Jul 11, 2014
If you have Googled anything in the past week (I am going to go out on a limb and assume you have) you may have noticed a change in the appearance of search results, the removal of Google Authorship photos and Google+ circle counts. So what does this mean moving forward?
Well for starters, despite the many critics who mocked Google+ and it's questionable active membership claims, Google Authorship and it's well documented value from a search engine perspective has always been the networks saving grace. The increased visibility garnered from the author photos and circle counts has been an incredibly efficient method of SEO for content marketers for some time.
Google+ has a reputation as something of a ghost town with low activity despite it's substantial registered user base, but despite this gaining circle followers is surprisingly simple process, if not slightly more involved then other social networks. The reason being the fact that a large percentage of the network’s engaged users are active for one reason only, to gain authority and relevance in search results from inclusion is a large number of circles and these type users are more than happy to oblige your follow with one of their own.
Programs like ManageFlitter and FollowerWonk have made gaining a large Twitter following an easily achievable goal for those dedicated enough to follow through with consistent batch following/unfollowing (or set up automation). However, gaining traction with Google+ circles tends to be a much more involved process, sure following large numbers of users will gain some reciprocal followers but valuable contributions and informed interactions to relevant groups is the best way to increase clout on the network and by extension Google search results.
The recent elimination of heavily featured Google+ integration in search results seems to be another step in Google’s slow acceptance of the failure of their network to gain traction with the masses and emerge as a true rival to Facebook. Following the resignation of Vic Gundotra in April, the web instantly flooded with rumors of the network’s imminent demise but even with the substantial downgrading of Authorship these are exaggerated.
For professionals looking to expand their digital footprint, it only makes sense to make your brand whether it be the company you are representing or personal one as visible and accessible as possible. This was a significant factor in my decision to submit to Google’s incessant suggestions to integrate my YouTube profile into my Google account (I am aware this is still a contentious issue for many). In essence the trade is an increasingly familiar one, the exchange of personal information for services & benefits (in this case increased visibility in Google networks).
Google is always looking to tinker with it’s search algorithm in order to deliver the most relevant and useful search results to its users because despite its perpetual expansion into every tech industry from phones to thermostats, ensuring people continue to “Google” things and the subsequent ad revenue delivered from this is still essential their current business model.
This brings us full circle back to the demise of Google Authorship in search results. At the end of the day Google has decided that as much as content marketers may enjoy their presence, the inclusion of large author profile images and circle counts in search results was simply not conducive to supplying users with the best possible search experience. So despite my personal disappointment in this modification, I can certainly understand its purpose.
So what does this change from the perspective of a content marketer? To be honest not that much, sure cultivating a large Google+ follower base may be less important than before, but it is still a useful network with some awesome functionality that should not be dismissed. At the end of the day the old saying still rings true “content is king” and continuing to produce entertaining content that is relevant to your audience and beneficial to the bottom line of clients remains the primary goal in producing and SEO friendly online experience that will get you and your clients noticed with or without the presence of Google Authorship profiles and Google+ circle counts in search results.