with Google+ Pages for businesses. There are still some reasons to use Google+

How many impressions does my face get?

One of the handier tools at the disposal of a Google+ author is the Author Stats tab in Google Webmaster Tools.

For content marketers it’s extremely useful to see how your posts have been performing in search results…not just on your own site, but on any site you contribute to. Pageviews are hugely useful, plus there’s a lot of data to be glaned from Google Analytics, but attaching impression data and CTR to blog posts means you can get an accurate comparison – in the example below many of my articles on are seen more often in search results than my posts on Search Engine Watch and – bigger sites by all accounts.

We can also see that being seen for a keyword might not always be providing huge value. For instance, with this post Branded3 currently ranks on Google UK’s page 1 for ‘Bing Webmaster Tools’ – something that has a visible impact on our searchmetrics graph (excuse the pun) – but this doesn’t drive traffic to the site.

Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools

We can use this information to close gaps in our content strategy. Optimise posts that do not get seen; write new posts that are more likely to provide the result users are searching for.

Unfortunately the Author Stats page is still in labs…which means there’s no guarantee that it will be developed further. It might not even be available for too much longer…but let’s hope that isn’t the case.

The case for Google+ is getting thinner

Google is giving us less and less reason to join the Google+ platform.

Until now it’s been relatively easy to convince marketing departments to join in with the programme because we’ve been able to treat it as just another markup. A useful markup too.

Building the authority of a website by building the authority of its authors is a strategy we will continue to employ because we know it works…the departure of author photos from the SERPs has relatively little effect on what is an age old PR technique. Authorship markup is still the icing on the cake, but it’s going to be less effective at ‘optimising’ those PR campaigns than it was before.

As for Google+ though…it’s time for the network to stand up on its own merits…of which there are fewer and fewer.

By Stephen Kenwright. at 6:12AM on Thursday, 26 Jun 2014

Stephen is Head of Search at Branded3's Leeds HQ and a columnist on Stephen is from a background in advertising; has an MA in Shakespeare; and now works closely with Branded3’s PR, Content Marketing, Design/Development and Paid Search teams to deliver SEO performance for some of the world’s biggest brands. Follow Stephen Kenwright on Twitter.


  • Thomas E Zinsavage Jr.

    According to the Google webmaster and Matt Cutts the photo is only shown when they feel it is relevant to the search.

  • Nick

    What’s funny, is just today, July 5, I did a search on my iPhone and two results showed author images (both were Google+ posts from myself and a person I follow).

    So Muller’s statement that they were removing author images to clean up the visual design of search results, especially on mobile devices, seems to be completely false. A week after they were supposed to be gone, I see them on G+ results.

    I know that Google Authorship and Google+ profile photos aren’t exactly the same, but you’d think Google would remove both if cleaning up the visual design were really the goal here. They’re the same photo, after all!

    What I’m now beginning to suspect is that Google wants us to use Google+ even more, expanding our circles of contacts and posting exclusive content on Google+ in order to have a better chance of author images showing up in people’s search results.