The Rich Snippets Shakeup of 2013
One day you're "in," the next day you're "out." That seems to be the case for rich snippets, a once very real opportunity for many search engine optimization professionals struggling to differentiate their brands and websites on the Google search results.
Many SEOs have now spent what amounts to months (in some cases years) implementing the schema.org microdata on their own or client websites - within reviews, product listings, events, profiles (authorship) and the like - only to find that recently their marked up listings have almost entirely vanished from the results pages at Google. So what's going on?
A few started noticing that authorship markup in particular was being "dialed back" as long ago as April 2013, but recent developments (specifically Matt Cutts speaking at PubCon) have highlighted the issue and made clear what Internet professionals can expect in the coming months/year.
Cutts essentially suggested that in the next few months rich snippets could receive a revamp and will start to be dialed back on a number of websites - and as much as 15 percent across the board. More reputable websites will likely continue receiving the rich snippet treatment while less reputable ones will see theirs removed. In the future (perhaps the very near future) essentially, Google will be tightening the qualifications for earning a rich result.
So should you and your SEO team abandon its rich snippet initiatives? Not in the least. While rich snippets can be abused, they have never been proven to influence the position of a website on the search results. While the requirements of being a "trusted authority" will likely increase in stringency, the advantage of using rich snippets is in their ability to differentiate a site on the sometimes crowded/muddle search results. That alone should be reason enough to continue leveraging microdata within your website.
Website Magazine will follow this trend closely in the months ahead so stay tuned!