Definition: Google Authorship was a Google program (now formally discontinued) that enabled authors to identify themselves with rich HTML snippets embedded that were visible in enhanced search results.

Google Authorship was active for roughly three years, beginning in 2011 and officially discontinued in June 2014. Some, but not all, of its functionality was continued and expanded upon through Google's embrace of the Structured Data Markup initiative.

How Google Authorship worked

When Google Authorship was introduced, it was intended as a way to address the problem of gauging authority in search results. That is, how can web searchers know which sources are legitimate and trustworthy? Popular and frequently-linked authors could utilize the Google Authorship tags to make their articles more prominent on Google Search, theoretically helping to push the best authors towards prominence.

Google Authorship was based on two HTML tags:


An integration with Google Plus social system encouraged authors with active accounts to significantly customize their displayed profiles, pictures, and byline that appeared when the author tag was applied. Authorship was discontinued due to low adoption and limited impact on user behavior, according to Google.

The Embrace Of Structured Data Markup

Though officially discontinued, some elements of Google Authorship are still seen on SERPs. Structured Data Markup applies the Authorship concept of enhanced search results to many categories beyond

Google, along with other search engines, helped launch the standard for HTML annotation. These allow web designers to specify information about their content, like distinguishing between pages about games, movies, or other forms of content, as well as many other annotations such as dates or physical locations. For example, online stores can apply product, sales, or location markup to relevant pages.

Structured Data Markup allows for far more variety in rich HTML tagging than Google Authorship did, and is now the standard way of adding such information to Google Search results.

Learn more about how structured data, included in BigCommerce themes, can help increase click-through-rates:

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