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Why rich snippets are essential for your SEO strategy

Click. Type. Search. Every second on Google alone, this three-step combination is performed around 40,000 times all over the world (Internet Live Stats data), revealing tens of thousands of search results.

While more choice equals more chance of success from a user’s perspective, for businesses, getting noticed has never been harder. Unfortunately, flashing lights and neon jumpsuits won’t do the trick.

In order to stand out from the competitor crowd, businesses need to bare all. While this sounds daunting for a first encounter, giving your audience a taster of what they can expect from digging deeper let’s them know if you could be the ‘one’. In technical terms, this is what’s known as a rich snippet.

This business buzzword is often overlooked by many, familiar to some and put into action by only a fortunate few. So, what exactly are rich snippets and why are they so important for your SEO strategy?

What are rich snippets?

A snippet is a run-of-the-mill Google result on a search engine results page (SERP). Rich snippets go beyond the ordinary. As the name suggests, they’re a richer result – they give the user more.

Let’s take this back to basics and play a good old game of spot the difference. Ready?

First up, image number one – not bad, hey? A classic Kiwi/Aussie pavlova recipe (we’ll let you battle this one out!) telling us a little bit about the sweet treat’s history, with a link taking us to the recipe.

Next up, we’ve got image number two – another pav recipe, but this time, there are some noticeable differences. How many can you spot?

Time for the grand reveal! Not only are these two pavlovas made by different brands, the listings are worlds apart in terms of layout and inclusions. Just take a look below…

The third image shows three major differences between the two listings. As you can see, the inclusion of an image is a major change. Next, the second listing shows a rating from a particular number of reviewers and the time it takes to make this ‘perfect’ pavlova. Lastly, the three hyperlinks below the listing take us to other pavlova recipes from Chelsea Sugar.

These three differences are what transforms a snippet into a rich snippet. They provide greater context and help better answer the user’s questions, such as “how long does this pavlova take to make?”, “how many calories?” and what other people thought of the pavlova. In a nutshell, it gives a sneak peek into what the user can expect to see from the rest of the webpage upon clicking the hyperlink.

With more opportunity to stand out in a sea of competitor listings, businesses are starting to sit up and take notice of this small addition that has the power to drive maximum results where SEO strategies are concerned.

Why are rich snippets so important?

It’s always great when you stumble across a solution that benefits you, and the people you’re trying to impress (your target audience). In this case, rich snippets do just that. They’re a complete win-win for both businesses and online searchers.

What are the benefits of rich snippets for businesses?

The SEO benefits that come from employing rich snippets are a major drawcard for many businesses. After all, it’s a dog eat dog world out there and a business has gotta do, what a business has gotta do.

  • Rich snippets help a business stand out from the competitor crowd. This stronger visual representation of information offers a point of difference from traditional listings.
  • As more people are able to see if your listing is relevant to their needs, you may notice an increase in click-through rates.
  • An increase in click-through rates has a knock-on effect to your overall Google ranking position. The more Google recognises people prefer your page above others, the more you’ll be rewarded in the rankings.

What are the benefits of rich snippets for users?

Your target audience want to see more. They want a listing to make their lives as easy as possible by providing enough information to help them make an informed decision in the shortest time possible. If not, they’ll move on.

Software company Moz estimates that only 66 per cent of distinct search queries result in one or more clicks on Google’s results. This means 34 per cent of listings get no clicks at all.

This is why rich snippets are so beneficial for the user experience.

What business types can benefit from using rich snippets?

Rich snippets aren’t just reserved for people with a passion for pavlova recipes. Plenty of businesses can hop on board the rich snippet train and reap the benefits of doing so. Let’s take a look:

  • Restaurants: From burgers to Bahn mi and everything in between, there’s plenty of choice online when it comes to choosing somewhere for dinner. However, for businesses, this choice turns into competition. Therefore, rich snippets are beneficial for food operators wanting to stand out. Rich snippets show your establishment’s average rating, the address, the price range and a few words describing the cuisine, ambience etc.
  • E-commerce sites: Rich snippets are extremely common for e-commerce sites. Imagine an online sneaker store. Someone types in “red trainers with yellow laces”. If the site has employed rich snippet data, their listing should reveal information based on brand, name, description, price range, reviews and an image of the sneakers.
  • People: Whether you’re settling an argument with a friend or looking to connect with a prominent professional, people search for other people online. As such, Google decided to release richer information so users could see photos, a person’s name, role, professional affiliations and sometimes contact details.
  • Events: We’re a busy bunch. There’s a never-ending itinerary of things going on, and as such, it can be hard to narrow down where to go and what to do. Thankfully, Google has collated event information into rich snippets, letting eager beavers know the start and end date, duration, location and even some ticket details.
  • Businesses and organisations: No matter the industry, businesses and organisations should look to include the name, address (physical and URL), contact number, location and logo of their business on rich snippets.

Including important details is great for improving the user experience.

How do you add rich snippets to your website?

So, you’ve learnt what rich snippets are, why they’re important and who can benefit from them, but how do you go about making your own?

Introducing structured data!

We get it – anything including the word ‘data’ is enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, but don’t worry. Google has made it extremely easy to reap the benefits of rich snippets.

First, it’s important to understand the basics of structured data.

What is structured data?

In order to display rich results, Google needs a little help understanding the content of your page. Businesses can do so by including structured data.

In layman’s terms, structured data is code written in a specific format that search engines, like Google, can easily understand and interpret.

In layman’s terms, structured data is code written in a specific format that search engines, like Google, can easily understand and interpret.

Going back to our humble pavlova example, structured data lets a business ‘talk’ to the search engine. Simply let Google know exactly what ingredients are in your recipe, how long it takes to cook, how many calories the dessert contains – all of this helps the search engine showcase it within search results, aka a rich snippet!

Using structured data software (more on that later), businesses can label each individual element of their product, service, or in this case, recipe, so users can search for the dish by core elements like the pavlova’s cooking time, calorie count or ingredients.

Simply put, structured data forms the body of rich snippets, paints a better picture for Google and creates a listing that’s ‘richer’ and more desirable.

The more information you include, the better picture you’ll paint for Google.

Where do you get structured data from?

Unfortunately, structured data doesn’t grow on trees, nor is there an online e-commerce store with buy one get one free deals.

Instead, Google has a coveted list of trusted sites that offer structured code:

  • JSON-LD.
  • Microdata.
  • RDFa.

Sticking with one of the above means businesses are eligible for rich results, without compromising their chance of success (more on guidelines later). These sites store large collections of code (also called vocabulary) which businesses can access when adding structured data to web pages. This process is otherwise known as ‘marking up’.

For example, if you’re looking for structured code on a recipe, you can copy the code from one of the trusted sites and adjust accordingly to tailor it to your product.

What are the structured data guidelines?

Attention! Right face. Forward march and half. Double time! Just kidding, Google’s not telling you to drop down and give them 20, however, there are guidelines that wannabe structured-data-superstars need to comply with in order to rank, aka be eligible for inclusion in Google search results.

Google has guidelines in place to ensure businesses stay compliant when adding structured data.

 

Structured data guidelines are separated into the following categories:

Technical guidelines

Format is the biggest component that falls under the technical guideline umbrella. Here, Google emphasises that businesses should use one of the three previously mentioned supported sites, such as JSON-LD.

Access is another key aspect, and Google states people shouldn’t attempt to block structured data pages using any type of control method.

Businesses can test their compliance with the above technical guidelines using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which will catch most errors before data goes live.

Quality guidelines

Creating content that is original, relevant and honest are three ‘must-dos’ on Google’s structured data guidelines. Following on from this, content must not promote any form of violence, danger or cruel acts.

Google prefers listings that are thorough and complete. The search engine rewards businesses that go above and beyond, supplying additional information that improves the user experience. So, going back to our beloved pavlova example, including everything relating to the recipe makes Google happy.

Failure to comply with these guidelines results in less favourable rankings, or worse, being marked as ineligible for rich results in Google searches.

Does Google always show rich snippets?

Here comes the rich snippet niggle: Google doesn’t guarantee your structured data will show up in search results, even if you’ve followed its guidelines. Here are a few reasons why:

  • As you should know by now, Google’s main goal is to give its users the best experience possible, which involves delivering the best and most relevant content. Its specialised algorithm tailors all search results in a way it believes to be the best for the user. This is dependant on many variables, including location, search history and device type, and therefore, you may not fit the bill.
  • Google’s one smart cookie. So, if your structured data is potentially misleading and not representative of the main context of the page, you best believe the search engine won’t show it!
  • However, sometimes Google does hold its hands up if something slips through the cracks. For example, its testing tool can sometimes miss some errors in regards to the supplied structured data.

While Google doesn’t always show rich snippets, the search engine does offer help for those trying to tap into the world of rich snippets.

What is Google Search Console?

Google’s Search Console is the search engine’s platform focused on helping its users improve their performance on Google search. It allows webmasters to optimise the visibility of their websites and check indexing status.

If your site doesn’t yet have structured data or you don’t have the time to devote to adding it in, there’s a Google Search Console tool you’ll want to know about: the Data Highlighter.

This is an alternative way to add structured data to a webpage. Instead of going into the backend of your site, the Data Highlighter tool lets businesses highlight important fields and label them accordingly. Once marking up is complete, Google will confirm your selections on the right hand side of the page. This will give you the chance to review and correct any errors. Happy with everything? Simply click ‘publish’ and Google will apply all structured data to your site and begin showing off your work through rich snippets (hopefully!).

What to expect after adding rich snippets

If you think you’ve followed all guidelines and successfully added structured data to your site, what next?

It’s a waiting game.

Google will not automatically display your structured data through rich snippets. Instead, it needs time to analyse and assess your markup before giving the green light. Experts believe this process can take anywhere between 10 and 14 days, but it depends on individual circumstance.

So, be patient, have a cup of coffee, put your feet up – the hard work is done, and soon enough, your rich snippets should reveal themselves!

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Martha Brooke
Martha Brooke About the author