Google is now starting to pay attention to structured data that is embedded — using either microformats or RDFa — in the web pages it crawls. And now, via these rich snippets, Google will start displaying that structured data in the search results.
At the moment, these rich snippets only apply to content about reviews and people profiles, but Google makes clear that those are just the starting point and that support for other structured data will be added in the future.
To give credit where it’s due, this is very reminiscent of Yahoo!’s SearchMonkey features, but Google’s approach is more open (doesn’t require the development of special search apps). Also, Google is pretty much the 800 pound gorilla, so its support for microformats and RDFa carries more weight.
This helps the search users, who will now get more information content nicely laid out in the search results, instead of just the usual, boring homogenous text excerpt. And it helps the web site publishers who take the time to embed this structured semantic data into their pages by making their results stand out from the crowd.
That mutually rewarding incentive has the potential to spark a virtuous cycle for bringing more structured data into the web.