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Rich snippets: how to improve your search results listings

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Google has indexed roughly 45 billion pages from websites. Bing has around 5 billion indexed. This makes the Internet an incredibly large place.

It also makes persuading visitors to visit your website into a tough task. You have to compete with so many other people and businesses, most of which have more funds to spend on SEO or have established themselves long before you even learned what “SEO” was.

The good news is that you can compete with them. Rich snippets are emerging as one of the great equalizers for small businesses that can allow you to receive more visitors simply by giving more information to them within your website’s listings within any given search result.

What is a Rich Snippet?

A rich snippet utilizes something called microdata to pass data to third-party applications. This data has a predefined structure, which in turn allows search engine robots to understand it and interpret it.

Rich snippets

The most prominent example of a rich snippet is the review rating that tends to present itself on results form e-commerce websites. These allow a user to quickly identify how useful a product, service or even page was to other people, which in turn allows the user to see if the item will be useful for their needs.

Other types of snippets include:

  • Reviews – You can show information pertaining to your product, the number of total reviews it has and the average score of an item.
  • People – If your website has biographies for people, then this type of snippet will allow you to show their photograph, a brief biography and other information about them as they relate to your business.
  • Products – Markup for this type of snippet supports a picture, a quantity of products, SKU and more.
  • Businesses and Organizations – These snippets look much like those for people. You can include an address, a geolocation, a phone number and a URL.
  • Recipes – You can include a picture and other details about your recipes here. This is great if your website deals with any type of cooking.
  • Events – Places, pictures, dates and times are all things this data supports. If your company deals in hosting events or has a charity event approaching, then this is the snippet you want to have.
  • Music – While niche-specific, the music snippet can help organize your pages pertaining to music.

While snippets are currently confined to the above data types, it’s likely that Google and other search engines will expand their support types as other types of “common but useful” data begin to populate the Internet.

How Can They Improve Search Result Page Listings?

While there are many ways that snippets can improve search result page listings, the most prominent of those ways is through giving your potential visitors far more information in a way that user wants to receive it.

Simply having a snippet suggests that you have a website designed to provide the best user experience possible. This clues in a potential visitor that they may be able to find the information they’re seeking fastest if they use your website, which in turn means they are that much more likely to click on your website’s results.

Past the simple point of just having them, they provide significantly more information when compared to the standard search result listing. This gives you the edge when it comes to competition. It makes your website look more attractive to users. In the case of review listings, it can also tell users that their opinion is welcome once they purchase a product from you.

The best part about snippets, however, isn’t the fact that they just give your visitors more information or deliver it in an easier way. The numerous advantages of having a bigger, more useful search page listing allows your pages to grab more visitors without actively being in one of the prime ranks in a search result.

If your pages are useful and visitors stay on them once they click on your listings, then search engines will begin to value your website higher. This can allow you to naturally rank higher over time, which in turn can help your to surpass established giants who might have better supporting links or more established fan bases.

That makes the rich snippet something that can substantially increase the effectiveness of your website in both the short- and long-term.

A Basic Rich Snippet

The following example rich snippet utilizes the microdata format. This essentially allows you to place it the HTML of your pages.

One thing to note is that, as of the HTML5 specification, this can be placed in the body or head of your page. It is considered metadata, which means both places are now valid.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Review">
  <div itemprop="itemReviewed" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/AutoBodyShop">
    <span itemprop="name">Ricky's Auto Repair</span>
  </div>
  <span itemprop="reviewRating" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Rating">
    <span itemprop="ratingValue">4</span></span> stars -
    <b>"<span itemprop="name">Cheap, reliable auto repair.</span>" </b>
    <span itemprop="author" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Person">
    <span itemprop="name">Jenny Smith</span>
  </span>
<span itemprop="reviewBody">Fixed my car for half the cost of anyone else. Extremely nice and helpful..</span>
</div>

This rich snippet will show information for “Ricky’s Auto Repair” in the review format. It will show one of the reviews left by a client.

An Important Note About Snippets

One thing that can get your website into serious trouble is abusing snippets. You should always strive to utilize accurate snippets that utilize real data.

If you use false data for your snippets, this could result in manual penalties from search engines. This could mean any pages utilizing a rich snippet will be removed until someone manually reviews your websites for accuracy, or it could mean that your entire website is removed from the search results.

Testing Your Rich Snippets

One of the best ways to test your snippets is through the Structured Data Testing Tool from Google. This will allow you to immediately see how data is read and interpreted by Google. Just put your website URL into it, and it will tell you if there are any problems.

Given that snippets are considered standardized by Schema.org’s specifications, this also means that other search engines should show similar results.

Main image: Kate Ter Haar
Content image: India7 Network