Google’s Underlying Plan for HTML5 and Rich Snippets

When we look to the future of the internet and how SEO is evolving, what can we expect to find on the agenda in the not so distant future with regards to website mark up?

Well, no one can truly predict the future but by looking at recent past developments we can certainly find a general trend that we are all starting to follow. In my first post as an seo consultant at SEOGadget I will be looking into the use of HTML 5 and (Richards favourite) Micro Formats.

HTML5 – What’s New?

Ok let’s start off with HTML 5 and the introduction of new elements and attributes which not only make a webmasters job a lot easier and more flexible, but more importantly provide a greater context about the content contained on a web page.

For example here are some of these new HTML 5 elements:

  • <nav>
  • <footer>
  • <audio>
  • <video>

Although W3C standards are a set of generic website guidelines which do not necessarily influence SEO directly, the mark up can to some extent be understood by search engines e.g. they expect to see a website header, navigation, content area and some kind of footer. Back at the start of 2009 Dave Harry wrote a great post on page segmentation concepts and how search engines are able to identify common elements on page to determine a framework for a website.

As a result of HTML 5, areas of a web page can now be more easily defined which in turn will provide a solid framework of a page to search engines. In doing so will at the same time provide more specific detail of the content contained on a given web page, which search engines can then use to their advantage in their algorithms.

The Launch of Rich Snippets (Micro Formats, Micro Data and RDFa)

The developments in Micro Formats (as well as Micro Data and RDFa) are also part of an evolutionary chain to provide even greater detail about specific pieces of content on a web page. When Google launched rich snippets back in 2009, support for some micro formats was introduced and as a result these have gradually been incorporated within some types of search queries.

Here are some Micro Formats which are currently supported to some extent by Google:

  • hReview-aggregate – This property provides a generic average rating based on the data within individual hreview listings. Attributes include rating, count, and summary.
  • hReview – Describes individual review listings with attributes including rating, reviewer, dtreviewed (ISO date format) and description.
  • hProduct – Describes an individual product with attributes including fn (name), brand, category, price, description and photo.
  • hCalendar – Describes an event including attributes location, dtend (ISO date format) and duration (ISO date duration).
  • hRecipe – Describes a specific recipe with attributes including ingredient, instructions, duration and photo.
  • hCard – Describes contact/profile information with attributes including fn (name), email, logo, photo, and url.

These micro formats can all influence the information presented on search results. For example a combination of hreview-aggregate, hreview and hrproduct (which could typically be used to describe a product on an ecommerce website), can produce a listing with rating information pulled in:

microformat-hreview-aggregate-hproduct An example listing of hcalendar incorporated within a web page:

microformat-hcalender An example of a search result including hrecipe and hreview-aggregate:

microformat-hrecipe An example of a search result incorporating hcard:

microformat-hcard Although these are the only Micro formats that we have seen influence search results to date, there is still a number of attributes which although supported do not provide a direct impact on the display of search results and are currently under-going testing.

For example if we take the hproduct property, we have the ability to add attributes such as category, price and photo which currently do not bear any impact on the display of product page search results (although hproduct can be incorporated alongside hreview to display the price), but the attributes themselves are supported by Google.

Could this be an early indicator from Google that micro formats will be playing a more influential role in the development of search listings?

As the idea of micro formats is to provide even greater detail about specific content contained on a web page (as a set of standards), you can clearly see why search engines such as Google have jumped in and developed their search results to display this data. By encouraging webmasters to include micro formats, Google will be able to understand more about the content contained within a website, and could use this information to further judge the relevance of a website to different search queries and provide an insight into developing new potential products.

A recent article on readwriteweb.com – ‘Google’s Semantic Web Push: Rich Snippets Usage Growing‘ also indicates the growing popularity of rich snippets and how Google is trying to encourage web masters to introduce this on their websites.

If we then combine this with news that micro formats 2.0 discussions are already under way to simplify the integration, could this amplify Google’s quest for a greater understanding of website content.

The Evolution of Content is King

In a “Content is King” SEO world how can Google look to evolve this one key strategy to create even more relevant results for its users?

Google have reached out directly to the guys behind the internet, website developers/designers/owners and encouraged the use of even simpler coding with HTML5. A great article at Techcrunch on Google’s HTML5Rocks explains how Google is one of the major players pushing the development of HTML5.

The integration of rich snippets and support for Micro Formats, Micro Data and RDFa is another step to encourage webmasters for the change in mark up by displaying more informative search listings in their rankings.

When you combine the two and look behind the scenes Google have been very clever in gradually integrating a format which will ultimately provide them with a lot more knowledge on the structure and content of websites. This will undoubtedly become an influential factor within the rankings, and future services provided by Google.

The developments in website mark up and rich snippets go a long way in providing a greater insight into the future evolution, not only in SEO but the internet as a whole.

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Hope you enjoyed my first post on SEOGadget, it would be great to hear your feedback! Daniel

Image credits: Dominicspics



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11 thoughts on “Google’s Underlying Plan for HTML5 and Rich Snippets

  1. Dan, great to have you on board! Awesome first post and I’m looking forward to hearing more from you on SEOgadget!

  2. James says:

    Great post for your first, Dan. These are kind of advanced topics that will gaining traction in the near future. It is a good strategy to be on the cutting edge.

  3. danielbutler says:

    Thanks for the feedback James, it will certainly be interesting to see how everything evolves.

  4. Nice post Dan! It would be interesting to know how the extra micro formats affect CTR from search results. I expect it would increase it quite significantly, I guess the only downside is that it’s perhaps open to manipulation.

  5. Marcus, we do have data on this – I could anonymise it and post it. The problem is that it’s very difficult to remove the seasonality. We can do year on year comparison though…

  6. Hi Dan

    great post, I have been following Richards thoughts with regard to Mirco Formats for some time. I agree with your take on things Google is giving everyone a nudge in the right direction, and being able to incorporate these elements into sites is a good way to continue to push things forward. I particularly like the location based tags in HTML 5 as I see this is becoming an important part of mobile search and user experience.

    Marcus – I agree that its is open to manipulation especially the review side of things.

    Richard – that data would be good to have a look at even at a high level! Even better if it show a positive RIO for implementing things such as review mark up.

  7. Arham says:

    Awesome first post Daniel, it would be interesting howhtml5 can increase CTR on SERP, and improve the rank also. As a wordpress user it would be a challenge to improve the ecommerce plugin to deliver a great performance on google search

  8. Jerry Okorie says:

    Great post Dan,very similar to Richards style but really insightful. Keep it up folks at SEOgadget..

  9. Nate Wood says:

    Love the optimistic view on Google’s use of microformats in regards to producing richer snippets. I think this gives us much better control over the CTR of our organic listings.

    The cynic in me, though, can’t help thinking that the new HTML5 tags give Google an easy mechanism by which to discount areas of content and/or links within tags. For example, Google could discount internal links in navs and footers much more easily and I can’t help thinking that some of these items are not exactly great for SEO. I look forward to the multitude of tests that will prove/disprove the SEO impact accordingly.

  10. ryan says:

    Thanks for the example.

  11. Marie says:

    Thanks Daniel for the post. It is a good beginning. I will try these new elements for my websites, to check how much it effect the site ranking. I am a little bit worried about compatibility issues. Anyways thanks for the post.

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