///UPDATE/// – Well, after all this trouble, google scrapped the search engine image thing after all. Oh well.
So I’ve had my google+ author image showing up on Graywolf Survival‘s search results for about a year. Last month, they stopped showing up altogether, as well as for Man Cave Zen. Here’s how I fixed it.
I started Graywolf Survival a little over a year ago when I was in Afghanistan. I needed something to keep my mind busy so I didn’t think about getting blown up as I lay down in bed every night like I did in Iraq. As such, I did a LOT of learning about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), google’s semantic search, and things like Click-Through Rates (CTR) and online marketing.
One of the key things that most sites still don’t take advantage of is using a google+ author page tied to their site, giving me a big advantage in non-SEO niche circles.
I’m not going to go into why you should have one because there are a lot of sites out there that can explain it better than I can. Suffice it to say that if you write anything online, you need to do this. If you really want to get deep into why and how to work social media, including google+, you need to pick up a copy of 500 Social Media Marketing Tips: Essential Advice, Hints and Strategy for Business: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and More!.
Google+ authorship was working
A couple months ago, I started Man Cave Zen. It’s grown a lot faster than Graywolf Survival did in the same time period, mostly because I’m a lot better at SEO and using social networks than I was a couple months into GS. Of course, part of that could be that I don’t have rocket and mortar attacks a couple nights a week here in Phoenix.
At first, I kept the two sites completely separate. Then I started thinking that I’m doing a disservice to my new site by not capitalizing on the authority of what I’ve already been doing this past year with GS, so I changed from having two google+ profiles to just one, and switched my author name on both sites to be “Scott Kelley” instead of “Scott Kelley” and “Graywolf Survival” like I had them.
Well, I went through all the trouble of making the switch and waited for the images to show up. They did. Dandy.
Then all of a sudden my authorship images weren’t showing up anymore
Then a month or so ago, I noticed one day that my images for Man Cave Zen weren’t showing up in google when I searched for anything. I checked the Rich Snippets tool and saw minor errors but nothing serious. I checked the Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools and it had the wrong information. I messed around with things for a few days and even though I fixed all the minor errors, I still had no images. Then I realized a few days later that my image didn’t show up in google for GS either. WTF over?
I went to google’s troubleshooting page – no joy. I spent many days, going from forum to forum and asking questions on facebook, google+, and wherever else I could find someone who posted how to put images in the search results. Unfortunately, most of the time either I’d get the standard,
Google does not guarantee that Rich Snippets will show up for search results from a particular site even if structured data is marked up and can be extracted successfully according to the testing tool.
Well no shit, Sherlock
What a ridiculous cop-out answer that is, which is basically saying, you’re shit outta luck because they don’t always show so if it isn’t working then you might as well just give up. All most as aggravating as when someone asks advice about which product they should choose in a particular situation, invariably some idiot pipes up with, “you need to choose which one is right for you.” Thanks for playing dumbass; let the big boys talk now.
Even worse, I’d explain in excruciating detail the steps that I had already taken, and all the symptoms and history of the issue, and I’d spend the next several days bouncing back and forth with answering some other idiot who just kept asking me things that I had already mentioned that I had done, such as checking it with the rich snippets testing tool. And of course, some other idiot would mention that google doesn’t guarantee that they show the images. It’s like that’s some kind of badge of honor to know that little tidbit of knowledge.
I started to get pretty frustrated.
What makes it doubly difficult is that even if you fix the problem while you’re going through all the changes, you may not know for days or weeks that it’s actually fixed.
BTW, one quick way to check if your page is set up “correctly” with google authorship is to set up a shortcut in your browser and edit the link in the shortcut to say:
Then when you want to check one of your pages, just go to your page and hit that link in your browser. It’ll take you to the rich snippets testing tool for that page. Pretty cool, right?
Now understand, some time late in 2013, google started getting stricter on which pages showed images in their SERPs. It just wouldn’t make much sense to drop ever single page of my site – both sites. Man Cave Zen is relatively new but Graywolf Survival is literally one of the top survival and prepper sites out there and steadily gains in the rankings every single month. Something must be amiss in the mechanism that allows images. Since it was affecting both sites, it had to be something dealing with my google+ profile.
One of the problems I ran into is that somewhere (and I didn’t keep the link unfortunately), someone mentioned that when they changed their author page that they were dropped off. Could this be the problem?
Then a few days ago, I was searching through different things that affect CTR in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and came across a few interesting articles on what kind of faces make people more likely to click and I happen to come across a comment about someone losing their images because the facial recognition software that google uses some how came ’round and wiped them out. You’d think that if the Rich Snippets tool says that everything’s fine that google would have had it check the facial recognition – or at least mentioned something about it still being an issue. That comment led me to a Cypress North article titled, Google Authorship Not Showing Up? Try These 14 Tips To Get Authorship Working For You and another one at AUTHORSHIP BROWNOUTS DUE TO “FACERANK”?
. Could it actually be my image?
Here’s the image that I was using with my google+ authorship profile:.
I do know a thing or two about facial recognition software but it’s possible that due to the vast scale of what google has to deal with, maybe it’s just not quite that good. Any normal non-civilian facial recognition software would easily be able to decide that this is a person and most likely, who it is if they’re in the system. What’s interesting though is that even facebook’s recognition software doesn’t pick it up (which you can tell by looking at the uploaded photo in a facebook profile and mousing over it, which will then outline the face with a box if it sees a face). Facebook has no problem with sunglasses, but it, and apparently google+, has a problem with something with this picture.
Here’s how I got my author image to show up in google’s search results
I decided to pull out some variables such as shading the eyes from the hat, the cigar, and the sunglasses. I have a suspicion that the issue is actually the two bright reflections in the glasses but it’s just a guess. Here’s the photo I replaced it with:
That worked! Within 24 hours (maybe much sooner), my images were back in the search results for Man Cave Zen:
And it also now works for Graywolf Survival:
Now one thing I notices as I was doing this article, when I went up to my google+ authorship page to download the images for this article, I noticed that if I mouse over my new image inside my google+ photos, I get a circle around my face with a yellow box saying, “Click face to tag:”
So as a quick sanity check, I went back to the google+ profile photos and pulled up the one with the hat and cigar that wasn’t working in the search results and guess what – no circle!
So, this isn’t a completely scientific test with a large sample size and controlled variables but my suggestion if your images aren’t showing up in the search engine results but rich snippets is showing everything’s fine, is to first check your google+ avatar and see if you get a circle with the “click face to tag” box when you mouse over it. If not, that’s most likely your problem – even if it worked previously. Even if you do get a circle, the algorithm that decides if you get an image or not may be more picky than whatever mechanism triggers the circle, so change your image. I purposely wen’t pretty far with making it full front, just face, no colors, and nothing blocking or shading my face. Try that first. Once you get it working, you can try out new images.
Up next: optimizing the best photo for the highest CTR through some research and split testing.
References used in this article: Google Authorship Not Showing Up? Try These 14 Tips To Get Authorship Working For You, Infographic: How To Troubleshoot Google Authorship Issues, A Step-By-Step Flowchart, Google product forums, Google product forums 2, Google Authorship Markup: How to get your picture in search results, Updated: Did The Authorship Reduction In Google Begin? Yes