Rich snippets and structured data

Rich Snippets or Schema is something that we like. By using it appropriately, we can enhance some of the events and products on our partner sites.

Using Schema and Rich Snippets can give a final touch to your posts.

We see a much lower bounce rate on sites where we've enabled Rich Snippets – especially compared to similar sites where we haven't enabled them. We also feel that it has an indirect positive effect on the SEO overall. Maybe that bit is just us though.

While it still isn’t mandatory for web developers to use this markup, it’s considered good practice. You're basically telling Google that you want to be noticed and have the intention of delivering further relevant detail to their customers.

The key word there is relevant. If it's just filler, spam or irrelevant, then the search engines are smart enough to recognise that.

When our algorithms discover technically correct markup on a page, we use a variety of signals to determine when to show rich snippets, including compliance with our Webmaster Quality Guidelines and Structured Data Policies.

What Google says...

In short, using schema helps to deliver:

  • more accurate and detailed results
  • more relevant results

When should I use Rich Snippets?

Rich snippets is HTML that you can add to your page, allowing search engines to better understand what that page is about. By inserting these snippets (when appropriate), search engines appear smarter to the user in the SERPS. In short, it can be a complementary and help to improve the overall user experience.

To give a basic example: on one of our pages we may have a header title <h1>Surfing</h1>. This could be referring to surfing out at sea or it could be referring to surfing the web. (By the way, is it just me or does the term "surfing the web" feel really dated nowadays?)

However, the heading tag doesn’t give away to which type of ‘surfing’ we are referring to, and this makes it more difficult for the search engine to understand which one we mean exactly.

But this is where Schema comes in as it works behind the scenes to paint a fuller picture. Used by Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex, Schema is a shared vocabulary which helps to give more data to support the content.

When do search engines show Rich Snippets?

While it was designed to give a fuller picture to search engines about the content being delivered, Google and Bing now use that information and present it to the user in the SERPs as and when they consider the structured data markup is of benefit.

If we do a search for "harry potter and the sorcerer's" stone' for example, with regular html you may get the following which displays:

  • the page title;
  • a meta description;
  • the link URL;
  • the date

But with structured markup data, we get the following which displays additional and useful information to the search. In this case, it’s about a book with:

  • the ratings displayed;
  • the number of times it’s had a review;
  • the current listing price

As you'll agree, the visual impact here is more enticing to the user and there is a higher click-through rate on the second listing.

Bear in mind that the aim is not to dupe or manipulate the visitor, but to give genuine and supportive data which will naturally lead to a higher chance of a site visit.

Where is Schema applicable?

In the example above, we can see that you can add rich snippets to books. But what other categories can you have?

  • Person – Can be fictional or real. Can add job title, organisation, contact details and so on
  • Product – Can add things like brand, model, manufacturer, condition and reviews.
  • Event – Only future events, you can input dates, location, duration e.g. for concerts
  • Organization – Name, address, telephone and so on. Google Local also makes use of any data.
  • Movie – Name of the movie or video, names of actors and aggregate reviews
  • Book – author and publisher details including date of publish; ISBN number and format.
  • Review – Reviews and ratings for products or services e.g. dating website or recipes

How to implement rich snippets or Schema?

You should remember that the purpose behind rich snippets isn’t to add it to every single page.

We need to use it on the pages which can help the search engine (and users) to learn extra information that give a fuller picture to the basics already available.

So you should only be making use of rich snippets where you can add value for the user.

There are three ways that we look at to add rich snippets to your page:

  1. Through Google Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools)
  2. Via the html code itself
  3. Using a plugin

1. Adding rich snippets through Google Search Console

This is a good visual way of creating structured data for novices and experts alike.

Follow through from Search Console > YOUR SITE > Search Appearance > Data Highlighter and then click on “Start Highlighting”.

It will take you to a selection, where you can choose the site from the dashboard and what type of item it is that you want to enter structured data for:

We’ll be doing a local restaurant for the purposes of this example.

It’s really easy to follow. Just select the text or image with your mouse and then a drop down will feature where you can select what that selected text or image represents.

For example, we can select ‘Indian’ as the type of cuisine and it’ll go ahead and fill in the data to the right under ‘My Data Items’:

If you’re happy with it, the highlighter tool presets 5 other pages to pick the data from. But you can deselect these pages if they don't contain the rich snippets that are of benefit.

Again, it’s important to do this correctly and you shouldn’t be using this as a sales tool. If you have an offer on the restaurant page such as “50% off steaks every Tuesday!”, don’t be highlighting that text and selecting it as the “title” with the thought process that you’re selling.

That is poor practice and is seen as manipulative. The the chances of it being seen as legitimate by the search engines is small.

You should be providing useful, additional markup to for the benefit of readers only.

Google's Structured Data Tool
Structured Data Tool: Add rich snippets using the data highlighter.

2. Adding rich snippets through manual coding

The easiest way is to make use of code generation tools that will build the code up for you and then it’s just a case of copy and paste.

We like to use Schema Creator as it’s really intuitive and easy to use.

For example, if you had a well publicized event that you wanted to add rich snippets to, you simply enter the details and the code is made readily available:

The preview may look like the following:

The code will look as follows. The code is made up of three elements: the itemscope (about the item), itemtype (what the item is) and itemprop (the property of the item). Review the code below to see how each of these are used.

Simply copy and paste this code into your site within the body text.

And this is what a Google listing might look like once the schema mark up data has been inputted correctly and a relevant SERP comes up:

If you want to ensure that the code is done correctly, you can use the Google structured data testing tool which validates the mark up.

Rich snippets by manual coding
Schema Creator: Create HTML with microdata.

Structured data testing tool: Enter a URL or paste a page to test markup.

3. Adding rich snippets through a plugin

You could bypass the options above and opt for a WordPress plugin to do the hard work. We recommend some plugins below.

Other than WordPress, you can find tools for other platforms which make the process of rich snippets a lot easier.

Rich Snippets Plugin
All In One Rich Snippets: Automated rich snippets plugin.

How long does it take for the Schema to take effect?

Just because you have implemented rich snippets, it doesn’t mean that the extra data you have provided will be displayed on Google, Bing, Yahoo or Yandex. Nor will you be propelled onto the first page of the highly competitive niche that you're targetting.

The rough process is as follows:

  • The rich snippets inserted is analyzed several times over the course of the next couple of weeks
  • Some of the pages may show a select few pages which has rich snippets as a trial or testing period
  • Some of these rich snippets may disappear and appear again as it goes through the Google blender
  • It could take 8 to 12 weeks for the rich snippets to start having a bit more of a permanent feel to it.

There is no hard and fast rule, but if you implement the schema as organically as possible without attempting to dupe the engines e.g. trying to make it a sales spiel, then your hard work should eventually pay off.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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