Why Rich Snippets can Boost your SEO, and How to use Schema to Create Them

“I want to be number one in Google! Do whatever it takes to get me there – ain’t no prizes for second place.”

It’s a common request, and a thoroughly justified one. Every business owner wants to be number one and, in online marketing, reaching the top of the Google Mountain is the most obvious way of stealing a march on the competition. After all, top spot is where an estimated 33 percent of clicks go.

Unfortunately, we at Pea Soup can’t guarantee a number one ranking in Google, or any other search engine for that matter. Nobody can. It just isn’t possible and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying.

But what if I told you that you don’t have to rank number one? What if you could rank number two or even a few places lower and enjoy more traffic than those above you?

Yes, you can be Robin and outdo Batman – and it’s all thanks to rich snippets and the way in which people react to seeing them in search results.

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are extra bits of text and media that appear beneath the standard blue link in search results.

You’ll probably be familiar with them in the form of images, video thumbnails, author names and, perhaps most commonly, review star ratings.

Rich snippets bring something extra to the plain old ten links that people tend to respond well to.

Example – if you were looking to cook up a hearty lasagne, which of these links would you click on for the recipe?

Plain old classic lasagne recipe:

Or (and this is the right answer) rich snippet classic lasagne, complete with image, rating, cooking time and calorie count:

Look at how much more appealing the added bells and whistles make a link.

When it comes to things that can be reviewed – products, services, movies, gigs, etc. – an included star rating can have a huge pull.

Ratings immediately catch the eye, making the title and website secondary.

As far as movies go, the opinion of Empire is highly respected, but in SERPs I’ve bypassed that completely in favour of The Mirror or Metacritic.

Placed alongside rich snippets, the old blue link format is simply too boring to command attention. The added information greatly improves user experience and provides search engines with more precise details – plain links simply cannot compete.

Rich snippets and search position

According to a study by Searchmetrics, pages that take advantage of rich snippets rank four pages higher in search results. Google denies such annotations are taken into account when determining rankings.

That really doesn’t matter anyway. You’re no longer bothered about ranking in first position. What you’re interested in is clicks and receiving more than your competitors.

And there is solid evidence that rich snippets boost clicks.

A recent study by Blue Nile Research using test sites revealed that a rich-media enhanced search result in position two, received 13 percent more clicks than the non-rich media result directly above it – 61 percent compared to 48 percent.

Star ratings in position two performed even more impressively – capturing 76 percent of the clicks, compared to the measly 9 percent of clicks garnered by non-rich position one. And the theme continued when author images were added to links – position two enjoying 46 percent of the clicks – 36 percent more than the result above.

Blue Nile concluded it’s by offering the following key takeaways:

  • Change Your Thinking. Marketers must accept that rich media in the search results changes the “position 1 or bust” paradigm. A laser focus on position 1 blinds marketers to other opportunities to appeal to customers throughout the page and is a mentality that must be updated.
  • Know Your Landscape. Rich media opportunities and results differ dramatically from one search term to the next. In order to act on and benefit from their correlations, marketers must be well-versed in where the opportunities exist within the search results pages of individual keywords.
  • Capture The Low-Hanging Fruit. As you develop a long-term plan to capture rich media opportunities in your search results pages, be sure to act on those elements you can immediately control. Capture reviews on your site, or partner with a review vendor. Claim your business’ local registration with Google. Leverage markup on your site. Such actions give you the best chance of appearing in rich media in the search results page and to benefit, as a result, through increased traffic on your site.

Implementing rich snippets

Rich snippets are the result of something known as Schema markup – HTML microdata that can be added to Web pages to provide clarity to information.

Schema comes from Schema.org – an open community project sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Yandex.

As well as helping you to deliver the sort of fancy search links we’ve been talking about, Schema points search engines in the right direction, allowing them to understand what you’re talking about.

When you say ‘cloud’ do you mean a visible mass of condensed vapour, a state of gloom, disappearing transparency or configurable computing resources that allow files to be stored online for on-demand access?

Schema provides that clarity.

As of 2014, 36 percent of search results were displaying Schema markup. However, only 20 percent of websites are leveraging microdata. 

There’s opportunity here for you – one that your competitors might not yet be on board with.

Adding Schema requires you to create tags related to the data you wish to enhance for search purposes. Schema.org features the appropriate tags based on commonly used itemtypes, such as creative works (books, movies, music, TV series and recipes), events, health, organisation, person, places, products, reviews or actions.

Creating and adding the necessary tags directly into the back end of your website is going to require some working knowledge of HTML.

We’re going to assume you don’t want to be delving into developer territory. We’re also going to assume you – like us – prefer to take the easier option when it comes to things like this.

There are two tools that can help make implementing markup a breeze: Schema Creator and Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Both are good, but from here on in we’re going with the Google option.

We’ll break it down step-by-step:

STEP 1:

A): In the structured markup helper, select the type of data you want to markup from the list of options available – Articles, Local Businesses, Restaurants, Products, Events, etc.

B): Enter the URL of the page you want to tag and hit ‘Start Tagging’.

If HTML is all you have, select the HTML tab and paste your code into the field. – See more at:

STEP 2:

The next step is to start tagging. Google will create a dual pane page that includes your webpage and a menu for tagging.

All you now need to do is left-click and highlight the necessary text and assign it to the appropriate markup.

In the example below we’ve highlighted the article title, this brings up a menu including a list of tags, from which we’ll select ‘Name’.

All you then need to do is follow down the list until all of the required information is tagged – the author’s name as Author, date as Date Published and so on.

STEP 3:

With tags in place click on ‘Create HTML’, this will generate the Schema markup that needs to be added to your code.

STEP 4:

In the HTML, locate the highlighted text using the yellow markers in the scroll bar – these are the lines of code that you need.

Rather than adding highlighted snippets into your source code individually, a much easier method is to download the generated HTML file and copy/paste it in its entirety.

Once downloaded, click on ‘Finish’ and make a note of Google’s suggested ‘Next Steps’.

STEP 5:

Before you go ahead and paste the downloaded HTML file into your source code, it’s a good idea to test it first. You can do this using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Open your downloaded markup.html file using Notepad (here’s a video on how to do that if you’re unsure) and copy/paste the HTML into box 1.

Click on ‘Validate’ and the tool will run a test to search for any errors. Once you’ve got the ‘All good’ signal, you’re code is ready to go live and your rich snippet is poised for those clicks!

Despite having been around for a number of years, Schema is still in it’s infancy in terms of adoption. Getting on-board with microdata now will put you ahead of the competition, even if they do rank one place above you!

According to Schema.org, “The more content you mark up, the better,” so feel free to tag away. And if you ever need any help, you know where to find us.

 

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