Rich Snippets : What, Why And How ?

In your daily use of Google search engine, which result is your eye drawn toward ?  The one with the pretty yellow stars, or the profile pic of the post’s author ? Precisely. Well, these are Rich Snippets - they are the extra bits of text that appear under search results and that are designed to improve relevancy of pages listed in Search Engines Result Pages.

I offer you to find out how these Rich Snippets can have an impact on both users experience and SEO, along with key points on getting started using them for your own website.
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rich snippets

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What are Rich Snippets ?

Snippets are a type of on page mark-up, also referred to as “structured data” : with rich snippets, webmasters can label their content to make it clear that each labeled piece of text represents a certain type of data – for ex. a restaurant name, an address, or a rating, etc…

Note that “regular” snippets are the few lines of text that appear under every search result, whereas “Rich” Snippets are enhanced with extra visual elements such as a photo or video excerpt, a price range, rating stars, extra sitelinks and so on. Got the difference ?

regular vs rich snippets

Structuring your site data doesn’t affect the appearance of your content on your own pages, but when Google crawls your site, it will recognize markup for the information types and be able to understand how your pages are structured so that it can correctly extract relevant data to be displayed in Rich Snippets.

In Google SERPs you can currently find 9 different types of Rich Snippets as listed below :

  • Applications
  • Authors
  • Events
  • Music
  • People
  • Products
  • Products with many offers
  • Recipes
  • Reviews

WMT search appearance

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Why should you definitely use them ?

Google explains that Rich Snippets are designed to give users a sense for what’s on the page and why it’s relevant to their query : indeed they aim at summarizing the content of a page in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page is about in our search results. For sure if users get to recognize when your site is relevant to what they’re searching for, it may result in more clicks to your pages… !

In other words Rich Snippets are an effective way of making your pages stand out of the search results listing and get your content noticed. And you can also notice that pages with Rich Snippets generally have higher rankings than the ones without.
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How to implement Structured Data on your site ?

There are 3 steps to Rich Snippets, and you only need a basic knowledge of HTML, but nothing complicated :

1. Pick a markup format

Select from the 3 available types of structured data :

  • Microdata
  • Microformats
  • RDFa

Google recommends using microformat, but any of the other ones are acceptable.

2. Markup your content

Next on, implement your structured data markup directly on your pages source-code. Microdata uses simple attributes in HTML tags (often <span> or <div>) to assign brief and descriptive names to items and properties.

You might use extra resources to help you easily mark up your pages content :

  • Schema.org > “this site provides a collection of schemas, that is HTML tags that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers“.
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  • Google Structured Data Markup Helper > as usual Google has a helpful tool to offer, as you’ll get to easily tell Google about your pages content patterns by simply highlighting parts of your content with your mouse. Once you’re done the tool will generate HTML code that includes microdata markup, so that you only have to insert it within your pages and update them online. For more info on how to tag content with the Structured Data Markup Helper visit its dedicated page in Google Webmaster Support.

structured data helper

structured data helper in use

3. Test your markup

Once your content is marked up, test it using the structured data testing tool to make sure Google can correctly extract structured data :

www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets <

Note that this tool has an Example button for you to preview how different types of Rich Snippets can look like in SERPs.

That’s it ! Once you’ve added and tested your rich snippets markup, Google will discover it the next time it crawls your site. Note that it may take some time for rich snippets to appear in search results, and also that Google doesn’t guarantee they will “always use this information “. For futher details on Rich Snippets not appearing, check out dedicated help.
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Conclusion

As you can see here Rich Snippets are quite simple and quick to set up, and they can have real benefits for your website by setting you apart from the competition, increasing your click through rates, and possibly, your page rank.

My last piece of advice would be to use structured data only for pages that are important to you, or should I say to your users : indeed Google won’t display Rich Snippets for every single occurrence of your pages, so carefully define the ones that are worth being marked up to keep a good balance of Rich Snippets relevancy.

Have you implemented Rich Snippets for your site ? Have they helped you find more valuable content during your online searches ?

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Other posts you may like :

Preferred domain : why and how ?
The 4 stages of search via Webmaster Tools
SEO : Google’s 200 ranking factors

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