On Friday, Google announced the end Google Authorship. From now on, not only will Authorship information be removed in search results, but Google will no longer be tracking data from the rel=author markup in content at all.

Authorship, as well as its place in the SERPs, has changed many times since it began several years ago. The idea of Authorship was Google’s way to understand and track author authority, as well as eventually give trusted authors preference in search results. It started by displaying photos and bylines in search results, yet slowly diminished to showing only the short author bylines, and finally, to nothing at all.

So, why exactly was this decision made, and what does this mean for the future?

According to John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools, the data Google collected as part of the Authorship test has shown that the presence of Authorship in SERPs wasn’t providing enough value to the user, especially when compared to the resources required to properly process the data.

It seems that one of the main downfalls of Google Authorship was that its success and implementation rested greatly in the hands of users. As a result, the use of Authorship was not widespread enough to provide value since many did not know how (or care) to implement it properly. Why?

  • It was not simple. Per usual, Google did not make it very easy for authors to set up Authorship. In order to implement this properly, several steps had to be completed, including updating specific fields in the author’s Google + page as well as in the back end of their website. The author’s specific rel=author code also had to be included in each individual post that the author wanted to be associated with. All of these steps confused or simply turned off many authors, especially those who were not very tech savvy.
  • In the study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting, it was found that 70% of authors had actually made no attempt to connect their authorship credentials with their content.
  • Many authors and searchers did not see the true value provided through photos and bylines in the search results. Since Google is always trying to provide more value to the user, this was a big issue.

That being said, these changes may not mean the end of Authorship forever, at least for some form of Authorship. Since Google has shown a significant interest in author authority over the years, this initiative is not likely to disappear completely. So, instead of scrapping the whole idea, Google may take what they learned from this experiment to create a new way of evaluating author authority and incorporating that into SERPs.

As SearchEngineLand mentioned, “As Google moves forward in its commitment to semantic search it has to develop ways to identify entities such as authors with a high degree of confidence apart from human actions such as markup. Recent announcements about Google’s Knowledge Vault project would seem to reinforce that Google is moving steadily in that direction.”

Could the new Knowledge Vault initiative provide an improved and more valuable form of Authorship in the future? It’s possible. Either way, the key is to continue to create quality, compelling content on your site. This will build and maintain your authority, and work along with your other SEO efforts to improve your position in SERPs over time!