Ever see a 5-star rating in a search result? Chances are, the search engine received that information from rich snippets embedded on the webpage. Rich snippets are a type of structured data that allow webmasters to mark up content in ways that provide information to the search engines.
While the use of rich snippets and structured data is not a required element of search engine-friendly design, its growing adoption means that webmasters who employ it may enjoy an advantage in some circumstances.
Structured data means adding markup to your content so that search engines can easily identify what type of content it is. Schema.org provides some examples of data that can benefit from structured markup, including people, products, reviews, businesses, recipes, and events.
Often the search engines include structured data in search results, such as in the case of user reviews (stars) and author profiles (pictures). There are several good resources for learning more about rich snippets online, including information at Schema.org and Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool.
Rich Snippets in the Wild
Let’s say you announce an SEO conference on your blog. In regular HTML, your code might look like this:
Learn about SEO from experts in the field.<br/>
May 8, 7:30pm
Now, by structuring the data, we can tell the search engines more specific information about the type of data. The end result might look like this:
<div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Event”>
Learn about SEO from experts in the field.
<time itemprop=“startDate” datetime=“2012-05-08T19:30”>
May 8, 7:30pm