"You're going to love the way you look." George Zimmer won't be guaranteeing that any longer - Men's Wearhouse has ousted its founder.
SEO professionals worry about what will happen if they implement authorship, making individuals brand messengers, and those individuals leave. Zimmer didn't have authorship at Men's Wearhouse, but his ads made him the face of the company, just as authorship thumbnails make you and your authors the face of yours.
Authorship and Mutually Assured Destruction
Let's go through a few scenarios of what could happen on the technical side and the implications of those situations.
- The author cuts authorship connection in their G+ account but the company retains authorship coding on their site. This is a case of cutting your nose to spite your face for the author. They may lose any AuthorRank and attempt to deny the content they previously endorsed. An author may try to remove authorship if they are switching industries and want to refocus their career efforts on their new area.
- The company removes authorship for employee's posts but employee retains authorship connection in their G+ account. Here, the employee may keep the benefit of any AuthorRank they've built, but the snippet won't appear for the post itself. The writer gets the benefits and the company loses visibility.
- Both the company and the author remove authorship credits. The snippet is removed. The picture and name are not presented in search results, any AuthorRank is lost, and the company loses the reach of that employee's G+ network.
- The company assigns authorship to another contributor. As Steven Shattuck points out, if the company switches authorship instead of removing it, there is a slight risk of the first author asserting their copyright on the piece. Unless you're switching to something generic, like "Admin" or "Contributor," this is too much risk for little reward.
- Authorship is retained on both sides. Shattuck's article also highlights numerous benefits to keeping content attributed to its owner. As that former employee continues to grow in the industry, the legacy content on your site becomes more authoritative. If they switch industries, the content remains and is exposed to the new contacts in their Google+ network. This increases your visibility.
Whoever removes information first loses – either the author loses any rank they may have and/or their previous work, or the company loses potential positive exposure to new contacts. The worst case scenario is the authorship equivalent of mutually assured destruction – both sides clear the slate and remove any positive authorship effects.
When Zimmer was removed from Men's Wearhouse, he wasn't removed from its history. The site still features his story, photos and videos. An employee's departure, even if contentious, isn't a reason to erase their presence from your site.
One assumption here is that the content is quality. If the author was used as a persona and littered with low-quality content, then the author will remove links to clean their profile.
Takeaway: The person who blinks first loses. Retain authorship markup to expose your content to new audiences.
Preparing For the Future
Men's Wearhouse has been developing additional leadership figures, possibly in preparation for a situation like this. In 2011, Doug Ewart became President and CEO, reflected in the website's "Talk to Doug" option. In 2012, Joseph Abboud was named Chief Creative Director. He's featured in a spread on their "Guy'd Lines" how-to and lookbook section.
These appointments created other thought leadership opportunities and spread the voice of the company from just Zimmer to additional employees. Moz follows a similar strategy – Rand Fishkin does most of the speaking, but other team members, like Erika McGillivray and Jennifer "Jennita" Lopez also represent Moz to the outside world.
Takeaway: Spread your content among different authors, each according to their strengths. If any one author stops writing for you, others still carry your brand message.