Google Authorship was created by Google as a way to connect content to an author by use of an author signature. The author’s signature was used to score the author based on trust and authority signals pointing at the author’s content, and that score was then used to influence search rankings. By the use of Google+ profiles, Google now had a universal identity platform for connecting authors with their work.

The reasoning behind the use of the tool was the thought that connecting content to authors would lead to better content and engagement. By adding an author’s value to the mix, the algorithm would be less susceptible to link spam and the result would be the best authored content float to the top.

Although great in theory, this month Google Authorship has reached the end after three years of struggles – at least for now.

The end comes after two major reductions over the past eight months:

  • December 2013 the amount of author photo snippets shown per query was reduced.
  • June 2014 Google removed all author photos from global search, leaving just bylines.

John Mueller, Google employee responsible for Google Authorship, said, “Unfortunately, we’ve observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”

Why did it fail?

There were many factors in place that played into Google Authorship’s demise. After three years of analyzing test data, Google Authorship simply was not returning enough value compared to the resources it took to process the data. Some issues Mueller revealed were:

  • Google was moving toward unifying the user experience between desktop and mobile search, and author photos did not work well with the limited screen space and bandwidth of mobile.Eating up valuable screen real estate for this type of markup on a mobile device may simply have been a bad idea.
  • Google saw no significant difference in “click behavior” between search pages with or without author photos, determining it as low value to online searchers.
  • Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters. The amount of writers actually using the feature was spotty at best, and almost non-existent in many cases. When sites participated, it was often done incorrectly and non-technical site owners were intimidated by the complex markup and linking steps and chose not to implement it.
  • Google is a business just like any other business making it impossible to ignore the cost and impact of the processing power required for the use of this free Webmaster tool. In other words, it wasn’t worth the amount of money spent to develop, maintain and use.

So is authorship gone forever? Many are contemplating – probably not. Why? Because the concept is a good one. It’s the process, not the idea that failed.

It’s been nice getting to know you, Authorship. We will miss you — but knowing how Google works, we’re sure we’ll see a slimmer, trimmer and more impressive version of you in the near future.