Google has changed the way consumers search for information on the internet many times in the past. Recently, the company announced upgrades to their algorithm that would let them pull more data from sites and display relevant information in their search results on desktop and mobile (which are still dominating the competition). The company has been pushing the new features to marketers and consumers alike. This article will explain what’s new about Google’s structured snippets and what they mean for SEO.
In the blog announcing the feature, Google’s research blog described structured snippets as a new way to utilize the Knowledge Graph to aid searchers.
“Google Web Search has evolved in recent years with a host of features powered by the Knowledge Graph and other data sources to provide users with highly structured and relevant data,” the WebTables research team at Google wrote. “Structured Snippets is a new feature that incorporates facts into individual result snippets in Web Search.”
This means that Google algorithms will be able to surface a website for specific pieces of information and display that in the search results or on the cards used on mobile search. Google gives the example of a search for Superman on mobile that always shows the creator, place of origin, and first appearance in comics. Ironically, this also shows the accuracy problems Google can run into. The card lists Superman’s place of origin as Krypton (which is a fictional place) rather than more accurately saying his place of origin is DC Comics. So the quality of the answers and data given will depend on the quality of the markup of the site. This is something Google acknowledges.
Marketers may have seen the power of structured snippets and Knowledge Graph “cards” featured in a recent ad for the Google Search app, featuring a little girl with weapons-grade cuteness.
The big question for internet marketers is: How will structured snippets affect the traffic coming to sites and SEO in general?
There is a concern among some marketers that letting their sites be surfaced in this way can decrease click through rates and hurt their traffic. If searchers get their questions answered on the search results page, it may kill their need to visit the website.
These are valid concerns, but in the end, internet marketers should embrace the use of snippets. There are at least two strong positives from a marketing and SEO standpoint. First, for business owners who need to get information to their customers as easily as possible, structured snippets are a valuable customer service tool. In the ad mentioned above, the retailer who sold the telescope and the shipping company are both able to provide better customer service by being accessible to structured snippets.
Second, there is an SEO benefit to structured snippets. Being chosen as the answer to a question is higher placement than the top page on search results. And while some people will be happy with the answer the snippet gives, many people will click the snippet to visit the actual page so they can get all the information. So in a way, structured snippets could work as an advanced preview of a site. Website owners may find that being used for structured produces more web traffic than it loses.
If you want to learn how to add structured snippet markups to your website, Google has a guide and links to a webmaster tool in their support section. And for more Google updates and changes, read this article on the update to Google Penguin.