Google Updates Webmaster Quality Guidelines, Includes Rich Snippets

Google announced yesterday that they’ve released an updated version of the Webmaster Quality Guidelines to continue to help webmasters and web designers create websites that are high quality for users and for search engines.

An important feature of the new version is Google’s set of guidelines for rich snippets. What are rich snippets? They are a sample of the content of a webpage that Google displays as part of your organic SERP listing so users can see a summary in the search results and quickly decide if they want to click through the listing or pass it by.

According to Google, snippets are supported for the following content types:

  • Reviews
  • People
  • Products
  • Businesses and organizations
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • Music

Examples of a snippet include:

  • Average User Reviews for Local Businesses
  • Total Prep Time and Review Rating for Recipes
  • Song Titles with Links from a Music Album

“Why should I use rich snippets,” you may ask? You should use rich snippets because you are a dutiful citizen of the web!  Honestly though, rich snippets allow for additional data to appear in search results pages. This makes that search result stand out from other, non-rich snippet results. These results stand out so much, that click-through-rates (CTR) has been observed to increase as much as 30%!

Google supports three markup formats: Microdata, Microformats, and RDFa, and even provides a rich snippet testing tool to test your content to make sure it’s properly formatted. While marking-up your code with one of these three supported formats won’t guarantee rich snippets will be generated for that page, it creates a strong suggestion for them to do so.

Rich Snippets are intended to help develop the “Semantic Web.” Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the inventor of the World Wide Web – defines a semantic web as, “a web of data that can be processed directly and indirectly by machines.” This basically means making data meaningful to machines; it’s all about creating connections between two related pieces of information.

Looking at the above example of Last.fm’s snippet for Lou Reed, we all can tell that Perfect Day is a song, it is performed by Lou Reed, it appears on the Transformer album, and it is three minutes and forty-four seconds long. Without proper markup, only humans would be able to make those assertions. This type of enhanced markup would help answer questions like, “Who sings the song, ‘Perfect Day’?” or, “What album does ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ appear on?”

By adding design and quality guidelines for rich snippets in their Web Master Quality Guidelines, Google is confirming the importance of rich snippets’ role in optimization and user search experience. The main theme of this update is that we’re all heading down a road towards a more semantic web, and that road is paved with rich snippets.

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