Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Google Rich Snippets

Does your website feature reviews of products or services? Here’s a recent development from Google that may affect the way your site appears in the search results:

Google has launched a search results enhancement called “rich snippets” that uses meta data from web pages to display additional details (both content and meaning) about pages in the results. This initial launch supports reviews (with sites such as Yelp) and people’s profiles (with sites such as LinkedIn). This provides an opportunity for the user to preview the results more clearly.

For example, for the search query [Salt Creek Grille], Google shows the average user rating, the total number of reviews, and the price range for the listings from

Similarly, the search results from LinkedIn on Google show the person’s location and job title so searchers have a better sense of which result matches the person they’re looking for.

Where does Google get this data?

Google is getting this information from the meta data coded in the site. Webmasters can use two open standards (microformats and RDFa) to annotate structured data on their sites. Both standards allow markup of information on web pages.

How does it help site owners?

While the initial launch will be limited to a specific set of partners (including LinkedIn, Yelp and CNET Reviews), the intent is that soon anyone who marks their pages up with the appropriate microformat data will be able to make their information understandable by Google. This technology would allow people to explicitly search, for example, for only printers that had an average customer review of 3 stars or higher.

Once your site is marked up, you can let Google know that you’re interested in participating in Rich Snippets using this form:

While Google will accept both microformat encoding and RDFa encoding, it also plans to work toward the development of a common vocabulary for the structured data. Google is hopeful that other web services will also adopt this standard.

At this point in time, if you have reviews about products or services on your site, DBE recommends marking up the data and informing Google about it. For other types of sites, we recommend holding off while Google develops a common vocabulary for data marking. Hopefully, there will be applications for it on a range of websites. In the meantime, other tools are being developed that will make the markup process easier.

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