Five Years of Google Rich Snippets

by Aaron Bradley on May 12, 2014

in Search Engines, SEO

5 Years of Google Rich Snippets

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the official introduction of Google rich snippets, announced in a Webmaster Central blog post of May 12, 2009.

Google had been experimenting with "enhanced listings" as far back as December 2008, with review and product rich snippets being spotted in results for Yelp, Citysearch, CNET, TripAdvisor and Download.com. The May 2009 announcement provided these enhanced listings with an official name, and explained how these results were generated.

The announcement post extolled the virtue of giving "users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance" through rich snippets, and provided information about the markup formats that were used to generate rich snippets – intially microformats and RDFa.

The number of rich snippet types displayed in Google has grown steadily over the past five years. I've compiled a list of these rich snippets, along with a rendering of the example snippet that accompanied each Google announcement. This inventory may not be wholly comprehensive, but I believe you'll find the most important rich snippet types listed.

Review/ratings rich snippets and people rich snippets
May 12, 2009
"We are currently supporting data about reviews and people," said Google in their announcement
A follow-up post published on April 26, 2010 announced that rich snippets would be supported internationally

Google Reviews Rich Snippet - May 2009

Events rich snippets
January 22, 2010

Google Events Rich Snippet - January 2010

Recipe rich snippets
April 13, 2010

Google Recipe Rich Snippet - April 2010

Product rich snippets
November 2, 2010
It was not until April 16, 2012 that product rich snippets were supported globally

Google Product Rich Snippet - November 2011

Google Product Rich Snippet (Global Roll-Out) - April 2012

Authorship rich snippets
June 7, 2011
This post announces support for authorship markup rather than author rich snippets explicitly

Google Authorship Rich Snippet - August 2013 (Authorship Program Announced June 2011

Music rich snippets
August 18, 2011

Google Music Rich Snippet - August 2011

Application rich snippets
September 14, 2011

Google Software Application Rich Snippet - September 2011

In-depth articles
August 6, 2013

Google In-Depth Articles Rich Snippet - August 2013

Many rich snippets, like breadcrumbs or video, weren't officially announced but made their appearance in the search results over time. And are the innumerable stand-out results in Google "rich snippets," "search verticals," or simply evolved search results? To-may-to, to-mat-oh, in my opinion.

And there's been many technical tweaks and infrastructure changes at Google in support of rich snippets, even if these haven't resulted in the generation of new rich snippets or changes to the appearance of existing rich snippets. Milestones include the launch of the Rich Snippets Testing Tool (October 2009, renamed the Structured Data Testing Tool in September 2012), support for microdata (March 2010), and – of course – the launch of schema.org (June 2011).

The introduction of rich snippets into Google search results marked the beginning of the end of "ten blue links." Rich snippets both conceptually and visually paved the way for Knowledge Graph and even, perhaps, signaled the point at which Google ceased to be a simple provider of links to other websites and set its sights on becoming a purveyor of answers in its own right.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marian May 21, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Google Rich Snippets really change the search ball game, for the better of course.

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2 Anne Haynes July 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Nice look back on snippets. With social media structured data it is becoming more difficult to eliminate redundancy and focus in on what is really needed to cover both search engines and social networks. For example og:description, <meta itemprop="description" and the <meta name="description" all serve different purposes, but figuring this out takes a lot of study!

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3 Aaron Bradley July 17, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Thanks Anne. Yyou’re quite right, with more and more types of structured data being made available for different purposes it’s difficult to avoid duplication and errors.

Slides 21 and 36 of my deck on “digital presence optimization,” embedded at the end of the post of the same name, elucidate further the point you make with your “description” example.

More and more I’ve come to look at structured data markup more generically as property-value pairs than as data targeting a specific data consumer like a search engine or specific social network, and now often create tables that help me to consistently supply the same values for the same sorts of properties. That doesn’t necessarily eliminate or reduce redundancy, but it does help ensure that the different bases are covered – efficiently and consistently – for different data consumers.

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4 Roys September 10, 2014 at 10:46 am

Being a huge fan of structured data I always use Rich Snippet, especially Schema in my projects and got really good results, indeed. Most of the time it makes the SERP listing stand out from the other listings and results in higher CTR. Always recommended to the site owners. Good info shared and thanks for the same.

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5 Jonas December 1, 2014 at 3:08 am

Is there a problem with showing the comments? It says there are 4 comments, but I don’t see any. I’m very interested in other people opinions about the usage of Rich Snippets.

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6 Aaron Bradley December 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Standard WordPress comment counts include pingbacks. :)

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7 Kate Buckley December 15, 2014 at 1:35 am

Good article! Structured data in particular rich snippets have a promising future. They are perfectly used to increase your CTR and get a positive user experience.

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8 Powerball December 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Excellent article, but I have a number of questions: When Schema began, results in the search engines were optimal (for sites with metadata) even appearing at the top .. Today it is the same? I ask because I’ve seen sites using metadata losing positions, although the Webmaster Tools still recommended Shema protocol.
Thank you very much. (Sorry my English, i speak spanish)

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9 Aaron Bradley December 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for your comment.

To a certain extent all sites have always used metadata (even the <title&rt; is a type of metadata) to a greater or lesser extent, so metadata use (or lack thereof) is only one factor in how sites have been ranked (not to mention that there’s qualitatively good metadata, bad metadata and spammy metadata). I think that the addition of structured data – chiefly microformats, data-vocabulary.org and schema.org – may give sites that employ structured data correctly a bit of a leg up insofar as the search engines understand the content of those sites better, but ultimately metadata use will never make or break a site’s ranking in and of itself.

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