What is a rich snippet?
In simple terms, a rich snippet is an enhanced version of a regular search snippet that we see in Google.
Google uses structured data markup (in HTML) to pull up extra information about the page and show it alongside the search results. It helps the user better understand what the resulting page is all about.
Let’s understand this with an example.
A ‘normal search snippet’ includes the title, URL, meta description, and (sometimes) the date.
Whereas, a ‘rich snippet’ will always include extra information between the URL and the meta description. It could be ratings or reviews, price information, name, or icon of the website.
Significance of rich snippets
If you look at the search results with a rich snippet, those are more appealing than the regular listings.
As for the above example, simply including a video of the recipe on your web page may not tell Google anything.
For Google, it is a web page that has some content around baking a cake without an oven, and a video embedded in it.
But when you add a structured markup to the page, Google can better understand your content. It can then display more relevant results to searchers.
In this case, structured data conveys to Google that:
- This page talks about a recipe
- Users rated the information on the page as 4.8/5
- It takes 55 mins to bake the cake
- Given the ingredients, the cake has 349 calories.
- And finally, the cake looks like the graphic image shown.
Do you see how structured data helps Google understand the content?
Even though rich snippets do not affect site rankings, they can still increase your organic click-through-rate (CTR).
For example, a user searches for a query “bake a cake in less than an hour”. Google can quickly push this result up to match the search requirement.
Since it fits into a search user’s requirement, they will immediately click on the link.
And since they have already seen a snippet of the information, they are less likely to get disappointed.
Thus, they will stay longer on the site and reduce your site bounce rate.
That’s the entire significance of using rich snippets.
How rich snippets help your SEO
Rich snippets might not be considered as a ranking factor by Google. But regardless of that, it can have various additional SEO benefits. Here’s how:-
1. Increases CTR
Search results enriched with additional information can drive higher CTR, which means more traffic to your website.
Besides, high CTR is seen as a positive signal and an important ranking factor for SEO.
2. Grabs the attention
I’m sure you will agree that rich snippets with graphic images are eye-appealing. Undoubtedly, they look better than regular listings and, thus, immediately get more attention from users.
Your visitors will know what you do and can even see ratings/reviews right in the snippet.
This way, you can pre-qualify the traffic and earn indirect SEO benefits from it.
3. Gives relevance to your content
With the right code, any type of content can get a rich snippet.
For instance, if the search engine detects that the search for a term ‘brownie’ is related to a topic say ‘bakery,’ a site that uses ‘recipe’ in its structured code will be given more relevance within search results than a website that hasn’t.
4. Makes your website search-friendly
Trying to rank for rich snippets make your website friendlier to the search engine.
It increases your chance of getting ranked for other Google features that are dependent on schemas and structured data.
That includes voice search, Google Maps, and Google Assistant, to name a few.
How to implement rich snippets?
For your website to be eligible for rich snippet view within Google, it needs to have structured data embedded in its HTML. Without it, Google will not show your site in the rich results.
Let’s understand the different factors involved in implementing rich snippets.
1. Decide the type of rich snippet
The very first step involves identifying the type of rich snippet that best represents your content. There are many rich snippets out there, the most common ones being:-
Once you have selected the type, you need to implement the structured data.
2. Writing your structured data script with Schema
The most popular portal for writing structured data is Schema.org. Schema is supported by major search engines, including Google, Yahoo, and Yandex.
You visit the search gallery and study the requirements for your selected types.
For example, you want a rich snippet on MusicStore.
Using the guidelines on the page, you then markup your content within the HTML.
Well, Google also has published guidelines on structured data.
The next step involves writing the script.
There are different ways of doing that. If you have a WordPress website, there are plenty of plugins to choose from.
And if you want to add without any plugin, the most recommended method is using the JSON-LD format. It is one of the easiest ways to add structured data. Other than that, you can also use Microdata or RDFa.
Here’s an example of how the data gets marked up (taken from New York Times website):-
3. Test the Structured Data
Google offers a free tool for testing the structured tool.
Testing is essential to make sure that you have implemented the structured data correctly.
You can either enter a live URL from your site or copy and paste the HTML code.
The test provides comprehensive error reporting. If the tool finds anything wrong, it will let you know.
Here are the results for the New York Times’ homepage:-
Caveat: Even if you do everything right, there is no guarantee that Google will display rich snippets from your site.
You can read Google’s quality guidelines here.
Things you didn’t know about rich snippets
1. Rich cards and rich snippets are not the same
Both rich cards and rich snippets use structured data markup to create enhanced SERP results. But in reality, both have a different place in SEO.
Rich cards are the carousel presented at the top of search results. It is generally limited to mobile search results and search results in English only.
It aims to improve the user’s search experience by providing a preview of top search results.
Whereas, rich snippets have no such restrictions. Besides, it applies to vast content types unlike rich cards.
2. A rich snippet is not a ranking factor
Adding Schema markup improves the way your page displays in the search engine results pages. But it doesn’t improve rankings.
Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of Webspam, said that the inclusion of Schema markup wouldn’t necessarily provide any ranking benefit.
But if you want long-term search results with higher CTR and lower bounce rate, then you have to optimize your page for rich snippets. It indirectly contributes to SEO benefits as it makes your page more indexable and provides more targeted metadata.
3. Google can disable rich snippets
Google has issued specific guidelines on how to maintain the quality of structured data.
If you do not meet those standards, Google can easily disable rich snippets from your site.
With structured data, Google aims to enhance users’ search experience. If they find out that rich snippets are created by spammy structured mark up, they might even impose manual penalties.
That means you can’t use this trick to stuff your keyword in structured data.
Google is continually trying to show the best possible media-rich results to its users.
Optimizing your content with structured data is a great way to increase your chance to get more visibility in the search engine.
So what are you waiting for? Start adding Schema markup to your pages and create enhanced snippets for your users.