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.