Why I Am Removing Google Authorship
Some of you may remember that “The Google Cache” began as a protest site years ago. At that time (as I still do today), I believed that Google’s default behavior of “caching” all pages on the Internet was unethical. While most people just confused “indexing” with “caching”, a few people agreed that what Google was doing was at face value a massive copyright violation. It is one thing to index the web and make it searchable, it is a different thing to make a cached version of that page available. One is a card catalogue, the other is a copy. Nevertheless, I eventually pulled down the protest site and put up the blog as you now know it.
Well, today I am starting a new personal protest against Google as well – in particular, Google+. A few weeks ago I published a piece called “How to Buy 1178857 Links the Google Way.” The piece outlined how the Google+ Authorship program (and specifically the use of the rel=author links back to Google+ profiles) resulted in the largest incentivized link campaign ever known. Google+ has now moved to position 93 on the majestic million, adding subnets faster than all but 1 in the top 100, and beating out flagship Google properties like Gmail and link powerhouses like t.co. What has been responsible for this explosive link growth? Google’s promise to put a pretty icon next to your listings in Google if you link to your Google Plus profile.
While the spam team was willing to penalize Google Chrome for a handful of indirectly acquired links of little to no concern, they have overlooked this incredible violation.
What is perhaps most infuriating is that Google+ had the capacity, all along, to verify authorship without using the links. There are numerous ways to accomplish this:
- The email verification method they now currently have in place
- Meta tags, similar to those used to verify in Google Webmaster Tools
- Attributes to other tags (this would be ideal, because then they could apply multiple authors to different content sections on the same page)
There has been a lot of discussion about Google unfairly using its search engine to promote Google+ (such as the direct integrations on the side, the user icons, etc.). In my opinion, all of these pale in comparison to the huge oversight of this massive incentivized link campaign. So, I am removing my Google Authorship links, and am asking you to remove yours as well. If you really depend on it, you can at least nofollow those links or replace your verification method with email verification. I am not against the authorship program, I am against the hypocrisy of Google+ getting away with a 1,000,000+ incentivized link campaign while sending out 700,000 “unnatural link profile” notices to websites for far less egregious offenses. I won’t be using Google Authorship until Vic Gundotra sees one of these in his Google Webmaster Tools account.
So, many people have asked me to comment on whether or not Google really is benefiting from these links. Perhaps Google already devalued them? Perhaps they are really so insignificant that they don’t affect rankings.
Well, luckily, this is a pretty easy thing to test.
- We acquire a large list of Google+ profiles. In this case, around 1000.
- We then spider these profiles to determine whether or not they have filled out the “contributor to” section, and what their name is
- We then search google for their names to determine whether their profile shows in the top 10 and how many pages exist with their name to determine keyword competitiveness.
- Finally, we determine whether people who have used the contributor to section are more likely to show up in the top 10.
And the results… 31% of Google+ users without the contributor to section set rank for their name, 47% of those with the contributor to section included rank for their name. We controlled for keyword difficulty, excluding rare names and very popular names. Even when including other metrics like Google+ activity (such as the number of searches), we only see an additional boost of 11%. Is it really that surprising though? Of course links help Google+ profile pages rank in Google. The problem is that Google paid for these links with enhanced search results.