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GREAT NEWS!  Google has decided to drop those Google+ thumbnail images from its’ search results! Awesome.

Hold it.  How is THAT great news?  It’s not – exactly.  I’m being a bit facetious.  I’m not the first in line to sign up for new social platforms. Ever.  I only usually go with some trepidation as it opens up a whole new can of worms. One more thing to visit and one more thing to keep up with.  We have Facebook.  We have Twitter. We have LinkedIn. FourSquare. We have etc, ad nauseum.  Honestly, if I spent my time hopping into all those profiles on a daily basis, I’d get absolutely NOTHING accomplished in a day.  And then Google+ entered the fray with “Sliced Bread 2.0” – and practically forced you into it if you wanted your site to appear in local. BUT, there was the shining single aspect of siging up for yet another social profile – and that was authorship.

The one thing that really DID make a difference for MOST people with the personal Google+ profile and all that effort was the Google Authorship component.  When properly implemented, and Google deemed fit,  this would allow a thumbnail to appear next to your SERP result on the search pages – and get a lot more attention than your non-thumbnailed competitors.  Even if you were way down on the page, this thumbnail just PULLED eyes to it on that page.

So, this really is NOT a good thing??

No. It’s not – if you were one of the people that either implemented or had your SEO people implement your authorship – and your image DID come up.   That extra bit of love your mug got anywhere on that search results page is gone – or will be within a day or two.  If you were one of those that never got it to work right, then you CAN count this as a good thing – since your more technical or deeper pocketed competitors will no longer have this advantage.

The ONLY Plus to Images Going Away

The ONLY appreciable benefit of authorship to MOST business users is/was getting the little image next to the SERP listing.  With the official announcement of no more images, there’s no reason to concern yourself with using authorship markup and having one more thing to stress over.

Heatmaps HAVE Shown

Regardless of what John Mueller says about the authorship NOT being that big a boon to click throughs in this announcement and rationalization of dropping images,  the eye DOES go to that picture – especially if you’re down in positions below #1. Especially if your result has/had the ONLY picture!

What IS the stated reason for dropping the images?

They caused problems for mobile users.

REALLY????  Sounds a little disingenuous to me, but I don’t drink the Google Kool-aid as served usually. I prefer mine with salt. Usually a LOT of salt.  The company that can tell me (or choose to NOT tell me as in the case of Analytics), the exact terms used to find my websites, which pages they went to, how long they stayed, where they came from, where they went, etc? The company that can read, catalog and store data from nearly a billion websites and decide who is worthy of each position for any given search?  And a thumbnail is causing problems for mobile users?  Mmmm… I’m not a genius, but a bit of CSS targeted at the device being used usually solves it for ME.  More on that in a second.

ANY Remaining Benefits to Authorship?

According to the Mueller post, G+ friends may still see your picture next to your listing.  That to me is a big maybe though and most people do NOT have a huge circle of G+ friends. If it’s there today, it very well may be gone tomorrow, so I just think it’s throwing time and effort to something that Google will likely change in the near future.  Besides, if they actually ARE your friends, it would be hoped that they know you well enough to KNOW that you do that kind of work, yes?

What’s the real reason for the image drop?

In my own view of things, I strongly suspect that those images were wildcards that were throwing wrenches in their egghead calculations.  But, ultimately, skewing their returns on AdWords.  Removing the images and eye draw down into the organics increases the value and CTR of the AdWords listings at the top. Increased attention to AdWords = increased revenue to Google.

“Thanks so much for the data everyone that did what we asked!  We don’t need any more, but we really appreciate it! BTW, we’re removing that feature. Thanks SO much for taking all that time to set everything up like we asked, waste a lot of time tryng to make heads or tails out of our typically cryptic descriptions and instructions, bulling your way through, MAKING it work,  enabling us to cull all your data, and then toss you like spoiled chicken. Did we mention we’re dropping that thumbnail thing? Have a rockin’ day!”

Is the Google Tangle Over?

Does this completely remove the need to deal with any of that Google knots? No, not at all. You’ll still need to navigate the UI and applications du jour to get your map listing and be found in the 2,3,4,5,6 or 7 mixed listing pack. You’ll still need to get verifications and all that. So, no, it’s not over. It’s still a mess.  It’s just one less thing to have to deal with – but one of the few useful and meaningful things to most website owners.

This is Business

I’ve read a quite a few comments on the Mueller post about people should have understood that the REAL reason behind implementing authorship was to provide quality content and be part of the community.  NOT to get your picture on and increased attention in the SERPs. Really?

Listen, take off those rosy colored glasses, take a break from raising awareness about endangered left-handed purple midget Cranaberis moths that have 3 heads, and get a grip. (We do actually have a thing for purple moths ourselves…)  Without knowing the contents of Google’s databases, which they guard with more vigilance than Fort Knox, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a far greater majority of the Google+/Local “community” is based on businesses that joined in hopes of increased rankings or part of an overall SEO / brand awareness strategy – not to gnosh granola and sing Kumbaya on Mount Utopia.  It’s a great song and all, but these are primarily small businesses that have limited budgets and want to get the absolute MOST for their buck whereEVER they spend it.

I had MANY that specifically came to me with the “Can you make my picture come up in the listings?” question.  I don’t recall even ONE coming to me and saying, “Eric, can you help us setup a Google plus and authorship profile because we really want to contribute deep, meaningful, quality content to the internet community?” Yeah, not one.  It’s about business.

If you can relate to the above, want a company that knows what you are looking for sans the Kumbaya, and wants SEO RESULTS, then you are OUR kind of customer.  Call us for serious search engine work.

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