SEO: What are rich snippets and how do you get them?

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If you’ve done any Googling at all, you’ve almost certainly noticed that some search results look a little different from the plain blue text links we’re all so familiar with. Depending on what you searched for, these results may feature a product image, star rating, date published, author of the content, and even the calories contained in a recipe. These results are rich snippets or rich results – and they’re an incredibly powerful way to make your content stand out from the rest and hopefully get clicked on. 

In order to make your content eligible for rich results, you need to take a few admittedly tricky-looking steps to help search engines understand what your content is all about, and it will take a little time and effort. But if you’ve already spent hours creating great content that you’re proud of, it makes sense to give it that extra boost, so it gets the attention it deserves. Here’s how to go about it!

What is a rich snippet?

Standard search results typically only offer three kinds of information – the title tag, meta description and URL of the content. Rich results come in a variety of forms – from reviews of books and movies, to product comparisons, upcoming events, recipes and articles to name a few. They convey a lot more information in a single glance than a traditional text link.

Do rich snippets improve my SEO?

While Google does not use rich snippets directly as a ranking factor, they can have an indirect positive effect on where your content appears in results. This is because rich results are more eye-catching and offer more information to the user right there on the results page. This generally translates into a higher organic CTR (click-through rate) and more traffic going through to your website – which does affect your ranking. It also makes it more likely that users will click on your content even if you’re not in one of the top spots.

How do search engines create rich results?

To create rich snippets, search engines use an agreed-upon set of standards known as structured data and schema markup. Schemas and structured data help search engines understand what content means rather than just what it says. For example, it could let a search engine know that this name is the author of the article, this number is the price of the product, or this image is of the finished recipe, etc. 

By adding predefined tags and structured data to your content, you’re describing it in a way that search engine crawlers can make better sense of, and ultimately display in results.

How to make your content eligible for a rich snippet feature:

While there are several ways to mark up your data, including the use of JSON-LD, RDFa or Microdata, we’re going to look at using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. If you are uncertain of how to proceed, getting in touch with an experienced SEO firm such as Ruby Digital may be your best option. Note also that certain website builders like WordPress have structured data plugins available to make the process easier, and some ecommerce platforms – such as WooCommerce – actually output structured data for your products automatically.

  1. Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, and select the option which best describes your content – such as an article, recipe, or product page. 
  2. Paste the URL or HTML code for the page in question and hit ‘Start Tagging’.
  3. You’ll see your web page appear in the left pane, and a list of data items you can tag on the right.
  4. Highlight a section of text and apply the appropriate tag – such as the name of the article, date of publication, or author. Note that you probably won’t have text for every single data item (such as publisher) – just add all the elements that do apply to your content.
  5. Once you’ve finished tagging, hit the ‘Create HTML’ button at the bottom of the page. You’ll be taken to a screen which shows the HTML of your web page, now including all the microdata associated with the tags you selected.
  6. You can now have two options. You can either add that microdata manually in your CMS or source code (using the yellow markers on the scrollbar to locate each section of schema markup code) – or you can click the ‘Download’ button. This will provide you with an automatically generated HTML file which you can then copy and paste into your CMS or source code. Select ‘Finish’ when you’re done. 
  7. Finally, use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to preview how your changes will appear in search results and make any necessary edits.  

As mentioned, this is just one method of adding schema markup to your website – you may wish to experiment to find which strategy works best for you and the type of content you create most regularly. Once you’ve mastered structured data however, you’ve added an invaluable tool to your SEO belt!