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.
If you’re interested in learning more about Google Authorship or AuthorRank, be sure to sign up for our upcoming webinar “Why AuthorRank is the Future of SEO and What You Need to do About it Now” with Business2Community.
If you just can’t wait, you can catch a sneak peek of our slides here:
For more blogging tips, check out our Blog Post Optimization Guide.