In-Depth Guide to Rich Snippets

Rich snippets make it possible for the information contained on web pages to be better understood by search engines. The term is used to refer to the structured data mark-up which can be added to your existing HTML. With search engines, this has become slightly more advanced, as it’s now used to show users richer search results. This makes it easy for users to find the information they need more easily. 

Rich snippets is the term used to describe structured data mark-up that site operators can add to their existing HTML, which in turn allows search engines to better understand what information is contained on each web page. However, the major search engines have taken this a step further, and now use this mark-up to present richer search results, enabling users to more easily find the information they are looking for. 

Normally, when a website is listed in SERPs, search engines show the meta description, URL and site title. But when rich snippets are used, users can see more information, letting them know whether the result is a business, product, person or review. They can help a website stand out from the crowd in SERPs. 

While using rich snippets is not compulsory, it can be beneficial to site operators, users and search engines alike. Site operators may see reduced bounce rates and increased click-through rates (CTR) since users will be better informed about how relevant the site’s contents are to their query before they click on the site. The benefit to users and search engines is obvious, since users will get more relevant results and search engines will be able to deliver those results.  

Why is Structured Data so Important? 

If you’d like users to see rich snippets when you show up in search results, you’ll need to put structured data in place. Why should you do so? 

  • You could see more conversions due to the ratings shown in your snippet. These can lend more authority to your service or product.  
  • You may notice an increase in CTR because the extra details seen in a rich snippet can encourage users to check out your site. 
  • You’ll get more organic visibility since your snippet will be more eye-catching.  

Structured data is crucial for the proper function of the semantic web. As sophisticated as search engines have become, they don’t understand words the way humans do. How does a search engine determine whether a user means “apple” as in the fruit or “Apple” as in the tech company? The answer lies in the context, the URLs pointed to and the words used, among other possible indicators. 

With structured data, site owners can tell search engines what their pages are about in clearer terms, and it can be as simple as including the cooking time of a recipe or adding an address and phone number. The Internet Trend Report 2016 by Kleiner Perkins posits that at least half of all online searches by 2020 will be done by image or by voice. Considering that voice search results in longer queries, structured data becomes a fantastic way for website owners to position their content to be found more easily.  

Featured Snippets Are Different 

Also referred to as “position zero,” a featured snippet is a page extract featured at the top of SERPs for some search results. Typically, it’s taken from an authority page from the standard results, allowing that page to appear twice on the page. It appears in response to a given question, allowing the searcher to find the information they need right in the search results page. Depending on what the query is, its placement might change, but one fact that remains true is it’s always more visible than standard results.  

What Kinds of Content are Supported in Rich Snippets? 

The content types that structured data mark-up or rich snippets can be used on include: 

Organisations and Businesses 

Properties that can be used by organisations and businesses include business logo, name, geolocation, phone number, physical address and web address.  

Events 

Organisers of future events can benefit from the use of structured data mark-up which allows users to see properties such as geolocation of the event, ticket details, duration, start and end date and summary (of the event’s official name, not of the event). 

Music 

Properties included for music albums and songs may include direct purchase links and links to previews. Users are more likely to find these in Google than in Bing.  

People 

Properties such as name, role, title, contact details and professional affiliations of an organisation’s team members or staff are supported for websites that include such profiles. 

Products 

E-commerce sites can take advantage of the properties available for products, which include name, description, brand, image, identifiers such as SKU and ISBN, quantity, condition, seller, currency, price and reviews. Even high price and low price can be used for products sold by different merchants in an online marketplace.  

Recipes 

There are lots of properties for recipes offered by structured data mark-up. They include fat content, calories, serving size, nutritional information, cooking time, preparation time, reviews and type of dish, among many others.  

Reviews 

Rich snippets support both aggregate and individual reviews. 

Videos 

Websites with embedded video content can include properties such as whether the content is family friendly, the creator of the video or the production company involved, license and duration. 

How to Set Up Structured Data on Your Site 

To get started, you’ll need to determine which microdata format will be best implemented for what you have in mind. You’ll need to make a list of the relevant fields, putting your priority elements first. Be sure to include which schemas will show up in your rich snippet and which ones won’t.  

It may seem complicated at first, but Google’s comprehensive help centre is useful for making sense of it all. You’ll find examples and applications for each snippet, plus get a structured data testing tool designed to help you make sense of how the search engine interprets your mark-up. Essentially, you’ll be creating a mark-up structure that can be automated for any of your pages that can benefit from structured data.  

You don’t need to add structured data mark-up to every content property you have. While you’ll want to mark up as much content as possible, be sure to only mark-up visible content and avoid marking up hidden content and page elements. The 3 primary elements used by structured data mark-up include itemprop (the property in question, such as review or URL), the itemtype (specifies the type of item) and the itemscope (indicates that the <div> block HTML is about a specific item). 

If you use a bespoke ecommerce system or CMS, you’ll have to get your web developer to create an easy means by which you can start implementing structured data mark- up. For WordPress users, there are a number of plugins that make the task easier, and one of those is All-in-One Schema.org. There are also plugins for the major systems powering ecommerce sites.  

If your site has structured data in place already, you can go to Search Console and use the report there to check that there are no errors and the search engine is interpreting your structured data as it should.  

Currently, there are 3 different mark-up specifications which the major search engines recognise – RDFa, JSON-LD, micro formats and microdata: 

JSON-LD 

Also known as JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data, JSON-LD is the easiest to use since it uses the same vocabulary as schema.org. It’s also the most recent format available and is recommended by Google. It allows you to separate your HTML’s semantic mark-up, which is its primary advantage.  

Microdata 

JSON-LD may be the easiest to use, but microdata is the most commonly used format. It’s relatively easy to use, but has a major disadvantage – you’ll have to add additional mark-up to your HTML because it’s related to your HTML elements. 

RDFa 

This is the most complex of the formats and it has the same disadvantage that microdata has.  

What Happens after You Add Rich Snippets? 

The truth is using structured data mark-up does not mean Google or Bing will automatically start showing rich snippets for your content. Google will first put your content through a series of analyses and assessments. 

The new mark-up will only be analysed about 10 to 14 days after the first time you introduce it. If it all seems to be correct, the search engine may begin to show rich snippets for some pages, but these will disappear after about 5 days. Many days later, some rich snippets will resurface for new pages or the same ones as before. It’s possible for this process to be repeated over and over again.  

After about 8 weeks or so, you may be lucky enough to have rich snippets throughout your website. So, it’s best to avoid making any changes to your implementation of schema.org until after about two months when the full results will have started showing up. 

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About the author

Kieran is an SEO Account Manager at Synapse. He has a passion for the web, and a mix of hands-on digital experience in multiple roles. Kieran has helped companies grow for over 4 years. He takes a highly analytical approach to delivering bespoke SEO campaigns that drive serious growth!

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