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Monday, 11 April 2011

Should I bother with rich snippets?

Filed under: crossblogging,food & drink,RePoWriMo,whine — ejm @ 13:46 EDT

summary: rich snippets for google recipes; more magnetic poetry for spring: RePoWriMo; today’s poem; apple pie recipes; (click on image for larger view)

Katie (Thyme for Cooking) is the most recent food blogger I’ve noticed who has commented on the new Google Recipe View. And after I had drooled over Katie’s Pan Fried Salmon with Lemon and Capers in the same post, I decided to look a little more closely at rich snippets and Google’s Recipe View.

Google Help Screenshot I can’t speak. Are they kidding? What on earth is Google thinking?!

In late February, Google announced proudly that they had introduced “Recipe View, a new way of finding recipes when searching on Google“. Allegedly, Recipe View enables people to filter web search results to show only recipes, as well as restricting the results based on ingredients, cooking time, calorie preferences, recipe ratings, etc. etc.

A search based on ingredients makes sense. But recipe ratings? Calorie preferences? Do we really need to be spoon-fed this way?

Google’s search engine gives vast advantage to the largest recipe websites with the resources to input all this metadata, and particularly those who home in on “quick and easy” and low calorie dishes (which, by the way, doesn’t mean the recipes are actually healthy). In so doing, Google unwittingly -- but damagingly -- promotes a cooking culture focused on speed and diets.

Take, for instance, a recent search for “cassoulet.” The top search result is a recipe from Epicurious, one of the larger and better sites. But if you refine by time, your choices are “less than 15 min,” “less than 30 min,” or “less than 60 min.” There is no option for more than 60 minutes. In truth, a classic cassoulet takes at least 4 hours to make, if not several days (the Epicurious recipe takes 4 hours and 30 minutes; yet there in the results are recipes under each of these three time classes.

- Amanda Hesser, food52 – “UPDATE: Google’s New Recipe Search”, March 31, 2011

But I then thought about it a little. I’m an HTML coding freak and I decided that I could probably chip away gradually at the recipes I’ve already put online. How hard could it be?

And then I looked at Google’s webmaster help page about how to add the rich snippets.

If you have recipe content on your site, you can get started now by marking up your recipes with microdata, RDFa, or the hRecipe microformat. To learn more, read our documentation on how to mark up recipe information or our general help articles on rich snippets for a more complete overview.

-Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Better recipes on the web: Introducing recipe rich snippets

But Liz Steinberg has pointed out that adding all this coding won’t necessarily get my recipes added to Google’s recipe search. First, my pages must pass Google’s test. Second, I must submit my site for inclusion. Finally, after all that work, Google may not include my pages after all. Or if the pages are deemed worthy of the Google recipe search, it may be eons before they are included.

Here is an example of what the coding might look like for just one ingredient “6 cups thinly-sliced apples” in the Google example recipe “Grandma’s Holiday Apple Pie”, before being encumbered with rich snippets:

<p>6 cups thinly-sliced apples</p>

And here is the recommended RDFa coding required for that same ingredient “6 cups thinly-sliced apples” in “Grandma’s Holiday Apple Pie”. Talk about being overly rich! (And why does Google decide that the “6 cups” should suddenly appear after the “thinly-sliced apples”??)

<span rel="v:ingredient">
  <span typeof="v:Ingredient">
        Thinly-sliced <span property="v:name">apples</span>:
      <span property="v:amount">6 cups</span>

Suddenly, I find myself right back at the beginning. Is Google kidding me?!

I think I’d rather play Magnetic Poetry.

magnetic poetryRePoWriMo 2011


As I’m sure everyone knows, April is National Poetry Month, and November is National Novel Writing Month. Both are simply awesome.

-Rhino Writer, RePoWriMo, “RePoWha?” Thursday, March 6, 2008

It turns out that there are virtual boxes of Magnetic Poetry tiles to play online!

In keeping with the theme of today’s post, I took tiles out of the “Office” online Magnetic Poetry box. Here are your randomly chosen tiles (in alphabetical order) for round 7.

always can decision dress has
idea important future new open
or solution some take technology
toward think utilize vision want

For how to play OUR version, please see the Magnetic Poetry Rules. For more information about RePoWriMo, please read the following:


Once again, you will want to compose your poem(s) before seeing what I did. Here is my poem from the words listed above.

Resources for Rich Snippets:


I just looked up RDF to find out what the letters stand for. By Googling, I found the following:

  • Reality-Distortion Field
  • Refuse-Derived Fuel
  • Resource Description Framework
  • Resource Definition Format

I particularly like the first one. How fitting!!

And speaking of apple pie, here are some that won’t appear in Google’s spanking new recipe search. Trust me when I say they are all delicious:


  • your sister barbara


    I hope that using the word “recipe” in a google search won’t make it harder to find ordinary recipes online. And I especially hope that google doesn’t try to be as clever as Mr Paper Clip. I’m thinking that if I don’t use the word “recipe” but just search for say [apples mustard onions] it will might decide to do a recipe search anyway, with a little line at the top of the results list saying “It looks like you’re searching for a recipe. Click here for a non-recipe search.” The way it does if it thinks you’ve misspelled a word, and it lets you search for the original word if you want.

    My luddite poem:

    new technology
    take toward can

    Great poem, B! And so apropos. I wish I’d though of it. -E

  • Rhino Writer

    Love the title of your post. I wondered if it was the first line to a poem!

    Fashion Designer’s Manifesto

    decision can always open idea or solution
    some take technology toward new vision
    want important future
    utilize dress

    And hey, impressive, with another upside-down tile!

    That coding seems nuts. And your recipes look great.

    It would only be the title if those tiles were in the randomly chosen tiles, RW. But you’re right, it WOULD be a good title. -ejm

  • katie

    You took it a step further than I did. I was trying to see what the minimum would be to get it in… then I realized that it wouldn’t be enough as it may not please TPTB (The Powers That Be)
    Unfortunately, I get the distinct impression that they don’t care. And if they’re so damn good, why do we have to do all the work?!?
    Thanks for the kind words, BTW

    Good question, Katie… why DO we have to do all the work? You are more optimistic than I. I get the distinct impression that if TPTB even knew, they wouldn’t care. -Elizabeth

  • Dave

    Do we really need to be spoon-fed this way?

    That would be an improvement to Google’s initiative that I could support… type in “cassoulet” and the computer spoon-feeds it to me?

    You’re correct that this is a ridiculous format for humans to type in. It is a pretty reasonable computational task for them to parse individual lines of text and figure out what ingredient/quantity it means 95% of the time. Or they could provide a utility to automatically parse natural text to their weird format of choice which people could polish afterwards.


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