Much to the chagrin of many consumers, Google has a tremendous amount of data on search behavior and website content. The eternal challenge for the company is to find ways to use that data to determine the best pages for search results. There’s some discussion within Google of adding a few new ranking factors based on the way websites are built. Google may begin using structured data, structured markup and rich snippets as ranking factors for certain kinds of search.
Structure data, structured markups and rich snippets have been around for a while and Google and other search engines have used them to provide additional information in search results. However, Google has repeatedly stated they don’t use these items for page rankings. The thought at the time was that these things are easy to manipulate so people would quickly try to abuse the system. Those concern may be ebbing as Google employees have indicated structured data, markups and rich snippets may be considered in the future.
Specifically, during a Google Hangout’s session on Friday, September 11, Google’s John Mueller “over time, I think it [structured markup] is something that might go into the rankings as well.” This is far from an official announcement, but it is a marked change from the way the issue was previously discussed by Google employees.
The statement triggered a series of comments on the topic and Mueller explained the thinking that would be in play if structured markup, structured data and rich snippets were ever used as ranking factors.
“If we can recognize someone is looking for a car, we can say oh well, we have these pages that are marked up with structured data for a car, so probably they are pretty useful in that regard,” Mueller said. “We don’t have to guess if this page is about a car.”
The usefulness of structured data and rich snippets is undeniable. Google has often used it to give information about a website in search results (e.g. average prices), so they are capable of determining the difference properly used markups and ones that are used wrong or attached to poorly created content.
“So I think in the long run, it definitely makes sense to use structured data where you see that as being reasonable on the Web site. But I wouldn’t assume that using structured data markup with make your site jump up in rankings automatically. So we try to distinguish between a site that is done technically well and a site that actually has good content.” Mueller continued. “Just because it is done technically well, it doesn’t mean it is as relevant to the users as content that is not done as technically well.”
As was stated earlier, this isn’t an official change in the works. Business owners shouldn’t be scrambling to get rich snippets or structured markups added to their sites if it’s not already there. However, it’s important to keep in mind that big changes at Google often start with discussions like these. Google was telling webmasters that mobile was going to be important years before they started talking about any algorithm changes. So website owners may want to take this information as a sign of things to come and think about adding these features in the future.
For more information on a change that is definitely coming to Google, read this article on Google’s plan to penalize mobile sites with large ads for mobile apps on their pages.