Want to increase traffic to your site by nearly a third – without spending a dime, writing a hundred blog posts, or landing a major media appearance? Sure you do.
Then it’s time to start using rich snippets.
Rich snippets. They’re a way to mark up information with special tags so your pages will stand out in the search engine results. Rich snippets regularly get clicked 20%, even 30% more than regular listings, making them an easy way to significantly boost free traffic to your site.
Here’s what one looks like:
Compare that to a similar listing without a rich snippet:
See why and how they get more clicks?
Rich snippets can do more than add stars and review counts, too. They can be used to dress up search results for
- Breadcrumb navigation
- Music (including albums)
- Organizations & Businesses
- People (including Authorship)
- Review ratings
Here’s what an event rich snippet might look like:
Here’s what a similar listing, with no rich snippet, looks like:
Here’s a video rich snippet:
A product rich snippet:
And a breadcrumb rich snippet:
So enough with the examples – how do you make them?
How to make rich snippets
Way back in the day, like 2011, you had to code rich snippets by hand. Then you had to play around with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to see if your work would show at all, and then if it would show correctly. Fortunately, those days are over. Plugin developers have made adding rich snippets dramatically easier.
If you want to get started with rich snippets fast, the easiest way is to download and install the free plugin All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets (https://wordpress.org/plugins/all-in-one-schemaorg-rich-snippets/). There are many other rich snippets plugins, but All In One is considered the best in class by many SEOs. It’s also a snap to use.
Here’s the dashboard of All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets:
Here’s the view of the plugin on the page or post you want to add the rich snippet to. To create the rich snippet, you just fill in the form fields and click save. No coding required!
A webmaster tools page where you test how your page is going to look in the search results.
This tool is handy because your rich snippets changes won’t immediately appear in the search results – it can take a few days for them to show up.
A few days after your snippets have gone live you can head over to your Google Webmaster account and see how your rich snippets are performing in the Structured Data Report in the Search Appearance Section of your account.
There are many other plugins you can use to set up rich snippets, and plenty of online tools. If you go looking for them, make sure you use one that uses “microdata”, especially if it uses the microdata markup per Schema.org (a must-visit site if you’re into coding).
Why use microdata formats? Because that’s what Google, Yahoo and Bing have agreed to support in their search listings. Other formats will work, but they can be buggy. See the chart below for a family tree depicting where microdata sits in the hierarchy of structured data. Rich snippets are just one form of structured data.
Don’t use rich snippets to spam
While rich snippets offer a sweet opportunity to get more traffic with little work, please don’t use the new markup to spam.
As of February of this year, rich snippet spam had become enough of a problem that webmasters had started getting manual penalties from Google for spammy rich snippets. When one webmaster asked about why he had gotten the penalty, this was Google’s answer:
Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, also said earlier this year that rich snippets could “get a revamp” and be available only to “more reputable websites” if the problem continues. It would be a pity for new websites to miss out on rich snippets just because some SEOs didn’t play by the rules. The rules, by the way, are here: Google’s Rich Snippet Quality Guidelines.
Just in case you don’t read that page, the most common ways to get into trouble with rich snippets are to mark up
- information that is not visible to users (like alt tags or comments in the code).
- fake reviews or comments (I know, I know – you would never do that).
- “content unrelated to the focus of the page”. Ie, don’t mark up information that isn’t described in more detail on the page. For example, don’t markup “Wisconsin pay day loans” on a page about Wisconsin’s wildflowers.
Recent changes to rich snippets
Rich snippets evolve rapidly, so you need to be ready for changes.
The most notable potential change we might see is the one Matt Cutts mentioned about only allowing “reputable sites” to show rich snippets. That would be a disappointment, but it would once again reward sites that are providing good content and carefully employing SEO best practices. You know you’re on the right side of SEO when you actually look forward to the next algorithm update.
One example of a very recent change is how Google Authorship profile images were removed from the search engine results in late June. Many writers, reporters and marketers had been enjoying a nice lift by having those Google Authorship profile shots show up next to their search listings. It’s a shame to lose them.
For one last example of recent rich snippets changes, LinkedIn’s rich snippet data started showing up for Google and Bing results in April. We can now see a person’s job title, employer and location in the search engine results without having to click through to their LinkedIn page.
More changes are sure to come. Hopefully you can set up your rich snippets to benefit from them.