In September 2010, Google announced that it would support Rich Snippets which allow web sites owners to tell search engines about particular types of information (e.g. number of reviews, average review score). Google then displayed that data in search results for that web page. For example, the screen shot below is the Rich Snippet enhanced result for a reviews page of Pacific Coast Termite:
Strangely, at just about the same time, Yahoo announced that it would no longer support a similar feature called Search Monkey. Yahoo didn’t give a good alternative – they just said, ‘no more Search Monkey’. Bing’s take on all of this was to add yet another standard called Tiles.
A Standard has Emerged
Finally, about a week ago, Google, Yahoo and Bing agreed on a standard that, for lack of a better name, is being referred to by its URL Schema.org. (really….is that the best name you came up with?) The mark up is very similar to Microdata (one of Google’s heretofore supported mark up standards) but, for the first time, will be supported by Yahoo and Bing as well.
For those of us who run web sites with reviews or other types of data that fit well into these categories, this is great news. We can edit our mark ups to reflect the new standard and enjoy the benefits of the enhanced eye-candy display.
What does this mean for a typical web site owner?
In the short-term, probably not much. Susan Esparza did a great job live blogging a SMX presentation today that included one of the Google PMs who was notably silent when asked if Google will display marked up data from all sites that implement it. My email conversations with folks at Bing this week have been similarly vague. In this case, silent or vague means “no”.
If you own a typical local business web site and put the effort into understanding and implementing the Schema.org mark up, you probably will not be rewarded with an enhanced listing – at least in the short term. However, the next time you update your web site, put the Schema.org mark up on your check list of features you are going to ask for from your web developer.
In the meantime, if you are a Customer Lobby member, don’t worry – we’ve got your back. As soon as the Schema.org standard is a little more stable and testable, we will release your fully marked up reviews pages so you and your prospects can keep seeing those eye-catching stars!!