In late 2012, Google introduced a new content feature called Google Authorship. It is designed to link text content to its author (their specific Google profile) and to help authors exercise better quality control and validation options relating to publications.
It also enables increased detection of copyright infringements involving their original work. As an additional benefit, the feature also enhances search results with the successful matching and linking of various works with identical authorship.
While full authorship credits were initially shown in searches (including a photo, a tagline and Google+ circles), Matt Cutts of Google Webmasters reported in his keynote address at the 2013 Pubcon that tests were being undertaken on reduction measures relating to the amount of Google Authorship content shown in search results, in order to improve the authorship quality shown.
Implementation of these measures appears to have begun over the last few weeks. Users of the feature have reported appearances of new limited forms of their content in searches and/or that some Google Authorship snippets are now entirely gone. Mark Traphagen describes a decline and levelling-off from early December 2013, highlighting those changes in an SERP graph. A quick analysis of more recent SERP data manifests this trend further:
(Source: Mozcast 06/01/2014)
To exemplify this trend with live search data, let’s have a look at full authorship snippets credited to NZ authors Linda Coles and Cam Wilkes:
They include a photo, their full name as byline, a mention of the Google+ circles they belong to, and a direct link to their respective profiles. This type of credit is now called ‘first class snippet’.
In comparison, the Google search result for NZ blogger Gary Fawcett’s text on drone comb, which recently featured on his own blog – Kiwimana – with a first class snippet, has now changed in type. The photo has disappeared and only the byline remains. This type of credit has been called ‘second class authorship snippet’.
Third class authorship snippets exist as well. They include no more links to the author or their profile, and it does not mention them either. These authors used to have full, rich snippets in the early days of the Google Authorship programme, but no longer do.
It is not possible at this time to determine which NZ authors are affected by drops to third class authorship, as it is not apparent from searches whether the respective author have their Google+ profile activated and linked. Any non-result could simply be a non-participant of the programme.
As far as author ranking and second class authorship goes, Traphagen names primary patterns, in as far as they have been observed, that may influence a class change. He indicates that determination of quality reflected in snippet class seems tied to publication media rather than the quality of content itself. Some authors are fully credited when writing for a “trusted site”, but only receive lower classed snippets when publishing on other pages, for example personal blogs or pages that violate Google guidelines.
We are interested in following up on these changes in the NZ context and welcome comments from NZ-based authors with working Google Authorship profiles. Please tell us what your experience is with the programme so far and whether your account has been affected by these recently implemented changes.