Tara West

Why You Should Use Rich Snippets

21st Apr 2011 SEO Blog 4 minutes to read

What are Rich Snippets?

Rich Snippets are a way of providing additional information about the type of content that is on a web page to Google. Google then use this information to enhance the snippet which is created for your web page within the search engine results page.

Rich Snippets can be created for reviews, people, products, businesses and organisations (note that businesses and organisations mark up is currently not yet used for Rich Snippets within SERPs), recipes, events, and videos.It works through marking these specific types of content with recognised tags, similar to heading tags, however with greater description value and meaning. When Rich Snippets are used in search results pages, they look like:

What are the benefits of using Rich Snippets?

When Google uses Rich Snippet data on SERPs, it makes it much easier for the searcher to determine exactly what a page is referring to. For example, whether a page is talking about ‘Istanbul’ the kebab shop, which would be marked up as a business, or ‘Istanbul’ the city. A further benefit is that they can also clarify that the page refers to ‘Istanbul’ the kebab shop in Eastleigh, not ‘Istanbul’ the kebab shop in Henley-on-Thames.

How do Rich Snippets work?

Rich Snippets work alongside your existing Meta or website snippet that is used within the search engines results page, by adding additional information to your listing alongside this. Your Rich Snippet information may also be displayed on a Google Places page. The tags to not visually affect the page.

You can mark your content with Rich Snippet tags using Microdata, Microformats or RDFa.

What kind of information can be marked up for Rich Snippets?

When marking up reviews, you can mark up either an individual review on a page, or aggregate review information (such as an editors review) to provide the average rating, or the total number of reviews available. Which approach you take, will determine which mark up indicators you will use.  The tags for reviews signify the item being reviewed, the rating given, who wrote it, the date it was submitted, the review description itself, and a summary of the comment.

For marking information about people, the tags can signify their name, nickname, a photograph of them, their title, their role, their own website, any organisations to which they are affiliated (for example a teacher at a school), a social relationship (for example between the person being described and others), and the address of the person.

To mark up products, you can signify the name of the product, a photograph of the product, a description of the product, the brand, the category which the product belongs to, if there is reviews for the product,  and any special offer which might be on for that product.

When marking up businesses or organisation details, you can signify the business name, the website URL, its address, the telephone number, and the geographical co-ordinates of the business location. As mentioned earlier in this post, Google do not currently use business and organisation information to create rich snippets for search engine results pages.

Recipes can be marked up for the name of the dish, whether it is a starter, main course or desert, a photograph, the date the recipe was published, a summary of the recipe, a review of the dish, the length of time it takes to cook and prepare, nutritional information, the step by step instructions, how much the recipe makes, the ingredients needed and the author of the recipe.

For events, you can mark up a summary, a description, a URL to an event page, the location of the event including geographical co-ordinates, the start and end date of the event, the duration, a category and a photograph.

For video content, you can signify an image of a preview thumbnail, the URL to play the video when the play button is pushed. The medium (for example audio, video, news, blog or multi), the video width, height, type, description and title.

Making sure your Rich Snippet mark up is correct

You can test your Rich Snippet mark up with a testing tool and let Google know you have marked up your content.

Similar to Meta descriptions, Google is not guaranteed to use the additional information in your snippet, and you will need to wait until next time your page is crawled for the search engine to be aware that the additional mark up is there. Also similar to Meta descriptions, Google does not use Rich Snippet information to rank sites, so it will not enhance your positions in the SERP’s directly, but may encourage clicks by informing the user of the kind of content the page contains. Google may also choose not to use your marked up information if there is not enough information supplied, or if it misrepresents what is on the page, among other reasons.

If used correctly, Rich Snippets can be a valuable tool for enhancing your listing and encouraging users to click by letting them know exactly what kind of information is present on that page.

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