In the case of the disappearing Author snippets, quality and G+ circles are responsible. Read how this could foreshadow AuthorRank.

Believe it or not, AuthorRank may be upon us (or something that looks a lot like it). Search Engine Watch recently reported it received confirmation from Google that the search engine is using newly launched algorithms to determine which authors deserve rich snippets complete with pictures in SERPs.

As a result of this update, internet users will now see between 20 and 40 percent fewer author images when looking for web content, but writers’ bylines will still be shown next to article headlines. One thing is clear from this update: Content creators will need to step up with marketing games if they want to keep these images and the search real estate that comes with them.

Google confirms schema markup no longer guarantees Author rich snippets

While not entirely unexpected (the possibility of AuthorRank has been looming for the past year), this news might impact brands’ visibility in search results because Author rich snippets are no longer guaranteed with effective setup.

“We had been showing author information whenever we could based on authorship markup, email verification and other signals of authorship on the web,” the source told Search Engine Land. “[But] in mid-December, we rolled out new algorithms designed to show author photos when they’re more likely to be relevant and interesting.”

“We had been showing author information whenever we could , [but there are] … new algorithms designed to show author photos when they’re more likely to be relevant and interesting.”

This isn’t the first news of a rich snippet reduction. Brafton recently covered a debate about whether the disappearance of content writers‘ photos was actually unrelated to authors’ credibility and social presence. It was instead noted that rich snippets across the board – not just for Authorship – had been cutback 15 percent, and the domains that lost these elements might be have lower Quality Scores than sites that retained them.

How to keep pics in SERPs

Now that Google confirmed Author rich snippets in particular will be reserved for the biggest and brightest content writing stars, marketers will undoubtedly be seeking a solution to ensure their results remain the same. Fortunately, Google has given them some direction about what this will require:

  •  High-quality articles as a standard (Google will be looking at the overall quality of an author’s writing.)
  •  Interesting content (As always, Google will factor in the relevance to the reader.)
  •  Google+ popularity (Google will show internet users the photos of authors they have circled on Google+.)

Marketers will soon find out what matters most: Being the first or being the biggest.

Perhaps author images aren’t the end-all be-all

This update could go a number of ways. Marketers eager to keep authors’ images in results might flock to Google+ to build up social signals and optimize against this algorithm. Being in more circles increases a content writer’s chance of having photos displayed. But there’s also the chance that signals related to content quality push authors to the top of SERPs regardless of their Google+ presence.

Either way, this update will make it more important for brands to put their custom content in trusted hands to increase their search visibility moving forward.

And given this update, we feel compelled to ask – Are search rankings becoming a popularity contest? (Has that always been the case?)

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.