What are Rich Snippets and How Can They Be Used?

When it comes to SEO and social media, there always seems to be a few lessons that just slip through the cracks. For many, that was rich snippets in 2012. It’s a word that many have heard, but it just isn’t something that gained a lot of publicity. Last year was very much so about Google+ and the importance of connections and guest posting, but this year is likely going to focus less on how to get your site on a SERP and more on how results are shown on that SERP. Fortunately, getting started with rich snippets is easy and a strategy can be put in place right away.

What are Rich Snippets?

A rich snippet is essentially just a small summary of the data that a user can expect to see on a page. They can come in many different forms, but all serve the purpose of providing basic information quickly so a user does not have to click the webpage and go through the process of loading. In other words, people are more likely to click on a result with a rich snippet than a site without. They really draw the attention of readers, and they can help reduce your bounce rate because people will know they are interested in your site before they click.

Rich snippets can be presented to users in several different forms. Below are a few different examples of what different types of rich snippets can look like for a result:

Video. Users can see a small snippet of a video before clicking.

 Authors. Probably the most popular way to use a rich snippet is through Author snippets. This is a feature that Google added that allows users to see a photo of the author next to the article as well as some basic information about that author and other work that the author has written. Below is an example of what this type o rich snippet looks like, and I encourage you to read more about how these specific types work through one of our past articles here:

 Music. This is one of the best opportunities for rich snippets. People want to sample a song before they buy just to make sure it’s the right one. A rich snippet can make this easy.

 Ratings. This is one of the most popular snippets. They are usually a bit less noticeable than the types discussed above, but if your company has a rating (hopefully a good one), why not add it in as a part of your search result? As you can see in the example below, this snippet shows a numerical rating, how many people voted, and even the price of the product.

 Other types of content that can benefit from rich snippets include pictures and prices of a product, and event location and time, or a recipe rating or photo. It’s really up to a company to get creative and decide what will draw in possible readers.

So if rich snippets are markups and not Metadata, how do they help SEO?

It’s important to understand that rich snippets don’t have a direct correlation to benefitting your SEO efforts. The reason that rich snippets help your website is because they will help draw in more people and reduce your bounce rate, as discussed above. It’s as simple as that.

How to Get Started with Rich Snippets for Your Website Content

As usual, Google Webmaster Tools put out a detailed article that explains how companies can get started with rich snippets. As discussed above, it is the job of the company to get creative with rich snippets. Google makes this easy by incorporating rich snippets at the website level, putting Webmaster in complete control.

In general, the guidelines emphasized three aspects: technical, design, and quality. When it comes time to get started, you usually go through the three steps in that order:

  1. 1.    For the technical aspect, you must pick your markup format:

This is how you make sure your site is eligible for rich snippets. There are three types of markup formats you can use: Microdata, Microformats, and RDFa. The vast majority of companies use Microdata because this is what Google prefers, so if you don’t know much about the different types, Microdata is definitely your answer.

  1. 2.    Fill in the content tags that you want to use for your rich snippets.

This is called “marking up” your data, and you will be altering your current HTML. Google suggests that you use HTML markup if you want to be more in control and expect to change your snippets frequently. However, you can use the alternate method, the Data Highlighter, to simply tag the data fields on your site with a click of your mouse. This is usually the better alternative for beginners.

  1. 3.    Use a tool to test and make sure your rich snippets are working.

You can then test the content that you have marked up by using the structured data-testing tool. Rich snippets should then appear in this tool to show you that you’ve done everything correctly.

If you still just can’t seem to get it right, consider using the plugin Schema or Microdata for WordPress—a tool to make things a bit faster and easier for beginners. There is also a tool called Easyrecipe that has high ratings for those looking to include a recipe snippet.

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