On this Election Day, I’d like to discuss what I believe to be one of the most critical topics in search today: structured data. As millions of new pieces of content are added to the web each day, all in different types of formats and each with their own purpose, search engines need ways to effectively parse out this data based on user intent. Rich snippets are an experimental semantic web feature which according to Google’s Pravir Gupta at the June 2010 Semantic Technology conference have seen an impression growth of four-fold since October 2009.
To put it simply, rich snippets are just a more structured form of data that helps search engines understand what content is about and helps to connect that with users based on the intent of their search query. A common example of a rich snippet:
Because Amazon has provided additional information in a structured manner, Google is able to display additional review specific details (ratings) in the search results.
Currently, rich snippets are available for reviews, people, business & organizations, events, products and recipes. Google also recognizes markup for video content. It’s interesting to me that rich snippets are not yet a common place technique implemented by all site owners that could benefit. This is one of the simplest ways that webmasters can provide organized and optimized data to search engines and enhance the display of their site in search results, most likely improving organic click through rates. And with all the fuss about videos – I feel like this is still an opportunity yet to be tapped into by most websites that provide video content.
Google supports two video markup formats: Facebook Share and Yahoo SearchMonkey RDFa. If you use one or both of these formats to mark up your video directly in your HTML document, it will help Google better understand and present your video content.
Example Code (RDFa)
Example in Search Results
Finally, Google has also announced that rich snippets are also supported for local search. By providing this structured data, Google can show your Place page with comprehensive information and in the most effective manner. Now that the local search world has been shaken up with Place Search, local listings are dominating nearly the whole first page of search results, so it is more critical than ever to ensure local listing optimization.
So on this Election Day in 2010, please cast your vote for structured data. As the start of the New Year is just months away, I have no doubt in my mind that rich snippets will play a critical role in search marketing for 2011.