For the past few years Google has been evolving their search features to return items as products, places, people instead of simply webpages. They call this object/type consideration their ‘Knowledge Graph’.
As an extension to this Google has developed a way to ‘extract and understand tabular data on the Web with the intent to surface particularly relevant data to users’.
So what exactly does this mean? Firstly Google is trying to read the pages on your website and decide what they actually are. Are you writing about a person? Are you describing a place? Are you advertising an adventure activity? Are you selling a product? Secondly they are looking through the content on your page and extracting tabular data and applying it to your pages profile. So your product page has the products colour, dimensions, weight, price etc attached to it. Lastly, now that they have this data available to them, they are displaying Structured Snippets within their search results so that users can see more detailed information before choosing what page they visit.
Give this new search feature a go by performing a Google Search for ‘Superman’ you will notice the following additional information added: Created by, First appearance, Place of origin.
What does this mean for you? Carefully consider what information you display using tables. Tables are for displaying data, not general information and images. As Google’s algorithms learn how to distinguish quality and relevant data it should start to filter through to your search results. Don’t hold your breath though; it might be some time coming before this feature starts to be seen across smaller sites.