Search Engine Rich Snippets 101

| April 25, 2015

Rich snippets have started to show up everywhere online in recent months. Prices, reviews, product availability. All showing up in the main SERPS. The reason behind this is companies, and website owners implementing what is called structured data markup, which search engines are now starting to use to display rich snippets of information as a preview to what your site contains.

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets

How Do Rich Snippets Work

Its important to understand the use of data markup in your site if you plan to jump on the rich snippets bandwagon. By identifying data on your website and adding a schema markup, you are highlighting valuable information for Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. With the future of search being all about the semantic search, this easy to preview information about your site is giving the search engines more valuable data about the relevance of topic in regards to what the user is searching for.

Origins of Schema

Many of the internets websites are generated, and built from structured data. This data is then stored in databases, and when the data is then formatted into Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is becomes a difficult job to recover the originally structured data. Search engines benefit from having direct access to the original structured data, as they can preview this structure and give the user a better experience. This was why in June 2011 Schema was launched by Google Bing and Yahoo. Yandex which is the biggest search engine in Russia also joined up with the idea later that year in November. The meta data that makes up the schema on your site is meant to be easily accessible by search engine spiders, and has been agreed as part of the HTML5 standards.

Rich Snippets Guaranteed?

Structed data highlighting allows rich snippets to show and potentially increase the click through relate to a website for certain keywords, and preview results. Using rich snippets should not be confused with using sitelinks. With sitelinks you’re able to give preferences and they can be demoted from within Google webmaster tools. Structured meta data on the other hand may or may not appear in the serps. Just because you use the schema behind behind rich snippets doesn’t mean they will automatically be displayed. Its all to do with how the search engine spiders are processing your pages, and what sort of preview snippets they are taking from your site.

Rich Snippet Types

Rich snippets can come in many forms. They can be as diverse as showing a restaurantes average review and price range through to a site that has recipes, and again a review rating shown in the search engine results pages (SERPS). The rich snippets for a music site might include results such as an album list of tracks along with a link to play the song. These rich snippets help users recognize when the search engines are returning a relevant result to their query. Recent research from the search engines has shown that clickthrough rates vastly increase to sites that are using structured data.

Testing Your Rich Snippets

Structured markup data has already existed for years except in the format of meta tags. Largely due to their abuse and misuse, Google dropped them as a ranking signal many years ago. Rich Snippets are different. They are not used as a ranking signal but can obviously improve the experience that your visitors arrive to your site by. Google has provided a handy structured data testing tool that validates the existence of structured data on your webpage.

How to Enable Rich Snippets

Adding structured markup data to your webpages and enabling the possibility of rich snippets is easy. You first need to choose a format. Google suggest using microdata, but you can also use microformats and Resource Description Framework in Attributes (RDFa). The search engines support a range of content type for structured data. These include:

  • Reviews
  • Products
  • Articles
  • Organizations
  • Events
  • Businesses
  • Recipes
  • Music
  • Events
  • Video

If you’re a local business, you can add markup data such as your phone number, address or even your opening hours as your rich snippets. Anything that you think is of value to your customers.

You can use Google own structured data markup tool to help you highlight the data that you want to use for the rich snippets. The tool automatically outputs the code that you need to add to your website to ensure they show up. For this tool to work best you really need to have a website template in place. This allows the same consistent highlighting method throughout your website to be applied. Any errors in your markup data will show up, and allow you to fix it from there.

Google will find the structured data the next time they crawl your website. However, they do claim that it might take a while for the rich snippets to appear in the search engine results pages. They don’t give a guarantee that your rich snippets will show either. Still, its better to try to implement considering the benefit of the clickthrough data if they do.

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