The Google Authorship program has taken yet another blow as Google has removed more features from the system. It was only a few weeks ago that author photographs were removed from the search results, and now Google has removed author stats from Google Webmaster Tools.
Until recently, author stats could be found in the Labs section of webmaster tools, but the feature has now vanished. This is not the first time that Author Stats have been hidden. In 2012, they were temporarily removed from Webmaster Tools while Google fixed an issue with the system. Now they’re gone again and webmasters are, naturally, anxious to find out where they went. There is some speculation that Google+ could be on the way out. This speculation has been fuelled by the fact that Vic Gundotra, former head of Google+, is no longer with the company. However, Google denies this rumour.
According to Google, the decision to drop author photos was one that was made to assist in streamlining the look and feel of search results across multiple devices. Google says that they have not noticed a large change in clickthrough rates as a result of author photos being removed, but individual webmasters have presented data to the contrary.
The removal of photos was not enough to stop webmasters from using Authorship. Even without the increased visibility offered by authorship photos there were still benefits to using the system. However, the latest change is one that is causing more concern among the community. Currently, author stats can still be found on the authorship page. It is unclear whether they are there to stay, or whether their continued presence is an oversight. It could be that Google has simply failed to focus their efforts to remove the feature, and that we will see a gradual, trickle removal of other parts of the authorship system over the next few months.
For now, authorship still has some benefits for webmasters, especially those in niches that have active Google+ communities. The benefits may not be as obvious as they once were, but having the Authorship tag appear on certain posts, and having references to the +1 system appear for certain users could help to bring in a higher quality of traffic, which is why it is still a popular part of SEO in the UK. If you are currently using Google+ then it is well worth continuing to use the system for now.