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Google Takes First Big Bite Into Rich Snippet Search With Recipes

Food content webmasters who’ve dutifully been coding their pages with recipe rich snippets since Google announced them in April get a big reward today. Google is rolling out recipe search, taking advantage of the structured data to launch a whole category with the same prominence as image and video search.

It’s playing catch-up in the sense that Bing has featured special treatment for recipe content since last January, and it added a dedicated tab for recipe search last Spring. However, Google still represents the lion’s share of searches.

The project marks the first time that Google has used rich snippets to launch what’s effectively a new search engine, and one could speculate that more is in store. The company has also worked to spread the use of rich snippets for people, reviews, video and events.

“This is the first time we’re using this kind of structured data and actually building a structured search on top of microdata that people are marking up on the internet,” said Jack Menzel, product managing director for Google. “There’s enough coverage of that on the web that we’re able to better understand the content and we can build these really interesting structured search experiences.”

When users search for recipe content, they’ll be able to narrow results by clicking on “Recipes” in the left navigation, which will eliminate any content that’s not marked up with either microdata, RDFa, or the hRecipe microformat. Results will then be displayed in a format more suited to recipes, including things like ingredients, cooking time, number of stars and calorie count — all of which can be specified by webmasters using the markup. Because of the way the data is marked up, users can filter the content by any of the categories, honing in on the recipe that’s right for them. Additionally, queries that are not directly recipe-related , such as for celebrity chefs or for food-making occasions like birthdays or holidays, will return results of recipes associated with the search term.

Google worked with some of the larger providers of recipes — AllRecipes.com, Food Network, Epicurious and BettyCrocker.com content will be visible at launch — to ensure they were coding their content appropriately to be indexed. The new recipe search is likely to be both a boon and a curse for recipe sites — it allows people to more easily find the recipes they are looking for, but it may minimize the need to search or page through the sites themselves, potentially reducing pageviews on sites selling ad impressions.

The search giant turned its attention to recipes, Menzel said, because of the surprisingly large volume of searches — 1% — that seem to be aimed at finding recipes. “That’s quite a large number of queries, so we were inspired to make that better,” he added.

The company is hoping that rolling out recipe search will encourage more publishers of recipes to begin marking up their content, which will then be indexed by the engine. Menzel wouldn’t say what the company’s next foray into structured search might be, but hinted recipes were just the first toe in the water. “This is part of our kind of experiment to find out whether, if we create these kind of incentives, can we incentivize the Internet to help us out,” he said. “You can imagine that there will be more.”

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