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Google Authorship in Search Gets Trimmed, Google+ Gets Fake Names

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For some, Google+ Authorship in search results was a magic elixir: your photo and name next to your posts in search results would spike traffic and maybe even help with ranking. Some claimed that adding Authorship bumped up their traffic as much as 150 percent. In one of my favorite experiments, Cyrus Shepard at Moz optimized his "ugly" profile picture using a dating site, which led to a 35 percent bump in traffic.

Crazy, right? Well, at least now, with the removal of Google+ profile pictures and circle counts, us unfortunate-looking folks have a fighting chance. And speaking of Google+, another interesting tweak went through this week: fake names are now allowed. Add in April's decision to gut Google+'s staff, and this is looking more and more like G+ is inching closer and closer to obscurity.

Authorship Isn't Completely Dead

Google's latest update doesn't completely remove Authorship from search results -- it just trims it down to a simple byline in barely noticeable grey font. There's no profile pics, no "in 287 circles" braggartism, just a name and possibly a date.

One would think that the deletion of the big, (hopefully) beautiful picture would reduce click-through rates, but according to Google's John Mueller, the swap made little difference. He noted, in an announcement on his (you guessed it) Google+ page, that the tweak was done for a more consistent across-platform experience, especially for mobile.

There's also the ongoing conspiracy theory that Authorship includes your search engine results page (SERP) ranking, which is essential for clients looking for your website. Even without profile photos, Authorship is still advisable.

Pseudonym Lovers Rejoice!

Maybe you don't want the entire world knowing what you do online. (Strange, right?) Or perhaps you want multiple identities: one professional, and one faux profile for trolling people in YouTube comments.

Until now, Google only allowed established pseudonyms, like Madonna. And if you wanted to use such a faux name, you'd have to deal with your profile being flagged, and an invasive security process involving sending in "official documentation, such as a driver's license."

Now? Fake names are in: "Today, we are taking the last step: there are no more restrictions on what name you can use."

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