Authorship Brownouts Due to “FaceRank”?

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 9.02.15 AMSeveral months ago my author photo stopped showing on my articles in the Google search results. I double checked all of my settings several times and they appeared correct.  I didn’t really have time to fool with it until the end of last month when I reached out to Matt McGee, AJ Kohn and Aaron Weiche for guidance. The bottom line? Google Authorship apparently has some sort of face recognition filter (or as Aaron Weiche called it: FaceRank) that pulls down images it doesn’t like.

Who would have guessed? Here is the email thread between us:

March 29

1)My author photo used to show on my article like this one: web equity
2)It no longer does
3)It tests properly on the rich snippet tool
4)Do I need to implement publisher as well? something else?

AJ Kohn
You’re probably not doing anything wrong. I’ve had a number of folks getting Authorship brownouts lately. I’m trying to follow-up with the team to see if there’s a bug in the presentation layer (which has happened repeatedly).

It could be the face recognition if you’re not getting Authorship on any of your posts. In all, the mark-up is very brittle right now as Google tries to find more and more ways to extend Authorship (aka – indirect Authorship) while preserving accuracy.

Matt McGee
Two possibilities:

1) Google doesn’t like your profile photo anymore.
2) Google is just being its normal wishy-washy self about authorship.

Go in to Google+ and change your profile photo to something that shows you facing forward (like a mugshot) and maybe even in color. If it likes your new image better, you should see it start to show in search results again almost immediately, but not as comprehensively as before (at first).

I lost authorship a couple months ago when Google suddenly decided it didn’t like my half-face avatar in its search results. Ergo I know have the boring full-face on Google+.

If changing your photo doesn’t work, this is just Google being wishy-washy. It’s pretty common for authorship to come and go in my experience,

Aaron Wieche
Seriously? We now have to think about “Face Rank”!!!??!

March 31

I switched to a color full frontal image. Maybe just act of switching toggles their collective conscious. Will let you know.

AJ Kohn
Agreed. Poking the bear to make it stir and reevaluate is always a good idea in these instances.

April 2

The change from my beloved B & W photo to a color one has made the difference. Matt (as usual) seems to have identified what the issue was… a photo that the software didn’t like

April 12

OK. McGee nailed it. I changed out my photo several times over the past week with frontal color photos & all was good for a number of days. Changed it yesterday afternoon (4/11) to my b & w, slightly side view photo and poof its gone as of this morning.

Update April 12 10:00 pm

I replaced the B&W photo at about 9:00 am this morning with my color profile photo and it is now showing 12 hours later.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 10.22.24 PM


So the question remains. Why is one photo NOT acceptable to Google and other photos are?two-author-images


Google was kind enough to notify me that I had qualified with my B & W photo last fall. But they did not have the courtesy of doing so when they suddenly stopped showing my photo. What SMB has time for these sort of horse crap er, outcomes? In fact what normal webmaster does?

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Authorship Brownouts Due to "FaceRank"? by

25 thoughts on “Authorship Brownouts Due to “FaceRank”?”

  1. Mike….yeah, I have a client with the exact same issue – but with a slight variation… Their blog has various authors and only one of same is now “MIA” and yes, as you did, I tried a series of changes to see if I could turn it ‘on’ again….

    So far, no luck…sigh…but I’ll keep on trying…

    If someone DOES come up with an answer…please DO let us all know!

  2. I had the same issue with a client recently. I had a good picture in there that was color, front facing, and professionally taken. I did a test where I moved the location of the Authorship code. Once I did this it started showing again a day later.

  3. @James
    I don’t know if its the B&W or the sideways look or perhaps both. Matt’s was a color photo but only showed one eyeball…


    Your use case might be different and there might be a different reason. Google Author is easily confused.

    Yes there appear to be a number of reasons for the disappearance. Mine and Matt’s seem to center around image “quality” but I am sure that there are a ton more.

  4. My Google+ profile has used a black and white image ever since I implemented authorship, and there haven’t been any issues…. yet. Although I’m probably not popular enough yet to warrant attention from the Goog…

    On a side note, it’s interesting how Mr. Greg Sterling’s profile photo features nothing on his face below the bridge of his nose.

  5. @Kerry
    I am not saying that it is b & w but rather some confluence of factors in the image of which that seems to be one but it could something all together different… who knows but Google doesn’t like that particular image… as whenever I put it up there it disappears.

  6. On a couple occasions I’ve seen company names used instead of first + last names for the Google+ profile. If Google can read and crack down on certain types of mugshots, methinks they should be able to tell a person’s name from that of a company.

    Thanks for the scoop, Mike.

  7. I had this happen to me when I switched to a profile photo where I was wearing a hat. Changed the photo, and POOF! Almost instantly, my profile photo came back!

  8. This is right inline with Google’s ridiculous algorithms. It is not at all surprising.

    What really bothers me is that all of you are spending time to comply with it and further entertain Google.

    Mike’s B&W photo is fine, in fact, it is more appealing than the color photo and therefore is better contextually. I thank Mike and his piers for troubleshooting the issue and communicating it out to all of us, BUT PLEASE STOP THERE!

    Here is where we need to shift gears, think out of the box, and put a stop to the efforts that are preventing good authors from getting their content in front of readers who are searching for it.

    I will not be changing out my B&W (which has been penalized) photo for one that Google’s software “likes”, sorry. I will spend my precious time asking everyone I know to use B&W profile shots for their profiles, AND asking that they please use another search engine.

    In parallel, I will continue to write to Google, and my readers, about how Google’s worthless content-ranking algorithms (and those who suckle it) cater to a specific group, those with SEO skills, and those who can afford to hire those with SEO skills.

    Google claims to provide the most relevant content in its search results.

    What Google is actually providing, is the most relevant content published by the most skilled in SEO.

    This is their right but say what you do and do what you say, otherwise I’m out. Good writers and topic experts are being excluded from an environment that desperately needs them.

    I understand non-author Internet users will use Google to search no matter what, and it is mandatory for Authors to comply if they want Google traffic.

    I will take the loss of traffic, and profits, to stand for what is right.

    I am tired of helping some of the best writers in the world get noticed on Google due to the fact that they have no clue what SEO is, and have a hard time just adding a title to their HTML document.

    It should not be mandatory to be an EXPERT in SEO (or have to hire one) to get noticed when you write great content.

    I have proved that great content will go virtually unseen indefinitely without jumping through Google Hoops (OK, “Google Hoops” is a Registered Trademark of mine as of 1 sec. ago!). Google became a game changer due to it’s unique ability to identify good content and match it up with search criteria, this is no longer anywhere in the Google mission statement.

    It is all about money and herding the masses. And then serving them crap.

    Mike, please change your photo back, and use Yahoo or Bing. If all of us did this, good content would rank first as it should.

    PS – I would love to hear feedback from this reader circle. If you want more on this read “Content is King” on my any of my websites.
    Thanks for letting me vent in your forum. – moneymakerspy

  9. I just had my profile pic completely drop out; Authorship impressions went from 10K/day to 250/day in less than a week. Glad you had written on it. New pic just put up, hope it works…

  10. We’ve recently switched authorship on for our site, and sometimes we can see pics next to our articles, whilst other times we cannot.

    The photos in question of some of our authors have been given an illustrated effect so they’re not 100% photo realistic.

    If Google didn’t like a particular photo would it not show it at all or would it just show less? Seems a bit of an iffy way to approach things IMO.

    Regardless of Google’s decision, we’re going to test full colour photos without any effect, and see if theres a difference.



  11. I’m also having brown outs with one of my profiles – which is my question.

    Do you think having multiple authorship accounts can affect the picture? I use my real name for one profile, and a pen name for another profile. I have not found any information about Google limiting us to one profile, but it’s not that far of a stretch to think that they may not let you have more than one image in the SERPs.

  12. I had the same exact problem on my site. We do safaris in eastern Africa, mainly mountain gorilla trekking. What we did was that we used a picture we took of a mountain gorilla. Apparently for google’s face recognition, it wasn’t 98.5% the same as compared to humans 😉 So we changed it back to our employees who write articles on our blog.

  13. @Niels @Mike
    Which is strange, because apparently the Brown Bear at the Milwaukee Zoo passes for an individual practitioner listing on Maps ( I guess the ability to write content is different than being able to perform the function of being a “Tourist Attraction,” as is the business category on the aforementioned listing.

  14. Thanks for the guide. Your points make sense that a trusted author’s post would rank well even if it is published on low authority site but how about those new authors who are publishing on high authority sites. Will the high authority sites loose rank where they are publishing posts from new or low-trusted authors.


  15. Not sold on the idea that Google does not like B&W author photos. If you study Steven Levy’s example he is using a B&W photo of himself to show others how to create their authorship photo. Moreover he has over 1.6 million followers,

    Anyhow, I landed on this page after I noticed that all the clients I managed had their authorship disappear. However, I also noticed that the image will reappear only when I was logged onto my Google+ account. I do not know what is going on with Google, perhaps they are going through an update or they are penalizing my related accounts. Over the years it is common to see one of the authorship photos disappear for a day or so. This time the photos have not reappeared after 3 days. Oh, the photos I use are good color frontal head-shots.

    Anyone have a solution?

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