Google Recommends Schema.org Microdata, but Only Supports the Old Microformats

Update 8 december 2011: The good: We have our rich snippets back! The bad: we switched back to Microformats about 10 days ago… That’s not to say that Schema.org / Microdata won’t work, or that our switching back caused the snippets to return, since this blog post might have also helped in getting attention to our case.

What we do believe is that Google’s implementation of Microdata is not 100% bulletproof yet, especially outside of Google.com (on regional Google sites like Google.nl). My advice to be safe: test Microdata on some page on your site first, before you switch everything…

We used to have those nice “rich snippets” on our site for our course pages that have reviews. For a comparison site (like Tripadvisor or Easytobook) they’re very important to signal to users that there’s more than “just” the massive amount of hotels, or courses in our case.

With our rebranding from Eduhub to Springest in July, we lost our rich snippets because we’re on a different domain and they are manually whitelisted by Google. Of course we redirected each page from the old to the new domain, and we added support for the new and improved Microdata, instead of using Microformats like we did before… Well, seems to have been a bad idea! Google recommended this in the launch on their official blog. And on their help page about rich snippets, Schema.org is linked as the source to add rich snippets via microdata to your site. And on the Google FAQ about Schema.org the question is answered unambiguously:

Historically, we’ve supported three different standards for structured data markup: microdata, microformats, and RDFa. Instead of having webmasters decide between competing formats, we’ve decided to focus on just one format for schema.org. In addition, a single format will improve consistency across search engines relying on the data. There are arguments to be made for preferring any of the existing standards, but we’ve found that microdata strikes a balance between the extensibility of RDFa and the simplicity of microformats, so this is the format that we’ve gone with.

So who were we to doubt that this would work?

Well, a sign should have been that Google’s own “Rich Snippet Testing Tool” did not support the new Microdata format. As stated in the same FAQ:

Why doesn’t the rich snippets testing tool show a preview of my search result snippet?
Currently, you can use the testing tool to see what information Google can extract from your pages. We’re working on updating the tool so you can see how content marked up with schema.org might appear in search results.

We thought we were just a bit ahead of the pack and Google would fix the tool quickly. Last week, it suddenly seemed to start showing rich snippets for our Microdata markupped pages, but what was shown was incomplete. Only the number of reviews was shown, not the actual score.

So we will now switch back to Microformats…

Then we started to search for implementations of Microdata that had rich snippets. And we asked others to search with us. But we could find none, and all the rich snippets in SERP’s we saw were still using Microformats… So after two months of waiting for Google to re-enable our rich snippets, we decided to switch back to Microformats to make sure we at least have a chance to be included again.

Any sightings of Microdata in the wild?

If you have any suggestions (other then submitting the rich snippet form) for getting our snippets back, let us know! And if you know examples of sites actually using Schema.org’s Microdata markup that has rich snippets in Google, show them in the comments!

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