The Evolution of Search Results
Over the lifespan of search, we have seen drastic changes in how search results are displayed across all search engines. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the search giant Google, but Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex also support many of the different schema markups as well.
Over a decade ago now, Google became what we now know as a “hybrid” search engine, or a search engine that takes into account more then just raw text. Over time, we have seen the increasing importance of things like local search and video & image optimization. As time went on, more and more local results, images and videos have appeared in Google’s primary organic search results. (For a fun Google Easter Egg, search “Google in 1998” to see how the search giant looked 16 years ago.)
Each year, search engines offer even more new ways you can improve the way your website and its resources display in search. Google released Google+ authorship in 2011, which allows the search engine to understand not just what’s written, but who wrote it. Author profiles now display in search results allowing users to easily find articles written by their favorite authors. This also allows Google to collect information and establish not just domains as authorities, but individual people as experts.
In the last few years, search engines have begun embracing other markups that help them determine how your website will be displayed, many of which are courtesy of schema.org. Not only will proper implementation of schema markups change the way your website appears in the SERPs, but it can help your search engine optimization campaign.
What Schema Markups Should You Use?
Schema.org offers a wide variety of markups that improve the way search engines understand and display your website in search. You can find a list of markups available here. The type of markups you should use depend on your industry. If you are a food establishment, you will be using a different set of structured data markups then we use for law firms for example. If you are unsure of what markups you should be using, its a good idea to speak with a search engine marketing professional or you can try to do extensive research on what similar businesses are doing. The latter is not easy as it sounds. Even though 36% of Google search results display at least one snippet, it is estimated that only about 0.3% of all websites are using these markups according to Matt McGee on searchengineland.com via Searchmetrics (4/22/14). The reason being is even many professionals are not clear on how it works.
If you would like to try to implement these markups on your own, there is a great database of information available in the searchengineland.com library.
Opentable.com displays their reviews for listed restaurants in search results using schema.
Sites like Yelp.com use local business schema markups to help the search engines understand each listing’s location. Urbanspoon.com uses the restaurant schema markup to display everything from reviews to the hours of operation for each restaurant. There are quite literally thousands of ways to utilize schema.org.
How To Test if Your Markups are Working
As Google has begun using more and more structured data markups, they have made use of their structured data testing tool readily available. The tool provides previews of how Google is reading your data as well as error messages that tell you when you have implemented something incorrectly. Google only uses these snippets of data when they feel it is relevant to the users search query, so don’t be alarmed if it’s not being used for all search queries. It is best practice to only use these markups on appropriate pages of your website.