The term ‘rich snippets’ is often thrown around in conversations about SEO – often with no explanation given. That’s why we’ve written a comprehensive guide to rich snippets, including what they are, why they’re important and how to use them.
Best of all, we wrote it in plain English. Because nobody wants to sit and read a page of jargon.
So, what are rich snippets?
‘Snippet’ is a term used to describe the results you see on search engine results pages (SERPs). With every result, Google displays a short ‘snippet’ of information to tell you a little more about that result, usually comprised of a meta title, a meta description and a URL for the page. The owner of the webpage may have input this information manually, or Google may have to search the page and find the relevant information itself.
Here’s an example of a regular snippet:
A ‘rich snippet’ is essentially a snippet that’s rich in information. Unlike a regular Google search result, a rich snippet includes extra data between the URL and the description – whether that’s a picture, a rating, a price tag or information about availability. This extra information is usually pulled from the structured data in the site’s HTML.
Here’s an example of a rich snippet, taken from the same SERP as the regular snippet:
This extra data isn’t just for the user – it’s also incredibly useful for Google. Because structured data helps search engines understand what a page is actually about, it allows them to display more accurate search results. It gives Google the context it needs to understand the nuances of different results and search terms.
Think of it like this: if you saw the words ‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet’ within a piece of content, you don’t need any context to assume the phrase is referring to the play by William Shakespeare. Your common knowledge and human experiences fill in the gaps for you.
A computer, on the other hand, doesn’t have any context to work with. If the only information it has to work with is ‘Shakespeare’s Hamlet’, It might look up what a ‘hamlet’ is, and deduce that the content is referring to the small village Shakespeare grew up in. But with structured data, you can add information to your page’s HTML that’s specifically designed to give Google this context. For example, you could add data to tell Google “This is about a book”, “this is the book’s author”, and “this is the book’s title”.
Why are rich snippets important for SEO?
Although Google doesn’t use these rich snippets as a ranking factor, they’re still incredibly good for your SEO. Here’s a couple of reasons that using structured data can have a positive impact on your search results.
Better click-through rates
When you’re faced with dozens of search results, anything that makes your page stand out on a SERP is a win. Because rich snippets are more eye-catching than regular search results, they’re a great way to attract a user’s attention and encourage them to click through to your page.
What’s more, they may give the user that little bit of extra information they need to click your result. For example, in the case of the lasagne recipe above, the rich snippet includes the amount of time the recipe will take to make, which could end up being a deciding factor when choosing between the results.
Optimised for voice search
Because rich snippets help Google understand more about your webpage, they’re endlessly helpful for voice search. By building structured data into your site and giving Google the information it needs, your result is much more likely to be coherent and relevant when read aloud by voice assistants.
As the technology behind voice search develops, this structured data is only set to get more important. Google is currently in beta tests to trial using speakable structured data to identify which sections of a web page are best suited to be read aloud, allowing voice assistants to answer topical news queries. The feature is currently only available for users in the US, but Google is set to launch it across other countries once enough publishes have started using it.
How do you use rich snippets?
Google displays rich snippets if you add the relevant structured data to your site, which has to be written in a specific format. When it comes to adding this data to your site’s HTML, it’s a job that’s best left to your developer.
Most websites use Schema for their structured data, which is supported by all major search engines. Although Schema includes guidelines for different structured data formats, it’s always best to use the documentation on Google Developers as your definitive guide, where you’ll be able to find the rules for creating different rich snippets. Google supports structured data in JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa formats, but recommends using JSON-LD whenever possible.
Once your site is set up to allow rich snippets, you can test it using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which shows you all the structured data it finds on your page and flags up any errors or warnings.
Does your site already include structured data?
Our developers always build the relevant structured data into our clients’ Shopify sites, which means their pages are ready and optimised for rich snippets. If your site wasn’t built by us, you can chat to your developer about adding structured data to your website.
If you don’t have access to a development team, you can get in touch with us today. We design, build and manage Shopify stores for global brands, allowing them to focus on what really matters: delivering an exceptional customer experience.