Jeff Pickle

Google’s Rich Snippy Librarian and the Semantic Web

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Imagine that Google has a library, but inside this library is just a gigantic mountain of books. Now imagine the search engine is a librarian with a photographic memory of where every single page and knowledge of where every single word resides in this giant pile. When you type in your search keywords, the librarian runs and digs around to exactly where every book has  matches for your keywords and retrieves all the pages that match your search.

Our librarian or search engine is pretty dumb. There is no reasoning, just find and match the web page keywords with your keyword search in this Mt. Everest of books. The Google librarian is not entirely stupid since it knows which books are checked out the most and therefore knows which books are an authority on a subject.

Fortunately, librarians at our local libraries do not have to have photographic memories. They rely on a system of classification that puts the information into categories which makes it easier to find on the shelves. There is structure and an understanding of how the information is interrelated.

On May 12th, 2009, Google announced support for “Rich Snippets” which is “a new presentation of snippets that applies Google’s algorithms to highlight structured data embedded in web pages.” In other words, Google can now read some  additional information about the data on your web pages by using data to classify data. In this manner, Google can get some meaning associated with your web page and retrieve search results with better accuracy. Instead of a giant pile, Google wants separated piles and eventually nicely placed shelves in its giant library of data.

Google will now look at web content and locate tags that annotate the information on your web page. Marking up your web content will allow Google to understand the meaning of what your web pages are about.  Much of this markup can be automated and it is not necessary that you do it at all. However, Google will use this structured data to add more relevant information to the search results page which means less time spent doing searches.

Google stated, “Structured data makes the web a better place. It also helps Google better understand and present your page in search results.”

As data becomes more interrelated and understood by the search engines, a new web emerges that allows for the linking and organization of data concepts. This new web 3.0 is also called the Semantic Web.

The Semantic web is beginning to emerge. MSN announced the launch of their new search engine – Bing. Bing “organizes your results by category to help you get the answers you’re looking for without having to guess at the right way to formulate your query.”

Bing calls it Categorized Search.   Top search results are grouped into categories called Web Groups.  As an example, a search for a city will return weather, airport, restaurants and hotel groups.

The buzz on the web is that MSN is looking to spend up to 100 million dollars to market their new search engine.  No small change, MSN has a lot at stake here. Why? Because a semantic web means more targeted and effective advertising.  Advertising is what has driven Google to a market cap of 134 billion dollars.

Google is currently the market leader and will probably take steps to promote the use of Rich Snippets. For an SEO, this presents an opportunity to enhance web pages to rank in their rightful categories.

The race is on and Google will need to be snappish to get webmasters in line to maintain their inflow of pay-per-click riches.

“Librarians, dusty, possess a vast store of politeness. These are people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions on God’s green earth. These people tolerate every kind of crank and eccentric and mouth-breather there is.”

–Garrison Keillor