John Mueller, a leading webmaster trends analyst at Google, recently announced that the search giant is making major changes to their visual display of search results. The change will result in a more unified look across desktop and mobile platforms. More specifically, Google will no longer show your authorship profile photo and circle count next to your article. Mueller claims that according to their analysis, this change will not affect click-through-rate (CTR), a well-known factor for ranking search results.
Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land’s news editor, and others have voiced their concerns about this, and webmasters globally are keeping all eyes on any rank changes that this may bring to their results.
Historically, profile pictures have been well known for their effectiveness in increasing CTR on search pages. Many studies, including this one from Justin Briggs, have confirmed this. He has even gone into details about how CTR can be optimized by tweaking the background color or the direction of the author’s face in the image and how this can have noticeable impact.
The changes have now been implemented and are showing up on Google’s search results globally. On Twitter, the sentiment analysis shows mostly calm feedback from users, but perhaps this is because it’s too early to tell whether it has actually affected anyone.
So what can businesses do to minimize any possible negative impact on natural search traffic? Continue to use Google+ posts and implement rich snippet tags for videos, images and other content, because these can come in handy as a counter balance measure. Google+ posts still show author images and multimedia content tagged on the page, and will bring up thumbnails next to your content in search results. Through this, you can ensure that your site will continue to have page rankings, with additional visual content improving your site’s overall visibility.