Impact of Rich Snippets on Traffic  

On January 22nd, Google announced the inclusion of event-related information in their Rich Snippets. The protocol will be based off the hCalendar microformat and will look like this:

Now, let’s consider another post that covers Rich Snippets as well as something called “Answer Highlighting” which looks like this:

“Consider the example, [empire state height]. The first search result used to look like this:”

“With today’s improvements, the answer —1250 ft, or 381 m — is highlighted right in the search result:”

Let me start off by saying I’m not making a judgement here… I just want us to take a moment to consider what’s going on here. These improvements for the user can have a detrimental impact on your traffic numbers.

By offering more information to the searcher on the SERP itself, the developer is removing the need for the searcher to actually visit the website. In the above example, I no longer need to visit Wikipedia to see the height of the Empire State Building. As Google adopts more and more Microformat protocols, it seems logical that the number of visits siphoned off should increase.

What’s the motivation for developers to encourage proliferation of the protocols if your goal is to drive traffic to your website? Couldn’t this change your goals?

Let’s say you have a restaurant website with your phone number and address tagged with Microformats. Someone looking for your restaurant or a similar one, might find your Rich Snippet in the SERP and call your restaurant. Success right? Sounds like it. Now imagine how that looks to an Analyst when multiplied by 1000 times.  I’d see a steady decline in visits to the site from Google and need for a way to account for that.  The apparent success of the site would appear to be waning but the restaurant’s phone would still be ringing off the hook.

What’s next?

It’s not hard to imagine what else could be served up in a Rich Snippet. Why not figure out a way to display your actual lead or contact form right there? Imagine the havoc that would cause for conversion rates. If you think about it, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility, right?

I think there’s opportunity for further discussion on the impact of Rich Snippets and Answer Highlighting on our analytics in the future. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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