On May 12, Google introduced a new feature called ‘Rich Snippets‘ that will become a standard part of their indexing algorithm. This feature could be important for any business, but I think local businesses should be especially alert to it — it is one more tactic to use in the local search SEO campaign. Pay attention to this one, folks – it could have a big impact on search over time.
The Rich Snippets feature is an evolving effort to use structured data in search results. Ordinarily, Google picks up a piece of text, usually the meta description, to insert a brief descriptive ‘snippet’ about a website along with the URL in search results. Beginning now, it will sometimes include structured data in the search result snippet in place of the text description. Google is currently supporting structured data about ratings and people, but plans to begin using other kinds of data soon.
Here’s one example from Google how a rich snippet might look. In this one, a local business with a rating on Yelp is shown in search results with rating information.
Google has tested this concept and offers an important clue to the importance they give it: It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable — if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through. That’s the important thing for your business — attracting the click.
It’s not yet clear, to me at least, how individual local businesses will use this feature, but I am sure the issue will be all over the blogosphere for the next few weeks, and we’ll know a lot more soon. The structured data does have to be tagged by someone who knows what they are doing (your webmaster, unless you build websites yourself), but as always Google is providing examples like the ones you see in the link above.
One last thing: You might be asking, what is structured data? Roughly, it is information that is defined by a variable that can take a range of values. “First name” = “Glenn” in my case. Ratings information is classic, since there is a structure that includes the name of the business, a ratings system (e.g., 1 to 4 stars), a price range, and might include a testimonial in text. If you run a business that can be rated, in Yelp or TripAdvisor for example, it is described by structured data.
One more part of your SEO package. Do use it.