Cyrus Shepard

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Did Google Just Drop the Shoe on Authorship Spam?

by Cyrus Shepard · SEO

If you’ve been following the news, you know that last October Matt Cutts announced at Pubcon to expect a 15% reduction in the amount of rich snippets and authorship results.

The anticipated move was seen as an attempt by Google to display more authoritative results. Some SEOs speculated that this is a step in the direction of “author rank” where Google strives to return results from authors it considers as authoritative on certain subject matters.

Yesterday, Mozcast spiked to 98 degrees, one of the highest days of flux we’ve seen in Google’s search results in recent memory. Other Google weather stations such as Algoroo reported a similar spike.

MozCastA few webmasters have speculated this update included a reduction in authorship photos. While the data is still early, the new MozCast SERP Feature Graph does indeed show nearly a 15% decline in results that display authorship photos over the past 30 days.

Authorship Results

What about specific results?

A couple of months ago, I took a screenshot of a Google result that returned 10 out of 10 authorship photos. The query was “10 SEO copywriting tips.”

That search once returned 10 authorship photos. Today the same query returns only 7 for me, a 30% reduction.

Here are the 2 results, side by side:

Google Authorship

Fewer Results Overall: Google Cleaning House?

In the comments below Jeff Creamer pointed out that in the example above, the more recent result returned about 30% less results.

  • Previous results: 1,240,000 results (0.17 seconds)
  • New results: 813,000 results (0.19 seconds)

Indeed, every Google SERP that I have a record for now shows fewer total results displayed. Look at this result for a query from a few months ago compared to the same search today.


I asked on Twitter if this was something new, and the responses included theories that Google was retrieving fewer results to save resources or that Google has cleaned up the SERPs of low quality results.

If it is the latter, then this is truly an interesting update and could be one of the bigger Google updates we’ve seen in quite a long time.

Let’s call it the Google Cartman Update. “You will respect my authority!

Have you noticed a change in authorship photos or number of results returned? Let us know in the comments below.


Matt Cutts of Google just confirmed that the reduction in authorship snippets is real.

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