Google's John Mueller announced on Google+ today that Google will cease showing author profile images and Google+ circle counts in desktop and mobile search results. This global change will roll out over the next few days.
"We've been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices," he wrote. "As a part of this, we're simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count."
Here's what my authorship looks like:
And here's what the simplified authorship will soon look like:
While usability and eye-tracking tests have shown that having an image appearing in the search results increases click-through rates and attracts users' eyes to a result a searcher might otherwise overlook, Mueller commented that Google's "experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one."
SEO consultant Kristine Schachinger is one who disagrees with Mueller's assertion.
"I have three times intentionally lost my image from the results and each time the drop was approximately 25 percent," she said. "Since I have 1 million impressions and 110,000 CTR on average every 3 months, I think my tests show there is a significant drop."
Here's an image illustrating a dip in clicks when Google has dropped her author image from the search results:
While adoption of Google authorship has been strongest for writers at technology publications (and news sites to a lesser extent), adoption has been quite low among top brands, with only 3.5 percent of Fortune 100 brands using the markup.
As we reported In January, Google cut authorship in the search results between 20 to 40 percent, to highlight higher-quality writers.
Will Google further scaling back the prominence of authorship hurt its already small adoption?