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 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.
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.
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!
(post author here) I did post the screenshot of the results page, it includes my page, not hiding anything
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.
What people perceive governs how they behave, and your explanation won't change that.
Farmers weekly where the most keen and you can see the result in the serps - though Matt why are you picking a pic from the Telegraph to go with thier articles?
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...
So it's really no surprise that Google's latest Penguin rollout has hurt them.
Sad to see it blamed on authorship.
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).
You're telling me these links don't look paid to you (and this is an example of just the first page):
http://www.webhostingsearch.com/web-tools.php - Spammy footer link
http://jack-fx.com/ - Spammy blog roll links
http://www.helpdesk2000.org/ - More spammy blog links
http://www.chat-software.org/ - Spammy footer links
http://www.cloudcomputing-providers.com/ - Spam network links in blog posts
Guessing you guys will need to whip out the disavow tool to get out of this one. These are exactly the types of links that Penguin is going after - anchor text rich & not editorial.
PS. why can't I just BE A CODER! :(
You can also take a look at Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer. All of those require a subscription though. You will most likely be fine just using link data provided from Google itself.
I think, the links we're being penalised for - are mostly the links that come from our software widget. Check out this page, the very-very top of it: http://algonac.thebestcityguides.com/Forum/forum4195-Minneol...
We have HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS links like this (I'mm looking at my WMT right now). I guess this is the main reason. Our site is hit by Penguin...
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 :((
Also, are you sure the site was hit by Penguin? This doesn't look like the typical Penguinized site. You would know, but have you checked?
Why on earth would anyone want a face associated with a program, website, or anything that's not a social media account?
But, very good to know the statistical result.
Having said that, we're all in the tech field and this guy's product seems to be geared towards the tech field. Perhaps the result for the population-at-large is different?
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.
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).
There's the "crap at the top" that is almost never what I'm looking for, and then there's the real results, which is what I scan for.
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've developed a rejection to faces in websites. But honestly I didn't expect this to be common. Much the opposite.
Also, searching for dev advice is not the same as searching for a product like in OP's case.
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.
Was an interesting experiment and one that I would like to take further.
100% the same with me!
I wonder if he tried a better more professional photo if the results would change.
But this is just my reaction.
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?
I imagine I've skipped over a ton of search results that are just like the one in the article for just that reason.
It screams blog/editorial content. I'm very, very rarely interested in blogs or editorials. Usually I seem to be after hard data or documentation.
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 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.
Blog post search results are also more likely to field multiple results with authorship pictures.
Still, worrisome if it's the only top ranked result with a photo. I imagine this will fade over time as people get used to it, took me a few months to figure out what was going on, as a user.
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."
1. I thought it was giving results for a guy named Marco.
2. After realizing it was Macro, I thought the #1 result was a blog or review.
3. I then focused on the 2nd result because it looked less cluttered.
Dear Google, thanks for trying to address content skimmers - but now we may have another problem...
1. Hey we support all open protocols all you need to do is use our FREE service that is superior to all others.
2. OK now you need to unify your profile with Google+
3. Either kill the product entirely or drop the open standard support because the open standard does not support some awesome feature they made.
4.You are stuck in a proprietary world
The Microformats Wiki has more details on how these work:
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.
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?
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.
And it's too bad they don't accept company logos, I think that would really help. It downplays company we pages versus articles.
My first thought when seeing the photo was ok, this is a guy giving his opinion on the topic, I'm not interested in opinion, I want the facts.
Can companies act like an author on G+ ?
Maybe a little nit picky but that's a bit of an assumption especially in the context of the article.
I guess it shows the importance of having more diverse results, you want other results appearing that strongly link to you positively (our official twitter/fb/software reviews for example)
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.
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 .
That would concur with my personal experience, and is pretty much the same as what happened to standard size display ads.
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.
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.
Google is killing the golden goose.