Google: Still Building a Better Search Engine

How many of you are like me when it comes to searching for something on Google?  I type in a phrase, maybe make one or two adjustments to my search phrase if needed, before giving up and trying something desperate like… looking for a phone number…

The problem with search lately is a direct result of one of the best parts of the web: anyone can publish content, so there is a ton of content to search through…

Well, Google has announced a few new features and improvements to their standard search results page to hopefully make your searching experience far better.

Search Options

In a recent post on the Official Google Blog, I found the following video on Search Options:

The video mostly discusses a new set of search enhancement features which you can find my clicking the “+ Show Options” link at the top-left of a search results page, such as a search for butter. Watch the video and give it a go, the possibilities are truly impressive!

Rich Snippets

Now, anyone that knows me knows I am a freak for Microformats (MF). The quick-skinny on MF is a little additional mark-up in your code can make your HTML a lot more semantic, meaning it is easier for computers to understand what the heck you’re talking about…

I shove MF mark-up into any situation I possibly can, because I can, and because I see no downside to doing so (aside from a slight increase in page weight). But the biggest problem MF have faced so far is that, aside from a few mash-ups that people have made, there hasn’t been a real practical reason (read: an impressive enough reason to convince the business department at some institutions to budget the time and money for a developer to edit each and every existing template in their current, properly functioning website) to put that additional mark-up into a website…

Until Now.

I have long expected that Google would start using MF to improve their search results, but I expected it would happen in the background. Meaning, if you searched for “what is playing at irving plaza”, the Google algorithm would possibly give preferential listing to sites that use MF, and probably use any MF mark-up it encountered, like hCalendar mark-up, to show you the best results possible. But it turns out they’re going to put those MF right in your face!

Back in May 2009, Google introduced Rich Snippets as a method for adding reviews to your listing in search results, and yesterday announced the expansion for events!. Smartly showing no preference in the battle between MF and RDFa, Rich Snippets take advantage of both.

Now, in our improved search for simply what is playing at irving plaza, the very first listing appears thusly:
google-rich-snippet-example

Notice the three next upcoming shows?  How do you like that??  And this is all because the good folks at Live Nation, when developing this page, bothered to insert MF into their mark-up.  Here is an example of a listing, notice the bold class names, that’s hCalendar, that’s all the additional mark-up you need in your page to make your calendar events light up in Google search results!

<tr style="" class="vevent">
<td><abbr class="dtstart" title="2010-01-23T21:00:00">Sat, 01/23/10<br>09:00 p.m.</abbr></td>
<td><a href="/edp/eventId/415483" class="venue_link url">
<span class="summary">Led Zeppelin 2</span></a></td>
<td><a href="/edp/eventId/415483" class="buy_ticket_link">More Info </a></td></tr>

So, hey, Business, you think these Microformats might be worth your time now?  :-)

Google has even been nice enough to offer an entire Webmaster Central page dedicated to Rich Snippets, list a few Rich Snippet Tips and Tricks, and even create a Rich Snippets Testing Tool, to see how your MF/RDFa will look in a Google search results page…  I tell ya, them Google kids are alright…

For more reading on Microformats, check out the official Microformat site.

Happy Googling,
Atg

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