Google recently updated its rich snippets guidelines. Which makes it as good a time as any to talk about how rich snippets and structured data markup will become increasingly important in the future.
What are rich snippets?
Rich snippets are designed to summarize the content of a page in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page is about in our search results. If you’re considering taking advantage of rich snippets, think about whether a user would find the information helpful when choosing between search results.
Right off-the-bat, we see that rich snippets are to be used to help users find information. Which implicitly means, don't try to spam results with rich snippets. They also can help search engines better understand your website.
For lawyers, probably the most popular example of a rich snippet is authorship markup.
Which, when used in the appropriate place (i.e. pages authored by the attorney) is a really nice way for users to find more pages authored by that attorney. Of course, as is the case with almost everything else "search" these authorship markup is being abused by attorneys. For example, some lawyers implement authorship on pages that they didn't author.
Reviews, ratings and testimonials
Review and rating markup is also commonly used by law firm sites and legal directories. Review information can help your users learn more about a particular lawyer, or more importantly, what other lawyers and clients think about the lawyer.
This is one reason why it's so important for lawyers to have a process for encouraging online reviews. Online reviews can be extremely useful to users looking for lawyers and pages containing review markup appear prominently in search results. In fact, the number a quality of reviews online are local search ranking factors.
For video content, Google recommends implementing schema.org markup. Implementing this markup for video content helps Google index and show videos in search results.
You should also implement a Video Sitemap to help Google discover your videos and provide additional information about your video content.
Structured data markup today and tomorrow.
Today, search engines support only a handful of structured data types. However, I would expect to see increased support for and use of structured data in search results. The bottom line is that this markup provides additional ways for webmasters to effectively communicate what their sites are about with search engines. Which is good for users.
For example, there's already schema for attorneys:
Admittedly, adding this schema to your firm's pages won't do much today. On the other hand, it's difficult to know exactly when such markup might be supported. I wouldn't be surprised to see some of this very specific markup being supported over the next several years. Don't be surprised to see things like years in practice, date founded, aggregate reviews, employees and more integrated into rich snippet results.