Another day, and yet another consideration for SEO bods to take into account if they want their websites to offer an enhanced user experience, and improve their site’s SEO. As we all know, search engines are continually evolving their approach as they seek to provide the most relevant results possible, for any given search query. Google, of course, leads the way here, and so it’s probably a little unsurprising that a development proposed some time ago saw Google offering another way for web admins to improve their users’ experience by integrating code “tags” to help better structure data.
Structured “rich snippets” data
The “rich snippet” is a term that can ultimately be translated to human speak as “enriched extract.” Basically, this means that part of the HTML code content of your page will contain additional and essential information for information-hungry search engines to consume. These so-called “rich snippets markup” provide specific information about page content to the search engine user, and directly below the organics search results. Things such as product info. and prices, event dates, helpful navigation breadcrumbs, user ratings or even geographical areas can be shown, providing the user with little ‘snippets’ of information about what they can expect should they choose to click on your link. This of course improves the overall user experience and subscribes directly towards Google’s ultimate usability utopia!
Google’s “Hummingbird” algorithm update took into account certain semantic concepts. Until then Google indexed web pages almost solely, though not purely based on details such as keyword sets and characters. This paradigm has long since moved on in leaps and bounds, and now makes data a key factor when indexing web pages.
Check out this example of a recipe rich snippet below:
Why rich snippets are important for your site and its SEO
Before we look at why rich snippets are so important, you firstly need to understand what pages on your site can use the rich snippets. For example, does your site’s structure and content lend itself or allow you to restructure data? Sometimes even a simple information site can be really difficult to restructure in terms of data. That said, it will almost certainly be possible to add rich snippets to all of your contact pages for example; information such as localisation and identification. This simple addition to the site’s code will almost certainly serve you in the future. Not only will you allow search engines to correctly identify the content of your page, but you’ll also have an optimised display in the results pages. Try it yourself… Take a look at the first page of almost any Google search, and then ask yourself what link to you naturally want to click, and which ones attracted your attention most?
Needless to say, search engines highly recommend their use. Nevertheless, at the time of writing this article (June 2015), it was claimed by some in the higher echelons of SEO guru-ism that the use of rich snippets will not actually affect your ranking in the search results. And following certain abuses, Google recently reported that it was in fact considering reducing the appearance of rich snippets in search results.
However, contrary to this, studies have clearly shown that when this information is displayed in the results, the click rate is much higher; some studies even suggest that it could be anywhere between 30% to 300% more clicks!
Wherever you sit on this one, when it comes to rich snippets it is generally agreed by all that using them can only be a positive step forward in driving traffic to your website.
How to develop rich snippets?
As already detailed, Rich Snippets are simply a form of markup inside your HTML code, and it is these additions that allows search engines to identify the structured data from your pages. Once identified, the structured data can then be presented to the reader in a user-friendly way and highlighted within their search results.
There are a few types of rich snippet formatting, including RDFa, the MicroFormat and microdata. Cutting to the chase, I’d always recommend using the microdata format proposed by the search engine collaboration Schema.org, and the format recommended and subscribed to by the biggest search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and more recently, Russian-based Yandex.
Schema.org identifies well over over 1,200 types of content, and I’d confidently say that over the coming months, this will no doubt increase.
As already mentioned, schema.org is based on microdata. Each kind of data can then be described using the schema vocabulary. Put simply, the Schema vocabulary plus some microdata formatting within your HTML content allows you to then markup your pages and further improve their visibility to the search results.
There are many different types of vocabularies available via schema.org, ranging from job listings and movie information, to bakeries and liquor stores. You can find out whether your website is relevant to schema by checking this list on the Schema website. Here you can identify the type of data to be added, and relate it to the content of your pages. You should then test your tagged pages, using different search examples – Google provides a free Rich Snippets testing tool to help developers with this.