Still #1 when I search and that's not even what he's talking about.
He's claiming that having a G+ picture inserted next to search results is resulting in a much lower CTR than they previously had.
Which I think is plausible as it detracts from the search experience, I often skip those results as the text isn't lined up so I can't scan it properly. Wish you could turn them off, it's really off putting. I also wonder what the CTRs of pretty people are like compared to munters. I still don't get why Google added it.
I'm traveling, so it will be a while before I can check with the team, but the initial message that kicked off his investigation referred to clicks to his site, which I believe can include overall traffic to his site. I'll double-check when I'm back from traveling though.
I was also responding to the overall headline of his site ("How Google Authorship decreased our traffic by 90%") because there are other reasons for the decline in traffic to his site. The headline is definitely overstating things; the article itself concludes "Turns out, it's not that simple. Some pages moved down, but some have improved drastically." And on the graph he shows, the worst CTR decrease is -57% while the best CTR increase is 329%.
So I think the headline of this article ("How Google Authorship decreased our traffic by 90%") remains inaccurate.
Just to follow up on this: I did check with the team, and the message that Jitbit received ("Search results clicks for http://www.jitbit.com/xxxxxxxx/ have decreased significantly") pertains to the amount of clicks per day, not clickthrough.
In other words, the message that Jitbit received--and that sparked this article--meant that Jitbit was getting less overall traffic from Google, not that clickthroughs had gone down. That's consistent with the site being affected by Penguin as well.
The article is admittedly bad and rather annoyingly he doesn't seem to show the actual results for the page he was talking about.
Rather ironically at the moment it seems to be one of the best indicators that the article is farm spam and should be ignored. Apart from when I see your handsome face or Scott Hanselman's of course! Personally, I dislike the feature and wish I could turn it off for my search results, it adds negative value for me and I keep meaning to set up a script to disable it but my quick experiments in the dev console screwed with the page layout.
Could you tell us how much a picture improves or alternatively adversely affects the CTR? And which pictures are winners and which are losers? Or perhaps it has no effect? Stats!
You might miss this now as it's late, but the screen shot of your traffic results doesn't include the page '/macro-recorder' in the section titled 'It's not that simple'. That's the page you were talking about in the paragraphs above in the article, that's the page that's still number 1 in google when I search and still has your screenshot next to it when I search for 'macro recorder'.
It's the crux of your argument and it's completely missing, it's the only relevant page, everything else is almost completely irrelevant.
I'm not at all disbelieving you, but I'm also honestly saying you don't really seem to understand the scientific method if you think what you published is good enough to support what you've claimed. It's a half finished investigation, the facts are completely inconclusive.
And that's what undermines a lot of SEO experts opinion still today. Speculation without fact. Your post at the moment is plausible but without the most important serious fact. What traffic were you getting before the picture appeared for that one page, and what traffic were you getting after the picture was added. Can you confirm that you didn't change the meta description or title at all?
Everything else is a distraction to the most basic scientific method and that is what makes the article bad, you've conflated a bunch of different 'symptoms' with one hypothesis.
Which is true but it's irrelevant to the current situation. Which is that lots of us (see below) have come to associate the mugshots with G+ posts, which are usually mediocre, so we don't even look at them.
What people perceive governs how they behave, and your explanation won't change that.
Authorship markup for sure, but the question was "Can I have my photo next to my search result if I don't have a Google account?". To put it another way: Are there author pages that google uses as source for an image in the SERP that are not G+ profile pages?
Our site WAS affected by Penguin indeed, even by the first version of Penguin a year ago. Because we sell web-forum software and ticket-software - that both have a "powered by" link at the bottom, our SEO agency advised to add that...
And we're still trying to recover... I'm contacting our clients one-by-one and we're changing those links to "nofollow".
We have never paid for links, the only paid ADs our agency buys are CPC-campaings on download sites like "download.com" etc... Can this be a reason? Should I tell them to stop doing that?
UPDATE: anyways THANK YOU MATT for commenting this and letting us know we're penalized by Penguin... Not many people are lucky to have Matt Cutts look at their issues!!
PS. I guess we should fire these guys, remove/disavow all links and start over...
Hundreds of thousands of paid links? Excuse me? We do NOT pay for links. The only thing I can imagine has initiated Penguin - we sell web-software (forum software, helpdesk software etc) that has a footer link "powered by XXX". We dis see this affected our rankings a year ago and we're still trying to recover (making those links "nofollow" trying to contact the linking webmasters etc).
Followup: Yeah... I even found links to my site from porn sites... Guess we have to spend weeks with the disavow tool.. In hopes that google will take te penalty down. What tool have you used to discover the backlinks? I will need it...
I don't see the spammy footer link on the 1st one. The page title is "useful web tools" and we have a link in the body part... I don't understand.
Also, what makes you think a blog roll is always "spammy"? The second one seem to be a blog about ASP.NET, the author recommending our software... There are plenty of review people post about our software: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVuB3oGr5pw here's a video review of our Jitbit Crm for example...
.. but anyways, I guess you ARE right, we do have to disavow all these links and contact webmasters so they remove it. Not sure if this the seo-guys we hired who screwed us up, or the result of negative seo (unlikely, but who knows)
PS. feels kinda uncomfortable when everyone's investigating my site, my backlinks, you know my name, my blog, even my home address from whois records, but I know nothing about you. Just some "uts_" guy on HN. Justsayin... It's like you're naked on a scene, everyone sees you, but you see nothing because of the lights :((
Are you guys able to check that on a site by site basis internally? Like, did you just look up his site and there was a flag or something similar that only you can see that lets you know Penguin got him?
Not surprised at all. Any time I ever see a social photo next to a search result, I automatically assume it's a social media post or page and won't even bother to look at it, if I'm looking for anything else.
Why on earth would anyone want a face associated with a program, website, or anything that's not a social media account?
>Why on earth would anyone want a face associated with a program, website, or anything that's not a social media account?
A coworker runs one of those aggregate-amazon-affiliate-link sites (think http://www.thisiswhyimbroke.com/) for camping and outdoorsy things. He saw a noticeable increase in traffic by associating his wife's picture in his search results. He's of the opinion that a pretty face helps sell things.
I've watched that website launch and develop with some interest. Without disclosing any particulars, does the site do well for him? I imagined he was raking in the dough, but if he's still your co-worker I guess that's not the case?
To be clear, my coworker doesn't run thisiswhyimbroke, but a site with a similar layout.
It's a little extra money in his pocket, but not something profitable or rewarding enough to do full time. (He also has a few other attempts that don't do as well as the camping one, and with the camping one the income is pretty seasonal).
It makes the search result look like it's to a personal site or a blog - not a business. It would be good of Google if they allowed you to associated authorship with your site but opt out of the head shot in search results.
I would want a face associated with a program, website etc.
If I search for "digital camera" and see results from friends that are heavily into digital cameras I will likely consider that result.
If I search for "video editing software" or "ramen recipes" or "pizza in sf" I would love to see which things my friends are recommending more than I would like to see what is highest ranked by some algorithm.
I wonder if your Google+ Profile picture was your JitBit Name + Logo, you would have done better.
I think it is your face that is the problem. Not because it's ugly, but because it's obviously a face, which is out of context when searching for "macro recorder". We naturally gloss over things that don't sync with what we expect.
Yes, having a photo (or perhaps any image) that modifies the layout of a search result instantly makes that search result look like an ad and not a true search result for me. Particularly if it's the first in the list, then it gets categorized as an advertisement by my brain.
We have been trained by more than a decade of abusive internet ads to ignore them. Does Google have results that show that these abnormally layouts result in an improved number of clicks, I wonder? Is it just us?
The author's takeaways are pure speculation as to causation, but he presents them as if they are facts. I could claim that people just don't like the color of his photo, and I would have as much evidence to support this has he has for his other claims re: authorship placement. And he doesn't mention that since he is not doing a split test (since it's not possible) and he's not measuring confidence intervals that his "A/B test" may be meaningless.
His intuition makes sense, and his conclusions are probably correct in this specific case, but this is shoddy analysis and shouldn't be presented in a generalized manner as he's done here.
As someone who for the past several years has done very high end legitimate SEO consulting to fortune 500 style companies (i.e. not the spammy mess than the HN crowd would usually associate with SEO), I am more than happy to go on the record and say that for what it's worth, this is the exception and not the rule.
As a few others here have pointed out, slapping Google Authorship markup all over your site is probably not a good idea unless you run a pure news / blog style site.
One other point to note though as well is that I am very familiar with that message in GWT telling you that traffic dropped by a crazy percentage overnight. Given everything going on in the SEO space at the moment, I am not entirely convinced just yet that you don't have a case of correlation rather than causation at the moment.
My question is, why did you add authorship sitewide? Authorship should be established only on jitbit.com/news/ where your blog is, NOT on your entire website. For example, if I search jitbit in google, your authorship photo is appearing for your domain, not good.
If you hadn't mentioned this, I wouldn't even know that Authorship could be associated with just a directory. I bet a lot of people, including the OP, fall into that category. If the OP just associated it with his onsite blog (/news/), then essentially the only purpose of Google Authorship would be promote his company blog, not his overall site. So he would be G+ blogging to promote his blog to promote his products. Sounds a bit convoluted to me.
The quality of the photo can make a huge impact on clickthroughs. Cyrus Shepard of (seo)Moz saw a 35% increase in click-through rates after a/b testing his profile photo:
He also mentioned that, "Bounce rate dropped while time-on-site and page views increased. It's as if having an authoritative photo in the search results raised users' trust in my site and expectations of authority."
Good observation. So basically, the fact that Google authorship did this is a good thing for people who search Google, because until now his title could "trick" people into clicking on his site (because it was more SEO optimized or for whatever reason), but the "real" result was always the Wikipedia one - because I suppose most people don't have a purchase intent when searching for that, but an intent to find out more information about it.
Interesting...you think of all the A/B metrics that Google tests, this would be among one of the most obvious standouts. The percentage of users who click on lower-ranked results is reportedly a big factor in the decision of how results are laid out and paginated (e.g. if the 12th result in Google SERP had a relatively similar amount of "usefulness" as the 10th, it's likely that Google would have the search pages show 12 results)...you'd think a statistical drop in first-result clicks would trigger an analytics alarm.
You can't take one very specific case and then extend it to the entire corpus of searches / web sites. Any change to the SRP might result in less-than-optimal impact on a particular search but if it improves performance for a large number of other searches, it's still a good change overall.
+1. You have to think many sites besides the OP's experience a similar effect. This, combined with Google's collective UX wisdom and the not-at-all unintuitive nature of the result, makes it pretty shocking that they have not put a stop to this. Maybe they are getting some value from the uptick in people maintaining G+ accounts, so it's being swept under the rug?
You're assuming this is generally true. All we know is that it seems to be true for this one guys site/picture. Google has access to ALL of the data for this feature. They're in a much better position to make an informed decision on its value.
Assuming your ordinary niche blogger (no celebrity, no New York Times author, no one with a dedicated Wikipedia page):
Is there a way to have a photo next to his or her search result if he or she doesn't have a Google account?
Generally speaking, the mechanism used for attribution is not specific to Google accounts. It's just a rel="me" or rel="author" hyperlink somewhere in your articles, and you can list multiple source of profile data. (Which is generally a good idea for semantic web purposes. Take a look at the social links on my website for an example.)
That said, I believe Google Search only knows how to extract author bios from the Google Profile database. Personally, I don't think this is different than having to creating a Webmaster Tools account if you want to view your website data -- it provides an authoritative, user-editable source of biographical data for the system to use.
(If this was scraped from across the web for everyone, I could imagine some folks getting upset if the wrong information is picked up. Case in point: I remember a while back when somebody's Wikipedia article listed them as dead, and that information was automatically pulled into the Knowledge Graph. Oops.)
That said, I'm not on any of the teams involved in creating this, so take all this with a grain of salt.
If someone was looking for macro-recorder, they probably just wanted a download link.
His authorship link makes it look like a review of some macro recorder software. I would actually consider an authorship link that's being triggered by a product page a bug that needs to be corrected ASAP.
EDIT: Strangely enough his authorship image is still triggered by a search for "macro-recorder". Did he reactivate it?
Now imagine if Google allowed him to tag his page with a "Software Download" tag.. and enabled him to attach a appstore like icon next to the search result instead of his face. Would that drive more clicks?
When you're assessing the viability of microdata or any SEO strategy for that matter, you have to consider the context and whether or not it works for the market that you're in.
I don't see this as an indictment of Google Authorship at all; rather this is an example of a situation where user intention is misaligned with what a webmaster is showing. If I'm looking for content (particularly the originator of said content), having the author's name and face is exactly what I'm looking for. When you're searching for car parts or baby strollers or software, that same name/face is going to throw you off.
For a lot of people the face gives credibility. It makes you think it's a more legit article because somehow google took the time to associate an image with the article which it would never with spam content.
And it's too bad they don't accept company logos, I think that would really help. It downplays company we pages versus articles.
This is one of the reasons I asked my Facebook friends to A/B test two photographs I have used as profile photos before setting my Google+ photo. I should probably be a lot more rigorous about this, but at the very least a photograph should be compared to other available photographs for what it says about your online persona.
My own experience is that I would skip it but not because it is an possible ad. Especially if I'm looking for a product I will look at the ads, sometimes the ads are better than the actual result.
But there is a problem with the SERP, and that is that the result under the ads (if any) is sometimes a related sub search.
So if i'm looking for some thing scientificy it will show me some sub search of Google scientific results. Or if I'm searching form some thing that has been in the news recently it will show me some Google news results. Now unless I'm looking for papers or news I will skip over it. Since it shows your face next to the link it looks like an news sub search result or indeed a blog result.
This article made me realize that I am unconsciously filtering out things that look like G+ posts. In part because my expectation of it being high quality content is low, and because the experience of switching to the G+ app on my phone is slow.
That is pretty fascinating. It seems like Facebook, who I use because this was their early marketing strategy, is teaching us to ignore data that has peoples faces associated with it. I wonder if there is broader research being done on this?
This is fairly well researched wrt banners. Basically once users associate visual elements with noise, the will start to automatically filter them to the point of not being conscious about their existence.
In a even broader scope, Jakob Nielsen has shared lots of data from his eye tracking usability studies that show just how little attention users pay to online content .
I know this isn't suppose to be funny, but I couldn't help but laugh at how you presented this. I completely lost it where you had written "My Stupid Face" with an arrow pointed towards your google result.
I am more likely to click a link with a "stupid" face in front of it, because it looks more qualitative to me. More I simply don't know about this topic or SEO. But maybe because most people know as much as me, I guess that most people will react the same way.
That sucks; sorry to hear it happened to you. But I can tell you why I will usually scan search results (or C-s) for Wikipedia over other results: Wikipedia won't jerk me around. What I mean by that is that (currently) Wikipedia doesn't require JS, flash or any other BS; WP pages load quickly, and are often informative, not some wink-wink-nudge-nudge advertising that may or may not tell you about the product without requiring an email address. Oh, and WP doesn't (currently) have advertising.
That being said, I've been noticing that results returned in Google, even for technical posts (eg, Emacs howtos) have more and more been including headshots from the writer. It's the same posts I would have trusted before, it just seems weird to actually have a face to go along with the post.
I think you meant: it just seems weird to actually have a face to go along with the search results.
And when I think about it, that's the whole issue: I'm beginning to think that images (of authors or webmasters or product logos) don't belong on the serarch results page--ever. I can't see a case where it helps the average person who is searching because the photo is always once removed from the actual content.
If I search for a "thingamabob" how does the photo of somebody who wrote about thingamabob help me choose a result? If I'm searching for a company, even the company logo doesn't help because I may not know it ahead of time. Or if I'm looking for a blog, how would I know the face of the blogger ahead of time? I just can't see that many searches where the author's face is relevant to choosing the content you want to see.
Then there is the issue of Google putting the photo in the hottest part of the user's heat-map eye-scan of the search results page. If you put an irrelevant item where the user is looking for immediate relevancy, that result will get skipped (just as the OP postulated and so many commenters are confirming here on HN).
Finally, you have to wonder what Google was really thinking. If images do have an impact on click-through rate, then the images will get SEO'd and become useless. There is a comment on this thread that confirms that putting a woman's picture for the authorhip increased hits. Great, soon every website will appear to be written by a hot babe showing skin (or hot guy depending on the target audience), or if logos are allowed, all competitors will have a logo that looks like the #1 in the field.
Why don't you change your icon to the icon of your program or something users associate with what they need? A face says "social" - which is great for your personal Google+ account but not great for your company. At least try it -- if everyone is like me it should increase the clicks.
On seeing what it did, my first thought was that the result with his picture next to it was one of those horrible promoted pages/adverts. I'm used to just skimming over the first results that look different to the rest with Google.
The WWW desperately needs a free and open search engine that everyone can hold accountable. The WWW is much too valuable to hand over to a company with blatant conflicts of interest in their search results.