The company first started showing authorship on its search results pages a few years ago. At first, this was a pretty complicated process (I remember a Google engineer walking me through it back then), but over time, it got pretty easy and you basically just had to link your Google+ profile to your site and use a little bit of markup on your posts (rel=”author”).
Over the last few months, however, Google started removing more and more of the info that was originally associated with the authorship feature. By late June, for example, the Google+ profile photos and Google+ follower count numbers that used to accompany search results were gone.
As Google’s John Mueller notes today, the company noticed that the authorship information simply wasn’t as useful as Google previously thought “and can even distract from those results.” It’s no surprise then, that the company decided to drop this feature now.
As writers, we always think that readers will care about our byline, but at least in search results, it looks like authorship — or how many people follow you on Google+, isn’t an important signal for most users.
With this change, Google is also decoupling more of its search results from Google+. I’m not sure that’s really the intent here (though many pundits will argue it is). When it comes to its search results page, Google just looks at what works and what doesn’t. Sure, most people probably didn’t care about how many followers a writer had, but even after dropping that number, the feature simply didn’t work well enough. So being the company it is, Google dropped it and moved on to the next thing.