Google's Cutts: Your Ugly Face Didn't Hurt Your Rankings, Penguin Did.

May 31, 2013 • 9:03 am | comments (31) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google+ PenguinAlex Yumashev wrote a blog post about how authorship lead to a drop in traffic from Google to his site.

He said he noticed this when Google sent him a warning that his traffic suddenly dropped. He noticed his authorship showed up for a specific blog post in the Google search results. He also said people were clicking on the number two results, not the number one result because of maybe his "stupid ugly face" (quoting the author).

Matt Cutts of Google took offense to the title, which reads "How Google Authorship decreased our traffic by 90%." Why? Well, Matt looked into it and he said the real reason is not because of his "ugly face" but rather because he was hit by the Penguin algorithm.

Matt wrote in a Hacker News thread:

Authorship had nothing to do with this site's drop. The site has been affected by our Penguin webspam algorithm and that accounts for the drop.

He then goes on defending Google+ and it's role in Google's search ranking.

Authorship markup launched before Google+ was even available to the outside world.

I like the "outside world" addition.

Typically, authorship and having your picture show in the search results will lead to an increase in CTR and traffic.

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto

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05/31/2013 01:21 pm

This might be just me but I know that when I search for certain topics I now look for the authorship photo at first glance and then start from the top of the SERPs. For instance, I was recently looking for something related to AdWords and I had thought for sure that Barry had posted about it. Before I started to read the site descriptions, I scrolled up and down the first page of SERPs real quick and the photo caught my attention and I clicked through. Barry was ranked at number 7 or 8 for that term and got my attention, and traffic, before the top site was even considered. So in at least one case, the authorship photo helped to increase the one, but I can't be the only person who searches like this on specific topics.

Barry Schwartz

05/31/2013 01:23 pm

Well, I am good looking. :)


05/31/2013 01:56 pm

His face wasn't stupid, but it became after his post )


05/31/2013 02:40 pm

I doubt you are. The web is absolutely packed with loonies.

Jim Christian

05/31/2013 02:52 pm

And I quote: "Providing software so you can focus on your thing." Last time I checked I don't need software to focus on "my thing".


05/31/2013 03:12 pm

My desire to quickly seek out a solid source of information makes me a 'loonie'? I wasn't aware that the Canadian dollar had such strange guidelines.

Digital Key Design

05/31/2013 03:22 pm

OMG this is too funny!

A. Chris Turner

05/31/2013 04:28 pm

At least he got to hear it from the horse's mouth. It was a nice attempt at find fault in a system that, in my opinion, is pretty well thoughtout and sound.

Barry Adams

05/31/2013 04:32 pm

Not sure who to believe here. The example provided by Alex in his blog post shows clearly that he still ranks first for 'macro recorder' (and I checked, he does rank first for me today) so if he has lost traffic on that keyword it sure isn't Penguin that's responsible. Having said that, he might have lost traffic on a boatload of other keywords, though he does state he checked his rankings and nothing changed except the profile photo...

Barry Adams

05/31/2013 04:34 pm

Yes you are you sexy beast. ;)


05/31/2013 05:31 pm

Barry on Barry love going on in this blog post.


05/31/2013 05:38 pm

It's charming how Matt can defend attacks so fast; yet ignores all of the real complaints and screw ups on their part.

Webstats Art

05/31/2013 06:16 pm

My face is charming and I have great authority in authorship.


05/31/2013 08:02 pm

Oh come on, that was a quality Canadian currency joke. Philistines.

Sean Murray

05/31/2013 09:13 pm

Google Authorship caused my toaster to burn my waffles and it punched my Grandma in the face. I don't have evidence of these things but I blame Matt Cutts.

Mark Hoad

05/31/2013 11:50 pm

I write a more in-depth response to this blog post as well that breaks it down for the HN crowd


06/01/2013 01:42 am

The thing is that many people especially professionals in the SEO or SEMor any other marketing type field are starting to associate the mugg shots with G+ posts. I know I am. So I am starting to skip them. So even though this guy has a penguin issue I am thinking that it is still quite possible that the mugg shot negatively affects CTR.


06/01/2013 04:45 am

I think authorship does negatively affect things.

Steve Logan

06/01/2013 10:54 am

I want to live in a world where we all choose what news we read on the basis of how attractive the author is. Sadly, my hair strewn face and corpulent frame are unlikely to do me many favours. Seems an odd situation, but there must be other mitigating circumstances - i.e. a drop in searches, personalised results and so on. Poor bloke.

Bill Bean

06/01/2013 12:47 pm

Should Google let people opt out of authorship or at least of having a photo displayed?

Contractor's Solutions .

06/01/2013 03:15 pm

This is why I associated my site with my G+ company page instead of my personal profile. I am trying to promote my company and the products that I sell, not myself. My comapny logo is displayed rather than my picture. I think this is much better for branding of an ecommerce site or any business.


06/01/2013 09:17 pm

It's also funny how quickly Google will attack sites trying to game their algo (and label them as "spammers"), while Google spend all their time and effort gaming and exploiting loopholes in the the tax systems around the world.

Randy McKown

06/02/2013 06:53 am

Seriously? ... there is a discussion related to Authorship based on the opinion of an Author who has only made 12 blog posts in the last 3 years ... most of which were only 1 sentence long .. LOL .. those aren't blog posts .. they're called Tweets. I don't which is funner .. the fact that this discussion even exists or that Matt Cutts bothered to comment on it.

Get Gaming Now

06/02/2013 09:37 am

hello I have a problem with my site where google impressions and searches are down about 3 months now. I think because recently i changed my html to php and deleted a amazon store which bot found lots of error pages. so what i can do for this error pages and low search traffics? is there a way that i can stop bot crawling my deleted pages? thank you for any help

Chris Faron

06/02/2013 09:01 pm

Your right Randy this is funny! Must the PR Game ;-)

Gautam Jain

06/03/2013 05:45 am

I think over a period of time Authorship's CTR will decrease. This will happen when every one of us will start using Authorship. Most of the results will contain a picture. So site will not stand out as it does now.


06/03/2013 08:11 pm

His whole argument was fundamentally flawed in the first place. His control group was a search term where the second results, below his "stupid face," was WIKIPEDIA.

Reg Charie

06/18/2013 08:47 pm

If you go back and read the original complaints, the author's traffic dropped AFTER his authorship image was added. NOTE: His search positions DID NOT CHANGE. Also note that the metrics show traffic drops to INDIVIDUAL pages. Matt Cutts claimed it was Penguin. BS! Matt. If Penguin had affected his traffic, his position would have dropped and it didn't.


07/01/2013 02:57 pm

That question is fundamentally flawed - firstly, Authorship is an opt-*in* activity; it's not like every person on the web is automatically an author. Secondly, the *biggest*, most immediate benefit to most people seeking Authorship IS the picture. That's why we set it up. Thirdly, what would you do with the space if you took out the picture?? It would just look like these comments, sans images: highlighted names in a slightly larger font than the rest of the listing. Not very compelling.

Benj Rillera

11/26/2013 02:22 pm

Could have been caused by Goggle's "Diminishing Returns" where instead of smashing your site back and just throwing it to the back of Google destroying everything instantly overnight, what its doing is its just slowly moving sites back. Just kind of lowering the link value and giving diminishing returns to the links especially PR links.

Spook SEO

12/02/2013 04:35 pm

Barry, Great article. Most SEO specialists assert that the decrease in site rankings – when people tend to click on the second site, this might be due to the several factors like it is mistaken as part of the ad, etc. But I believe it is really mainly influenced by the context of the search. If the search is for definition, advice or opinion, authorship matters especially if you have established yourself as a familiar face in your field of expertise. However, if it is about any product info, the searcher prefers to click the official leading companies’ logo or site.

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