For two years Google offered “Authorship” to the writers among its user base, which provided a portrait of the writer that was sometimes featured next to the writer’s article in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The anticipation behind this effort was that if there was a portrait of the author next to the article more people would click on it, so this was a way to reward authors who participated in the effort.
Soon after launching, however, Google found that most people didn’t want to be bothered by the process of linking their blog to their Google+ page, if they had one to begin with, and so it turned out that most people did not even attempt to gain authorship status.
Then it was discovered that when there was a portrait of the writer next to the link, it didn’t affect user behavior very much. That’s to say that they found that having a portrait of the writer next to the article, on average, did not reportedly produce more clicks than links without a portrait. This came as a shock to many, but that is the reported result of the portrait campaign.
Then there was the case of Truman Capote, a best-selling author who was given credit for a NY Times article 28 years after his death. See, in trying to make it easier for writers to connect their authorship, Google started automating the process, but in so doing it connected articles to completely unrelated authors, and in this case, to a famous one who had in fact been deceased for almost three decades!
So that was an additional embarrassment to the program: not only were most people not using it because of the difficulty of setting it up, but then when Google tried to automate the process for people there was no way to make it 100% accurate. This on top of the data that showed there was no significant change in user behavior as a result of the portrait. And as a result, Google recently made the statement on their Google+ page that they were ending the authorship project all together.
This is not to say that Google+ is not a useful platform. In fact, there are many great articles with valuable and relevant information that get posted on there every day. Also, the authorship idea is actually a good one, but perhaps it shouldn’t be a commonly used platform, as Google was trying to force it to be. Perhaps it would be better left to the few authors who would take the time to connect their Plus page to their blog, rather than some automatically generated feature that takes place when you write an article.
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