How are rich snippets and “normal“ snippets differentiated in the Google search results? How do I ensure that my web presence is evaluated through ratings, stars, photos, or other information?
In this article, you will learn what advantages rich snippets will bring you and how you can create them.
A snippet is basically the result of a previous search inquiry in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). The text should inform and simultaneously generate a click. There are different kinds of snippets that we will present here:
Standard snippets are small previews of a website that Google lists in the SERPs after a search inquiry. The search engine generates these text snippets automatically using the meta data. They usually show the meta title, meta description, and the URL. In this way, the visitor can quickly decide whether the search result is relevant for his/her search or not.
Figure 1: Standard snippet from allrecipes.com.
Snippets with gray borders on the top of the page fall in the category "highlighted snippets" or "Featured Snippets". Webmaster operators have no direct influence on these displays.
Google itself decides which information is relevant enough to the search term to garner the reader’s attention. These are often general term definitions with notices towards further meanings. The below-mentioned OneBox, for example, appears with the search inquiry "conversion optimization definition".
Figure 2: OneBox on the topic of conversion optimization
Rich snippets are based on structured data that webmasters can incorporate into the website’s code, according to a special schema to deliver detailed information to search engines. Schema.org is an initiative which Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (Bing) created so that their search engines could better index website contents. All common search engines support the markup schema so that webmasters do not have to decide or implement several schemes.
In the full sense of the word, rich snippets "enhance" the result with practical information for the readers. Thus, for example, images, links, previews, or videos can be incorporated. If the necessary information is inserted into the source code as rich snippets (meta data, microformats, or RDFa), readers see the most important things from the site operator in a single glance.
This automatically gives Google answers to detailed questions such as:
Figure 3: Rich snippet from Cinemaxx (Munich)
Whether online retailers, musicians, organizers, or NGOs ... Google supports the most varied types of information. On the schema.org website, you will find a collection of HTML tags and markups for the use of rich snippets for the following branches, for example:
A particular kind of rich snippet is the Sitelinks Search Box. With the search term "Munich", Google offers the reader, for example, current information from the city portal. You can search for sites and events in a targeted fashion within a search field. Organic results fall behind again.
Figure 4: Sitelinks Search Box for the search term "Munich" (right side).
At first glance, rich cards do not have much in common with rich snippets. In May 2016, Google officially announced search results on Google.com for film and recipes. At that time, this meant that they were expanding this offer to additional regions and content matter. Since March 22, 2016, rich cards are also available worldwide.
In this way, Google wants to improve the "user experience" for mobile searching. Rich cards present an information carousel in the upper area of the search results site.
Figure 5: Rich cards for mobile searching.
There is no guarantee that the search engine will display your rich snippets as you would wish, and it can be weeks until they are displayed. Nevertheless, in this way you have a greater chance of landing in the SERPs than with simple snippets. This is particularly important for online retailers. They must win the attention of their customers within milliseconds if they wish to outpace the competition. With a colorful eye catcher and stars, this works better than three simple lines of text.
With the help of micro data, the retailer can provide a detailed product description and, for example, gain information about price, color, size, condition, or the manufacturer of the item. If these details are shown to potential customers and fulfill their expectations, the path to the shopping cart is not far.
An especially clear example for rich snippets is the area of food. If, for example, you Google the generic term "recipes", you will see search results from numerous collections of recipes and food blogs. BBC Good Food and allrecipes.com generally appear well – with photos and ratings.
If you specifically enter "BBC Good Food" in the search slot, the rich snippet appears with additional information. In this way, the portal simplifies entry for its readers. It leads directly to the area that interests you instead of having to search on the website for a long time. Rich snippets can therefore also orient the visitor.
Figure 6: Targeted search through rich snippet
Using the umbrella term microformat, there are three possible formats for content implementation: JSON-LD, RDFa, and micro data. All three formats are compatible with one another and use standard HTML with additional conventions to be able to more easily extract data from the standard HTML.
You will find help for this complex topic in the Google Search Console. Click on "Structured Data" in the section "Presentation in the Search".
Figure 7: Area "Structured Data" in the Search Console.
Here, the Structured Data Testing Tool opens, and you can edit the formats for each individual website. In this way, you can first test whether rich snippets are available using your URL.
Figure 8: Google's Structured Data Testing Tool
You do not have to be a perfect programmer, because in the Google Search Console, the highlighter data will support you in the tagging and storage of structured data. You can mark relevant information on your website without using markup language and without interfering with the source code.
Warning: Absolutely be aware that no websites provided with rich snippets are blocked by robots.txt.
Figure 9: Tagging with Google’s Data Highlighter.
If the corresponding micro data is deposited in the source text, you should check whether the rich snippets appear properly in the SERPs. For this, use the Rich Snippets Tool in Google’s Search Console.
If the rich snippet is recognized, you will see the code on the left and the designation "recipe" on the right. The recipe for the site then appears together with ratings and photos in the SERPs.
Figure 10: Rich snippet from BBC Good Food in the SERPs.
With structured data, you can also create information on your personnel and your company. In addition to the input of name, occupation, and contact data, there is also the possibility of outlining the contents of your site in a brief description.
If you enter personal information in a rich snippet generator, you will receive a code that you can integrate into your site source text. The information stands in HTML tags such as <div>, <p> und <span>.
The following elements are also in effect:
1. itemscope indicates that within the <div> there is a designation and reveals the source;
2. itemtype gives the type of the designation, here the "person",
3. itemprop gives detailed information on the person.
With the OnPage.org Snippet Optimizer, you can likewise check your snippet in a few steps and ensure that all information is being displayed in its entirety.
Figure 11: The OnPage.org Snippet Optimizer
With the use of rich snippets, your website will stand out in the search results. Stars, images, and videos will animate customers to click. Additional information in the snippet creates added value and strengthens the trust of the reader in your brand, your products, or your services.
Rich snippets can, moreover, increase your click-through rate and can keep readers on your site longer. A good overview and transparent navigation also animate users to click. To make all contents readable at first glance – for search engines as well as for readers – schema.org makes breadcrumbs available.
A breadcrumb is a navigation path consisting of several links that helps users understand a website’s hierarchy and orient themselves. In the testing tool, the breadcrumb’s designation appears as follows:
Figure 12: Breadcrumbs simplify navigation.
In "normal" snippets the URL is displayed under the title. If you use breadcrumbs on your site, Google will also show the site structure more understandably. Below, you will see an example for the search result with designation (above) and without designation (below), that means with the standard URL.
Figure 13: Snippet with and without breadcrumbs.
The use of rich snippets on your website absolutely makes sense. According to the size of your website and the range of your topics, however, there is some amount of work because the markup should be entered for desktop as well as mobile versions. In the best case, you would begin with the most important site and then optimize the rest little by little. For lesser known online shops and websites, it makes even more sense to work towards rich snippets. In the end, they are a part of one’s own brand reputation and can lead to decidedly more clicking.
Published on 04/06/2017 by Eva Wagner.
Eva is an experienced content marketer. Until May 2018 she was a member of online marketing team at Ryte. Using her creativity and the knowledge of current topics, she was responsible for the German Ryte Magazine and the Ryte Wiki. She also organized Ryte’s presence at major trade fairs such as the dmexco in Cologne.