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Rich snippets are still quite new and are in plain evolution. In this article, we will review how rich snippets can be useful to index website content on search engine and to improve your user experience. In a second part, we'll discuss and compare the 3 rich snippets standards: Microdata, Microformats and RDFa but also provide links to their technical documentation.
All search engine, Google first, parse these rich snippets and often change presentation of your ads on its results by identifiyng content. This is well explained on rich snippets google documentation.
When Google used your rich snippets, he indirectly highlight your display on Google Organic results, as you provide more information than other websites having only their Title and Meta tag Description displayed. It should therefore, slightly increase the Click Through Rate to your web site
From an SEO persperctive, there is no clear evidence of improvement when you use rich snippets.
Crawlers consider rich snippet as normal code. They are becoming a standard which must be implemented to facilitate understanding of your webpage's content by search engines.
Search Engines are never too fussy with simple, standardized and organized information on a website content, aren't they?
Only a couple of month ago, websites which had implemented correctly the appropriate rich snippets, had their reviews or review ratings indexed on hotels and restaurants Google Place pages. This information is however not displayed anymore. But surely, Google kept him some kind of place in his algorythm.
Rich snippets permit to organize content not for page, but for block of identified code.They define a sub-object of content on a web page by adding annotations to specific data (= data format) which can then be easily identified by search engine and used. Those annotated data can be: contact information, customer reviews, review ratings, breadcrumbs, videos, events, blog tags, geo location, payment mechanism, products, recipes and much more...
Rich snippets are not totally mature yet and for this reason several standards exist to annotate data: Microdata, Microformats and RDFa.
All 3 cited standards work on various specifications. Some specifications are in a production version, some other are still publish as draft.
Philip Jägenstedt has done an excellent job explaining on his blog difference between those 3 standards : "Microformats vs RDFa vs Microdata".
If you want to deepen your study and make your own opinion of each solution, here are links to official websites of those rich snippets standards:
For the time being, we would recommend to use Microformats also if the future seems to be as decided by major search engines: Microdata. HTML 5 is not enough diffused to use Microdata yet and RDFa is extensible, but complex to use and not really diffused. Microdata has been pushed together by Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft at the beginning of June 2011 when they started to provide more information on schema.org . Here is the full Google Webmaster Help Center's article on schema.org
Rich snippets are now a "Must-have" to take advantage of new ways Google displays information about your website on its organic search results. Rich snippets will play a key role in evolution of web semantic.