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Dropped Authorship, an Imminent Penguin and #GoogleRecon: An SEO Catch-Up

As you can see from a quick glance at our ‘SEO’ section, I haven’t really written about SEO for a while now – but today I thought it was time to change that. Why? Because in the last few weeks or so, quite a bit has been going on in the world of SEO that’s definitely worth talking about.

As you’ve probably guessed from the title, the latest news in the industry is all tied to Google Authorship and a Penguin update (or lack of thereof!), along with Google Reconsideration Requests.

Google Drops Authorship

About 18 months ago Google made the big announcement that ‘Authorship’ (the process of tying your content to your Google+ profile) was now imperative for every author if they wanted their content to perform well in the SERPs.

Of course, as with anything else Google-related, the SEO industry sat up and took notice – cue a wave of blog owners implementing authorship on their blogs and every author insisting any piece of content they write on any platform or site be tied to their Google+ profile.

18 months later, and it seems like Google have done a complete 180 on this one. Back in June, the major SEO blogs started to report that Google had started to dramatically reduce the number of Google+ profile pictures and Circle count stats associated with a blog in the organic SERPs. Why? Because in their own words, these elements didn’t add anything to the organic SERPs and didn’t really affect the click behaviour of users who were given the results which included Authorship details.

Fast forward to the end of August and Google made the announcement that it had decided to drop Authorship altogether. The reasons? There were two. Firstly, according to Google, Authorship had only been implemented by a small number of sites – and out of the ones which had implemented Authorship, a large number had done so incorrectly. And secondly, as I said before, they claim Authorship offered little value to searchers.

Hmm, so do you need to remove all Authorship mark-up from your blog? I’d be inclined to say ‘no’ for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Google have confirmed that this markup won’t damage your site – they’ll just no longer look at it anymore – so I wouldn’t waste time removing it.

And secondly, as this article from Search Engine Land discusses, Authorship might be dead but Author Rank isn’t.  Author Rank is the idea that Google can judge a piece of content based on its author and rank it accordingly – eg. the more of an authority the author is, the higher their content will rank. Although Google won’t necessarily use the Authorship mark-up to tie content to a Google+ profile, it may use it to determine the author, and use this, along with other factors, to determine where a piece of content should rank.

An Imminent Penguin

As I discussed in my blog on SEO in June, the SEO industry is still waiting for the next update of the dreaded Penguin algorithm… and at the time of writing, we’re still waiting… but we may not have long to wait now. On 15th August in a Google+ Hangout, when quizzed about the next Penguin update, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said that the “engineers are working on it” and said it’s “not that far away”.

Of course, after an announcement like that – SEOs were glued to the rankings that day… but aside from the normal amount of fluctuation, nothing really happened.

A couple of weeks later, on 28th August, all eyes were back on the SERPs after Barry Schwartz announced on SERoundTable that all the ranking fluctuation tools such as MozCast were lighting up – signs an update could be taking place… and after lots of chatter on the Webmaster Forums about ranking jumps and drops, it looked like there could be something to it… but a week on and we’re still yet to have an official announcement from Google.

This could mean one of two things – Google has released Penguin 3.0 and just hasn’t told us yet – or they’re playing around and testing something else which has nothing to do with Penguin – the latter of which would be pretty mean since they know webmasters are on the edge of their seats waiting for the next Penguin update.

GoogleRecon Week

Aside from a possible Penguin update, Google have decided to give site owners another gift this week in the form of #GoogleRecon. This week, across their Google+ Webmaster Page, Google will be offering site owners tips around submitting a reconsideration request, under the hashtag #GoogleRecon. So far, the tips have been a little bit basic (such as “you need to remove inorganic links before you submit a reconsideration request”) – so it’ll be interesting to see if Google releases any top-secret tips which aren’t currently in the public domain.

So there you go; the three key news pieces from the last month or so. As ever I’m keen to hear your thoughts. What do you think of the whole Authorship debacle? And do you think we’re in the middle of the next Penguin update? Leave me a comment below or tweet me – @amy_edwards88.

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