It’s official. Google has removed all authorship data from search results and Webmaster Tools. Google reports that as a whole, not enough people took advantage of the authorship markup to make it a valuable ranking factor and they saw little difference in click-through rates for sites with authorship markups versus those without. A major goal of Google’s with authorship was to improve their users’ experience. When they found that authorship may even be a detractor, they progressively got rid of it.
Then Why Did Google Bother Creating It?
I believe that at one point, Google thought that Author Rank could combine with Page Rank and truly allow their algorithms to assess the overall value of a domain by looking mainly at the quality of content, linking domains and authors. In other words, author rank would have become a valuable marketing commodity, just like high PR links. If my Author Rank is high, Google has considered my content valuable. If my content is valuable, then adding it to your site adds value to the user. When value is added for users related to targeted search terms, rankings should go up. Right? It never made it to this point, but for awhile it all made sense.
So What’s Next?
The question isn’t really what’s next, it’s what now. Google still knows who’s writing what (though exactly how is currently up in the air) and they are going to continue to support the rel=”publisher” tag. John Mueller also stated that Google would continue to enhance and increase it’s use of other structured data markups (he specifically named schema.org).
Take A Lesson Directly From Google
The most important thing is your user’s experience. Don’t be afraid to get rid of content or strategies that aren’t working. Google does it all the time and it is their ability to be honest with themselves that has kept them at the top of their industry.