First introduced in 2011, Authorship allowed individuals to associate their Google+ profiles with their published content. Up until just a few months ago this meant that Google would show a profile photo, along with author by line next to the content in search results.
"I’ve been involved since we first started testing authorship markup and displaying it in search results. We’ve gotten lots of useful feedback from all kinds of webmasters and users, and we’ve tweaked, updated, and honed recognition and displaying of authorship information. Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results."
SEO's loved Google's Authorship feature for a number of reasons. The original idea was to increase credibility across the web. This suggested that author credibility itself would one day also become a key ranking factor. While what was deemed "author rank" never did pan out, the profile photo and author information still offered a very clear cut way to stand out in search results, even in lower rankings. The feature also seemed to be a big nod to best practice SEO and offered a perk professional search engine optimizers could offer to clients.
Despite the promise of standing out from the crowd, Authorship profile photos were never shown to actually increase click-through rates. With Google removing the photos from search results recently, it comes as only somewhat of a surprise that byline info will be gone now as well.
Perhaps something better will be introduced by Google in the future, or perhaps the complete removal of Authorship forebodes the eventual nixing of Google+ itself. For now, however, we say goodbye to an exciting and promising feature that will surly be missed for a long time to come.