As early as April 9th, Google began rolling out a new profile feature to its Google+ network that many believe may have Google Authorship and AuthorRank implications. Users can now specify whether they are a "current" or "past" contributor to a blog listed in their "Contributor to" section.
Google has referred to the addition as "a minor improvement to the Google+ profile page so that ... you can connect your Google+ profile with the content you've authored, even if you no longer write for a given site."
Curious as to how this would affect the appearance and ranking position of blog content in the SERPs, I monitored a blog article for one week.
As the basis of my experiment, I chose a blog that I contributed to regularly from 2011-2012 as "past." These 57 posts make up a majority of my author stats in Webmaster Tools. On April 12th, I marked it as "past contributor." Here's what happened:
Author Rich Snippets
Over the one-week period, there was absolutely no affect on the appearance of author rich snippets in the SERPs:
There does not seem to be a negative affect on content rankings. As you can see above, the article still ranks #1 for an exact-match title search. Two additional searches confirmed that rankings did not fluctuate in the week following:
Author stats also appear to be unaffected:
Though these findings are by no means indicative of the entire web ecosystem, it's likely that marking youself as a "past" contributor won't have any impact on authorship annotations or search rankings. The ability to further label the blogs you contribute to appears to be nothing more than a vanity option.
One interesting side effect of a "past" contributor label is the results page of a Structured Data Test. In testing the same link from above, while marked as "past," the SDTT claims that authorship is not established:
After changing that blog back to "current," the SDTT shows that authorship is established:
Despite the false signal on a "past" blog, author rich snippets in the SERPs persist. Could this be a temporary bug? Either way, this is certainly a feature we'll have our eyes on going forward.