Well, it finally has happened. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, announced recently that their experimentation with Authorship in its current form is now dead. But it hasn’t exactly gone away, because the social features are still here, so Google+ posts will show up when they are relevant to the query. Their reasoning is that tests show authorship makes no difference in traffic to sites or clicks on ads.
But, according to John Mueller:
“Going forward, we’re strongly committed to continuing and expanding our support of structured markup (such as schema.org). This markup helps all search engines better understand the content and context of pages on the web, and we’ll continue to use it to show rich snippets in search results.”
and leaving your authorship schema in place is okay:
“…we’re no longer using it for authorship, we treat it like any other markup on your pages. Leaving it is fine, it won’t cause problems (and perhaps your users appreciate being able to find out more about you through your profile too).”
What Does This Mean For SEO?
It’s always been important to avoid “having all your eggs in one basket,” as the saying goes. Search Engine Optimization is like having a well-stocked kitchen that lets you cook what people are hungry for. The kitchen has all the ingredients and the cook takes them and creates something delicious. Those ingredients are not randomly stocked on the shelves because then the cook would not have what is needed for the recipe. Not much of a problem in some dishes, but very important in others — ask any chef about running out of basic ingredients and you’ll get some funny stories.
The best SEO practices are very similar to stocking a pantry for that gourmet chef because attention is paid to what will be needed for recipes and the quality of the ingredients. In SEO we pay attention to what will be needed for the search engines and the quality of the data those search engines are looking for. That means a consistent assessment of what is going out of date and what needs to be refreshed.
Google Authorship may be out of the picture, but authorship is still part of SEO because your byline is part of the data that is considered for ranking. It’s also part of the data your readers consider when deciding how authoritative your content is. I think it’s important for brands to have a “face” in the form of authorship because bylines, bios, profile pics, and the like give personality and authority to what you have to say.