nicolas leroy

Google to use hProduct microformat to enhance its search result pages?

May 13, 2009

At Google Searchology 2009 event, Google announced “Rich Snippets”, an initiative to leverage the benefits of structured data using microformats and RDFa (yes, very close initiative to Yahoo! SearchMonkey launched in H1’08). As explained on the Google Webmaster Tools blog:

Google helps users find your page by showing them a small sample of that content — the “snippet.” We use a variety of techniques to create these snippets and give users relevant information about what they’ll find when they click through to visit your site. Today, we’re announcing Rich Snippets, a new presentation of snippets that applies Google’s algorithms to highlight structured data embedded in web pages.

Rich Snippets give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance. We are currently supporting data about reviews and people. When searching for a product or service, users can easily see reviews and ratings, and when searching for a person, they’ll get help distinguishing between people with the same name. It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable — if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through.

The emphasis on “when searching for a product” is mine, and reading this intrigued me regarding the microformats Google would support (SearchMonkey while handling various microformats doesn’t support yet hListing or hProduct microformats). I found the following page on Google Help explaining Google will support the recently drafted hProduct format:


About product information

Google is experimenting with markup for product data, and currently we recognize product data included in reviews.


Google recognizes the following Product properties, and may include their content in search results. Where the RDFa Product and microformats hProduct property names differ, the hProduct property name appears in parentheses.

Property Description
brand The brand of the product—for example, ACME.
category The product category—for example, “Books – Fiction”, “Heavy Objects”, or “Cars”.
description Product description
name (fn) Product name
price Floating point number. Can use currency format.
photo URL of product photo
url URL of product page

Despite the cautious wording (“Google is experimenting“, “may include“), this news is really exciting:

  • If Yahoo! really innovated by enhancing search results with structured data, it didn’t change the search landscape as Google ultra dominates. Seeing Google investing in structured data may have an important effect for users and websites (could SEO rankings be influenced by the presence of structured data in indexed pages, impacts on click-throughs…)
  • I’ve never understood why Yahoo! hasn’t supported hListing or hProduct in SearchMonkey; so it’s interesting seeing Google mentioning support of products in the initial announcement of “Rich Snippets” (even if at this point it’s not sure how this support will be used).
  • The definition of the hProduct microformat, after years of inactivity, restarted recently (work restarted in Sept’08, BestBuy launched first implemention in Oct’08). It was interesting to note Google supported this format (Paul Lee from Google Product Search is co-author of the current draft); it now seems Google is really serious about it, with the announcement of those “Rich Snippets”.

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    [...] sites may benefit from the hProduct markup which may help expose product data & specifications and could be used as part of a [...]