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anna colibri, google authorship, seo, copywriting, online marketing, digital sharecropping
Google Authorship Makes the Point: Digital Sharecropping Doesn’t Work

As many of you know, Google ended their Authorship feature on August 28, 2014.

Reporting on industry news isn’t my strong suit, exactly, but I didn’t want to let this one go by without comment. I want to share my reactions to this event, and let you, my readers, understand what I think the take-home’s are.

My first reaction was dismay. I invested in Google Authorship on my own behalf as well as on behalf of my clients. I did this for two key reasons: As a blogger and a writer, it really made sense to have the ability to link myself to my writing anywhere online.

The second reason was search engine optimization (SEO). Word on the “street” was that Google gave an SEO boost in its algorithm for Authorship connected websites.

I loved the Authorship concept, and I believe it is a good one. Connecting awesome content to legitimate writers and rewarding them with increased authority is a great idea and uplifting for hard-working bloggers and content writers.

I guess I could look at it this way: One less thing to do.

Hindsight being 50/50, I should have seen this coming when, in June, Google stopped featuring images in Authorship rich snippets, but I didn’t. Now Google is saying posts with images didn’t have a higher click-through rate. Okay, I’ll believe that.

So, why did Google Authorship fail?

The first reason Google Authorship failed is that it was an arcane and mysterious product to use. Not as bad as controlling proliferating YouTube channels and making sure you have constantly changing Google My Business, Google+ profiles, and Google+ pages under control — but still a hassle even for the tech savvy.

And kind of impossible for the non tech savvy. Especially because, bringing me to the second reason Google’s Authorship product failed, which is that, simply put, few people knew Google Authorship existed — let alone its purpose.

Maybe Google’s intention was to “separate the men from the boys,” but I don’t think so. What I think is that Google is a big and growing company, and that (here I go again with my “two reasons” thing) they, first of all, failed to create and promote a user friendly Authorship product and, second, they don’t mind Guinea pigging their customers — by which I mean most of the known world.

Google can, of course, flex its copious online power to do whatever it wants. However. I think that, even if you are a huge company and have everyone in a headlock, if you make things unpleasant enough, people will start looking for alternatives. Besides, making things unpleasant for people is unpleasant. Right?

The implications are, again, twofold.

Here’s an example of the first implication: I advised Alan Steinborn, of Real Money, to go with a custom platform instead of building his new business with Google+. The expense and difficulty have been considerable. Yet, had he chosen to go with Google, he might have found himself platform free just as his business was moving forward. After all, when Google wants to pull the plug, Google pulls it (Google Reader, RIP).

That is why we as online business people should and must avoid “digital sharecropping” by having our own websites and protecting our own data (content) whenever possible.

The second implication is that, as bloggers and online business people, our first line of defense is always to produce excellent content and aim it squarely towards our well-researched and well-loved customer base. Write the best headlines you can and match it up with useful and/or entertaining content.

I am a little frustrated to see Google Authorship go. Maybe Google will surprise me and come up with something better — something that actually does help quality writers distinguish themselves online.

Until then, I’ll keep writing the best content I can and advising my clients to own their content.

Your Turn

What’s your opinion? Sad to Authorship go or never even heard of it?

Photo credit: Walker Evans

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