10th July 2014

The power of Rich Snippets – Markup all the data!

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Rich snippets add an extra level of detail to the search engine results pages. They can seriously improve click through rate (CTR), even when at lower SERP positions. Better still – not everybody bothers with them. They can be tricky to implement, as you will need a good SEO and a good developer working together (we have this, mostly!).

They work by using a standard format for describing page objects. For example, an aggregate review of an e-commerce store will always consist of an average score from a number of reviews. A product that they sell has a price, an availability and many have other standard aspects such as size or colour etc.

To show you how flexible this can be, take a look at what you can do with an attribute such as ItemAvailability. It’s much more powerful than simply instock/out of stock:

  • Discontinued
  • InStock
  • InStoreOnly
  • OnlineOnly
  • OutOfStock
  • PreOrder
  • SoldOut

Let’s a take a look at some SERP rich snippet examples:

Below: Event, recipe and product rich snippets:

What type of Markup to use?

Schema.org markup is your go to for enabling rich-snippets on: reviews, events, offers, recipes and many other things besides – take a look at http://schema.org/ for the entire extensive list. There are other choices, but Schema.org is the result of a collaboration between Yahoo, Yandex, Bing and Google. So I think it’s safe to say that if your objects are described using their language, you stand a much better chance of getting these potentially CTR boosting additions to your entries into the SERPs.

What Next? Twitter Cards, Rich Pins, Facebook and Google Authorship!

You may have noticed big media organisations get additional information on their tweets when they post about a story on their website. Fortunately such a feature is not reserved for big media and is free for you to implement, test and get approved. So after giving your organic results a helping hand with rich snippets, we’re turning our attention to social.

Below: A New York Times Twitter card:

As with rich-snippets in the organic search results, extended information on tweets, pins etc makes them more compelling and thus more likely to be shared and clicked. This could help your business to capitalise on a strong social following. In addition to using the relevant markup with social media rich-snippets you will also need to validate them and apply for approval. Handily the validator acts as a testing tool, so you can hone your markup until it passes and then apply.

Further Resources for Rich Snippets:

Finally, let’s talk about authorship. When you implement authorship you get extended information in the SERPs when an article you wrote ranks. You get an author profile picture and a byline link that when clicked brings up other articles and Google+ posts by that author. On some searches you may also get a figure stating how many people’s Google+ circles the author is in. This is also a link, which goes to the author’s posts page on Google+. I’ve included authorship information with the social media examples due to this intrinsic link to Google+.

Update: this has recently been changed by Google. There is no longer an author picture (or Google circle count). Google say that this is to improve consistency in appearances across devices. The jury’s out on the effect of these changes on click through rates.

Below: An example of authorship markup in action, before and after the recent changes. Note also the latter example’s different meta description snippet:


How do I get Google Authorship to work?

It only takes a few simple steps to Google authorship to work – in theory. In practise it can be a little inconsistent and you may need to make subtle tweaks to get it working. On your Google+ profile you need to:

  • List yourself as a site contributor. For most people a link directly to the site’s blog is fine
  • Verify an email address from the same domain as the site

Then on your site you need to:

  • Add a rel=author link from each article directed to your posts page
  • Clearly state your author name – see the right-hand side of this page: “Written by Owen Radford”

This last point is what I alluded to above about needing tweaks to get authorship working. Your content should clearly state that you wrote it and you want to use the same format for your name as on your Google+ profile. First get the green light from Google’s structured data testing tool: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets and, if you’re still not seeing authorship markup in the SERPs, you then need to examine what you’re doing differently to other sites that have successfully implemented authorship (though once you’ve gotten the green light bear in mind it will take some time to update in the SERPs).

We’re currently adding multiple types of extra markup to client-sites and they’re starting to see the benefits. We can work with most any type of markup, but the common ones currently are authorship markup, aggregate reviews, product markup and social media markup.

If you need help adding any type of markup to your site please get in touch to find out how we could help your project.