Authorship is a piece of code supplied by Google that you place into your website. This code tells Google who the author was who created the page. It then links that author to their Google + profile. Authorship was thought by many to be the future of SEO. Subject Matter Experts could largely be determined by Google + authorship, but now, Google is removing key elements of the visual aspect of authorship in search results.
According to John Mueller, “We’ve been doing lots of work to clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices. As a part of this, we’re simplifying the way authorship is shown in mobile and desktop search results, removing the profile photo and circle count. (Our experiments indicate that click-through behavior on this new less-cluttered design is similar to the previous one.)”
This is pretty big news. It means you will not see any more of this in search.
So why did Google do this? Here is one comment from a reader on SE roundtable that I thought was interesting. “Wake up people! As Moz Rand said, most likely the photos were increasing CTR for organic results and negatively impacted CTR on ADS. It’s about money, money, money. Their motto is ‘Don’t be Evil’ not ‘Don’t be Greedy’.”
I am not 100% about the reason why Google did this. The change does make the interface cleaner and simpler. But there is a strong argument that they wanted to drive more clicks to ads and less to organic. Reducing the prevalence of author photos could certainly do this. Either way, this will be one to watch.