What are Rich Snippets and When to Use Them?

September 16, 2011By:

Rich Snippets Definition

Rich Snippets provide a small sample of a site’s content on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. They enhance your search listing, making it more enticing for users to click on and easier for search engines to extract information. Adding Rich Snippets to your site won’t affect the appearance or content of your pages; rather, everything is done behind the scenes in your site’s HTML code. To display Rich Snippets, you just need to tweak the code of your website with some additional tags.

Rich Snippets History

New thing on the block?

When I listen to conversations about Rich Snippets, it seems that people talk about it like a fairly new thing. The semantic web and rich snippets were first introduced in the Google Webmaster Blog on May 12th 2009. Google’s post announcing Rich Snippets is about two and half years old – which in computer/technology age, is like dinosaur era old.

Google Introduces Rich Snippets

The Battle of Languages

When the semantic web was first introduced (and up to until not too long ago), 3 languages were fighting to become the standard one: Microformat, Microdata, RDFa. To over-simplify, Microformat is the easiest language but limited, RDFa is more cumbersome but comprehensive, and Microdata falls somewhere in the middle.

On June 2nd 2011, Google, Yahoo and Bing announced the creation of “schema.org”:

Today we’re announcing schema.org, a new initiative from Google, Bing and Yahoo! to create and support a common vocabulary for structured data markup on web pages. With schema.org, site owners and developers can learn about structured data and improve how their sites appear in major search engines. The site aims to be a one stop resource for webmasters looking to add markup to their pages.

Source: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/introducing-schemaorg-search-engines.html 

In summary, Microdata won and is now the standard language for Rich Snippets. Other languages are still recognized for the moment but won’t be updated like Microdata is.

Rich Snippets Types

In the beginning, Rich Snippets were mostly used for:

  • Organizations
  • Reviews
  • People
  • Recipes
  • Events

Organizations

You can markup data such as your business address, telephone, etc. which helps local SEO efforts by providing more information towards your Google Map listing.

 

Local Search

click to enlarge

Reviews

Reviews are towards the most powerful use of Rich Snippets because it can increase your click-through rate (CTR) by displaying a more appealing SERPs result with star ratings, number of votes and more…

Reviews - Rich SnippetsPeople

You can enhance your profile listing with a photo, a company name, your role in the company, your location and more. LinkedIn pages use markup code by default in their template to results display like this:

People - Rich SnippetsEvents

If your website features events, Microdata can help you display information on the SERPs page such as the date, duration and location of the event(s):

Single Event - Rich Snippets

multiple events - rich snippets

Recipes

Marked up data for recipes can show photos, cook times, reviews of the recipe and more:

Recipe - Rich Snippets

Other types

Schema.org is continually adding different varieties of Rich Snippets on a regular basis. It’s now possible to markup things such as audio objects, videos, awards, music playlists, maps, books, TV episodes…

The latest update announced that we can now display bullet points in listings:

Bullet Points - Rich SnippetsBreadcrumbs

This is another interesting use of Rich Snippets markup code. Marking up breadcrumbs will allow you to display better URLs in the SERPs and to have search engines treat them like breadcrumbs rather than “regular links”.

Breadcrumbs - Rich SnippetsReal Estate Listings

If you are a real estate agent, your website could benefits from using microdata on your listings:

Rich Snippets for Real Estate listings

It almost doesn’t matter what you have on your website. If you have some content, you can probably mark it up wity Microdata.

Rich Snippets and SEO

As for now, rich snippets do not officially improve rankings: “Google doesn’t use markup for ranking purposes at this time—but rich snippets can make your web pages appear more prominently in search results, so you may see an increase in traffic.”

Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=1211158

Rich snippets and SEO

However, Rich Snippets do improve CTRs by adding additional information on the SERPs making it a good opportunity to take when available. Considering that a lot of websites don’t use marked up data, integrating Rich Snippets into your site will give you an edge over your competition.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post on how to integrate Rich Snippets on your website and don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have questions or want to add to this post.