Rich snippets

Some new markup to get our heads around, can’t be ignored if it’s going to give any kind of ranking benefit at all or even if it just helps conversions because your snippet is more useful to users.

Understanding the web to make search more relevant
1/22/2010 10:30:00 AM
Last year at our second Searchology event, we announced Google Squared and Rich Snippets, two approaches to improve search by better understanding the web. Today, we’re kicking off the new year with two improvements based on those technologies. First, we’re applying the research behind Google Squared to add a new “answer-highlighting” feature to search, and second we’re expanding Rich Snippets to include events.

Rich snippets testing tool

Only applies if your site provides one of those specific services – product ratings, event listings, business listings, etc.

One thing: rich snippets

Another thing: answer highlighting

Two separate things

You can’t quote me saying that answer highlighting isn’t based on your markup, then post some links and quotes about Rich Snippets to refute it. The guide to Rich Snippets is as relevant as this guide for baking peach pie. Yum.

When Google finds markup in one of the types of microformats it parses on your page, when that page shows up in a search result, it can show a listing for your site specific to the type of data your page is about. If it’s a review, it’ll show the average product rating and number of reviews under your site name. If it’s an event listing, Google can show the dates and times of the events under your site title. They’re not highlighted in the description of your page shown under the title, they’re totally separate fields pulled out and separated from the standard listing format.

That’s Rich Snippets.

Answer highlighting is a totally separate thing Google just came out with. 7 months after they added the Rich Snippets stuff. It doesn’t parse any kind of markup in your page. You don’t identify the answers for it to highlight. It’s an algorithm. Natural language processing and all that jazz. When Google can identify that the search is looking for some kind of fact, and that a page contains that fact, it will highlight that answer in the description shown in the search results. No specialized display, just a normal text description extracted from the page, like every other search result. The difference is that the answer to the query gets highlighted.

This blog post has two announcements. They’re in separate sections, with two separate bold headings. One bold heading about answer highlighting, then info about their new answer highlighting feature. Then a second bold heading about rich snippets, and info about the new microformat supported in their rich snippets feature.

hope this one works for small ordinary sites… like blogs and social networking sites… but its a good thing that google include that… promoting site events its going to be that hard…

Well not really Dan, did you read the webmaster blog article? The reason that I posted this was because of Answer highlighting in search results & Rich Snippets for events.

The rich snippets part of that post refers to events marked up with RDFa or microformats. If you look at the example sites for the event snippets, they’ve embedded hCalendar markup in their HTML, and that’s why Google can parse it and create the snippets of the event data. Same goes for reviews and business listings, the other kinds of Rich Snippets Google supports right now.

The “answer highlighting” is separate from the Rich Snippets results, and isn’t based on any markup you write.

So if your site doesn’t provide one of those specific services – product ratings, event listings, business listings – then this doesn’t apply to you because those are the only microformats Google parses to create Rich Snippets.

I added hReview markup to a few my sites back in March when Google announced the support.

It isn’t? Maybe I haven’t understood this but I thought that’s what the markup was for, to tell Google which bit’s of your content you consider ‘rich’ (kinda like the keyword tag used to be for before it got spammed to death) according to this guide on Rich Snippets.

Back in May this was true “We are currently supporting data about reviews and people.” and they say in that post “As structured data becomes more widespread on the web, we expect to find many new applications for it, and we’re excited about the possibilities.” which they’ve now done and they’ve rolled it out to support any kind of content using that kind of markup.

They also promise “We will make our best efforts to monitor and analyze whether individual websites are abusing this system: if we see abuse, we will respond accordingly.

yes really very new about me, thanks

I really don’t get why people are excited about this sort of thing from a webmaster perspective, it’s just another way for Google to harvest data from your site and display it on their SERPs so that people don’t actually have to visit your site to get the information.

People do realize that Google’s goal is eventually to remove the need for anyone to ever actually visit the sites they list in their SERPs right? By scraping your sites and supplying the data directly, there will be no need to ever leave their SERPs.

And to think, back in the old days, we used to get peeved when others scraped our content and presented it to their users.

FYI, my comments are not directed at Dan, it’s just his snippet that explained the situation the best.

Are you a Rich Snippet?


I see

Why didn’t you just post like this in the first place

Cos I’m an idiot and normal writing doesn’t work with me


Interesting idea. It’s not going to apply to every situation though is it. An answer only requiring a few words or a number might work that way but most website provide much more than that, and anyway I think that seeing the actual answer I’m after in a snippet is more likely to make me go to that site than a snippet that doesn’t seem related to what I’m searching for.

I’m pretty sure that Google aren’t trying to do away with website content that they can’t fit into a snippet, even for the twittering 5 second concentration span generation, unless of course that’s the demographic that they’re trying to cater for and the rest of us can actually visit sites?

I dunno, I’m free associating here. This thread has been pretty useful so ffr.

It’s just another step in that direction…

It started with queries like “how many teaspoons in a tablespoon”.
Then it went to “definition of apple”
Now it’s this stuff…

They may not be able to eliminate sending people to webpages in every situation, but they are doing their best to do so and are only going to get better and better at it in the future.

I’ve just never heard anyone say that before and I’m not sure what to make of it at the moment. My instinct is that it’s not true, why would Google not want people to go to websites? But I guess now the idea is in my head and time and further discussion will dictate where my opinion falls on it. This is what I love about forums.

What new features have Google integrated into search result pages over the past half a decade?

  • Comparison shopping, no more need for Google to point you to a comparison shopping site if they can show you all the prices in the search result
  • Local business listings, no more need for Google to point you to local business directories if they can show you the same scraped contact info and reviews in the search result
  • Video search with the videos embedded in the search result pages, no need for Google to point you to the video sites themselves
  • Real-time search results, no more need to go to Twitter to see what people are saying about real-time events when Google can show the tweets in the search result
  • Definitions, no more need for Google to send you to dictionaries and encyclopedias when Google can make a whole page of the full definitions scraped from a dozen sites on its own

The other guys do the same thing. At Bing you can comparison shop hotels and flights without leaving for a travel site.

Yes but this a very short list of contexts where a small amount of information can satisfy the searcher and it can be fitted into a snippet. There are many more types of sites that will always require a proper visit and many people will still go to the sites the short snippets came from anyway, I do it all the time. This is just one demographic out of several that Google is doing it’s best to satisfy.

On top of that, where can that approach go? Should we stop bothering with proper content, will we eventually forego creating proper sites for sites full of short bursts of info designed to fit into a snippet? In anycase as you pointed out earlier, rich snippets are only for certain contexts, everything else, such as answers, will still have to pulled from larger volumes of content.

Google tried to eliminate the need to go to other sites for larger volumes of content too.


It didn’t take off, though.

you could set a 140-character limit, too, so that the snippet isn’t overly big…


I’m a full time website developer/SEO and the majority of sites I build are in the $750-$2500 range and they’re mostly information sites, glorified business cards, for people who just want to have an online presence that gives a good impression of their business and generates leads.

Google may be the world’s biggest and best search engine but they’re never going to be able to do away with the need my average client has regardless of whether people are finding them on google or going directly to the site after seeing the URL on a business card or flyer or whatever. Even as someone who is immersed in SEO, online marketing and webdesign on a daily basis (and freshly introduced to this new idea about google) I have no plans to change the style and IA of my own site.

I think that there’ll always be a need for ‘proper’ websites despite what Google want, assuming that you’re right.