Google’s inte­gra­tion of rich snip­pets into their search engine results page (SERP) provides yet another way for webmas­ters to commu­ni­cate the value of their site. Utiliz­ing micro-formats and Rich Descrip­tion Frame­work (RDFa) markup give sites the ability surface reviews and ratings for prod­ucts, services, and other infor­ma­tion on your site. For example, RDFa allows your ratings to be displayed directly in a search result, many times in the form of a star rating. Accord­ing to Google research, users are more likely to click through on search results that contain this rich content.

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Just this week, Google intro­duced seller rating exten­sions for paid search ads.  Seller rating exten­sions display your merchant star rating from Google Product Search.  A strong seller rating can increase the click-through rate of our paid ads, thus improv­ing your quality score and allow­ing you to rise to the top of spon­sored links while main­tain­ing a low cost per click. This new devel­op­ment is just the start of how inte­gra­tion between SEO and PPC will support both types of rank­ings online.

RDFa can be applied to more than just e-commerce sites. Many think of ratings and reviews when part­nered with prod­ucts, however they can be a useful tool for educa­tional and infor­ma­tional sites as well. For example, Rottentomatoes.com, a site that provides movie reviews, utilizes ratings and RDFa in order to draw users in from the SERP. Other sites utilize the rich snippet for user reviews of arti­cles, white papers, or even medical publi­ca­tions. Some of these reviews take the famil­iar form of asking the ques­tion “how useful was this infor­ma­tion?” or “was this helpful?” And in today’s web, provid­ing that extra content can make the differ­ence.

Utiliz­ing RDFa rich snip­pets will increase conver­sion on site, as 63% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a site with ratings and reviews. This is a result of several user trends. First, users trust the opinion of other users.  By includ­ing a forum for users to review your product, you are estab­lish­ing a trust symbol on your site. Allow­ing ratings and reviews can also strengthen your brand; not to mention, acquir­ing feed­back from your users can be an immensely power­ful tool in improv­ing your site and product offer­ing. If you want to demon­strate confi­dence in your product, cred­i­bil­ity, and promote the value of your site, there is no better way than to be trans­par­ent and present user feed­back as one of the first pieces of infor­ma­tion that users see on the SERP.

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The popu­lar­ity of ratings and reviews present a great oppor­tu­nity for affil­i­ate sites to solid­ify their posi­tion as a trusted resource and to avoid being perceived as a “thin affil­i­ate.” Through supply­ing unique content, sepa­rate from product descrip­tions taken from data­bases, an affil­i­ate site can be a strong consumer advo­cate. The Amazon.com model contributes unique descrip­tions, reviews, user ratings, pros and cons, videos and arti­cles that sepa­rate the site from its compe­ti­tion and produce more conver­sions.

Merging micro­for­mats and RDFa into the SERP indi­cates that Google will continue to facil­i­tate users’ infor­ma­tional search­ing behav­ior. Users perform three types of searches: navi­ga­tional, infor­ma­tional, and trans­ac­tional. Infor­ma­tional takes the lion’s share, esti­mated to account for 70% of searches (1). Sites that don’t utilize more infor­ma­tional content run the risk of being elim­i­nated imme­di­ately from users’ selec­tion process. It is more impor­tant than ever to supply rich, infor­ma­tive content or risk falling behind.

(1) Janson, Booth, and Spink. “Deter­min­ing the Infor­ma­tional, Navi­ga­tional, and Trans­ac­tional Intent of Web Queries.” Infor­ma­tion Process­ing and Manage­ment: an Inter­na­tional Journal 44.3 (2008). Print.