Understanding the SEO Value of Rich Snippets

What Are Rich Snippets?

Rich Snippets is the term used to describe structured data markup that site operators can add to their existing HTML, which in turn allow search engines to show to the user in the search results. An example: I was searching for a good recipe for tiramisu and googled it. The first result shows the following snippet:

A rich snippet description is different from a normal snippet in that it allows the storage of extra information between the URL and the description, which allows users to more easily find the information they are looking for.

Under normal circumstances, when your website shows up on a SERP, Google, and other search engines, display the site title, URL and whatever meta description you have assigned to the page. But when rich snippets are employed, Google is now able to display a bit more information about the actual result, including whether this particular result is a review, a person, a product, a business and more.

Rich snippets also reference other snippets.

Snippets are akin to Apple iTunes showing a search result with a star rating, the number of votes that resulted in that rating, the price, and the platform support. Why is this important? Simply put, rich snippets stand out from the other snippets. They instantly look much nicer and are presented in a fashion that makes them more digestible. In the example above, the rich snippet knows whether other people liked the homemade ice cream, and how long it’ll take you to make it. This increases the likelihood of a higher CTR. If the click-through rate of a snippet increases, you’ll get more traffic from that search result. Not because your position in the search engine changed, but just because more people click on your result. In the long run, rich snippets will have an effect on your overall organic ranking as well.

What Type of Content Is Required to Create a Snippet?

Google can show rich snippets if you add structured data to your site. Structured data is a piece of code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Structured data is critical for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about.

There are three different ways search engines can read and recognize the code it to create rich snippets:

  1. Microdata
  2. Microformats
  3. RDFa

Of the three, Microdata is the most widely supported in terms of annotations, specifically the schema from Schema.org. Schema.org is a repository of all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. With this structured data in place, you can “talk” to Google in such a way that it understands what you’re saying so that it can then create informative (rich) search results. That your audience will crave (and not because it’s ice cream). It’ll show more specific information to your customers and designed in a fashion that will make it enticing to click.

Use Rich Snippets for the following content types:

  • Individual and Aggregate Reviews
  • People – Create boilerplate profiles of staff, team members and other people relevant to the organization, similar to LinkedIn’s synopsis profiles
  • Products and Special Offers –  Name, image, brand, description, identifiers (ISBN, SKU, etc.) and even reviews or special offers for that product
  • Businesses & Organisations – Outline a business name, address (physical and URL), telephone number, geolocation (latitude and longitude) and logo.
  • Events – Use for upcoming events being hosted– include start and end date, duration, ticket details and geolocation
  • Video Content – embedded video content, for instance, to indicate duration, license, production company and/or the creator of the video

 

Structured data is easy to implement

Using structured data sounds hard, but it’s easier than you think. A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. An SEO strategy, for instance, can quickly embed this structured data. Note: Structured data markup does not need to be added to every single content property, though having more content marked up does help search engines present results better. It must also be noted that you should only mark up visible content – hidden page elements and content in hidden div’s do not need to be marked up

I’ve Added Rich Snippets – Now What?

  • Google only starts analyzing the new markup 10 to 14 days after it is first introduced on a website.
  • If everything appears to be correct, Google will start showing Rich Snippets for some (not all) pages, but after approximately 5 days these will disappear.
  • Several days later some Rich Snippets will reappear – either for the same set of pages, or a new set. This may be repeated a number of times.
  • Only after roughly 8 weeks will you be rewarded with (semi-permanent) Rich Snippets throughout your site, assuming Google’s repeated analysis and assessment did discover any errors.Finally, a qualification of the term semi-permanent as used above; although Rich Snippets were adopted by the major search engines more than two years ago, they are still adapting how they are implemented, to ensure the best end result. This means that not all of your results will be displayed using Rich Snippets, and that what does and doesn’t display will itself change from time to time. This is most obvious currently with the way in which Google sometimes displays Authorship, something that was introduced during 2013 but has already undergone several changes.

 

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