Last week Google announced that they are implementing bullet points into search results and recently we’ve begun seeing it in the wild. It appears as though the lists are not taken from any special markup on the page (such as microformats or schema), but are actually extracted from regular structured lists such as table data or a page that contains bullet points.
From the Google Blog:
If a search result consists mostly of a structured list, like a table or series of bullets, we’ll show a list of three relevant rows or items underneath the result in a bulleted format. The snippet will also show an approximate count of the total number of rows or items on the page
Today, while doing a bunch of research for this article, I was able to locate an example of its use without the page even containing html bullets ( the <ul> tag for those geeks among us ) or a table of any sort.
In fact, the search result shown above pointed to a page with several heading tags < h2 > which appeared to be the only indication that there was a list at all.
Google is becoming somewhat smarter as to the structure of a page even when you aren’t using the formal methods of telling them what the page is about. Of course, it appears as though they still have much to learn when it comes to order of importance. In the above example, the first bullet point found in the search results, is actually extracted from an item found near the bottom of a list of 20+ items. There doesn’t presently appear to be much rhyme or reason when it comes to the order of the bullets, but I assume we can expect some improvements to come down the line.
What this means for you and me, the business owners & marketers who want to keep up…
Google is placing some amount of importance in well organized pages. I would even speculate that a well formatted and structured page means a higher quality score when viewed by the human evaluators at Google. The fact that Google is folding lists into their search results says that they believe searchers value the ability to easily discern information on a page. It also validates the notion that most people skim search results and webpages looking for what interests them – this is why breaking up page elements with headings and lists is so important.
Currently, it appears that this change is only taking place on larger websites with a vast amount of content. However, as they work to improve this new type of search result snippet, you will likely see trusted, smaller websites begin popping up with bullet lists in search results as well. It’s highly unlikely that they will implement this across all websites; instead this will reward those with good content that’s formatted in a list with a way to catch the searcher’s eye – and that is a good thing (for those with good content).