New Structured Snippets: An Enhanced SERP Snippet Is Just a Table Away
On September 22, the Google Research Blog announced Structured Snippets, a feature that “incorporates facts into individual results snippets in Web Search.” What it amounts to is elements from an HTML table being shown right in the SERP. If this sounds at all like Structured Data, it should. At least, sort of. Google displays data from your website on their results page, yet it doesn’t require schema markup or any other specialized coding. All you need is a table. Oh, and relevant data.
The Google post has an example of a Structured Snippet for the query “Nikon d7100”:
In order to test these results out, we found the table below from Car and Driver. It’s formatted as a classic table, without any structured markup.
And here is how it appears in the SERP:
As you can see, the data about the Dodge Challenger in the SERP listing above isn’t quite as easy to read as Google’s Nikon example, but the information is there.
This announcement has been greeted with a fair amount of skepticism, as many webmasters and content creators are frustrated that Google has found yet another way to take data from websites and present it on the search engine’s own pages, consequently stealing clicks from websites that actually published the data originally. But the fact is that there are several reasons to welcome this latest innovation.
Optimizing Structured Snippets
As is often the case, whether you welcome or dread it, this change has a lot to do with perspective. Google introduced this change to improve user experience, so SEOs and webmasters should have the same goal in mind when thinking of how to include interesting information in tables on their website to garner more attention in the SERPs. Here are some benefits to Structured Snippets:
- Challenges webmasters, designers and marketers to reexamine how we present information. A well-made table is an engagement object. It’s helpful for users, and it breaks up long blocks of text. Tables just became another tool in your content utility belt.
- No special markup required. Google said it, and based on all the examples we’ve seen, it’s true; you don’t need to learn some new technology to make the most of this change. Got data that would look good/be easier to read in a table? Great. Make that table.
- More real estate on the SERP. So far I haven’t heard anyone mention this, but in some instances, like in the Nikon example above, the amount of space for your entry nearly doubles. While it’s possible that Google pulling data from your website and putting it in SERPs may lower your click-through rate, it’s also possible that getting a larger entry in the SERP could help your CTR.
What Structured Snippets Mean for the Future of Search
First off, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: the death of structured data. This isn’t cause for letting your schema markup fall by the wayside; if anything, Structured Snippets reinforce the importance of structured data overall. Why? Because both tools enable search engines to determine A) what your page is about, and B) how relevant it is to search queries. Search engines, as they’re always pointing out, exist to serve users, not webmasters. All of this structuring things allows search engine spiders to efficiently crawl your site and figure out who’s looking for what you’re offering.
It’s possible, and I’m really speculating here, that Meta tags (Title, Description, and the seldom-used Keywords tags) will become less and less important over time. Search engines know that it’s too easy to offer over-optimized Titles (can you say “clickbait”?) and so they’re beginning to look directly into your content; after all, how long has Google been presenting snippets of content in the SERP, where it used to always just be your Meta description? Structured Snippets are one more way to let spiders, and users, get your data quickly and easily.
Search Engine Land points out that Structured Snippets could cause some difficulty for websites that use responsive design, however, as tables are tough to format for mobile devices. Probably worth taking a page from Wikipedia’s playbook in formatting tables for a variety of devices.
One thing that is certain, is that those who make the most of this new tool stand to gain the most ground over those who are slow to adapt.