What Are Rich Snippets?

Rich Snippets are the pieces of information about a web page that appear beneath its title in search engine results pages (SERPs). The types of data that appear vary according to the context of the page, but may include elements such as price and image for a product, or cooking time and star rating for a recipe.

The rich snippet for the recipe page shows the ratings, reviews and total preparation time

Why Are Rich Snippets Useful?

The metadata that appears in SERPs serves as promotional copy for the page itself, helping to drive click-throughs from SERPs to the website. The richer and more meaningful the information supplied here, the better chance the page has of receiving traffic. Furthermore, eye tracking and heat mapping research has clearly demonstrated that internet users are more drawn to dynamic, colourful results than to those that follow the traditional text layout. This means that pages marked up with rich snippets stand to enjoy a greater click-through rate (CTR) than their non-marked up competitors. While Google is notoriously tight-lipped about how on-site elements can affect the performance of a page in SERPs, they have gone as far as to connect rich snippets with potential traffic improvements. Optimising rich snippets for your website should be a part of every SEO strategy. If your business website is ranking lower on Google Page One the rich sinppet of your web page can lure potential visitors from the results above you.

How Are Rich Snippets Generated?

Search engines are able to display rich snippets when data about a page is supplied in a machine parsable format. This entails marking up the page with HTML tags that define the on-page content within the context of specific semantics.

Three standards exist for this kind of data markup – microformats, RDFa and microdata. Each standard has its own discrete vocabulary, but all three serve the same function. They allow for pertinent information about the page to be contained in a specific field which can be ‘read’ and comprehended by crawlers, allowing search engines to display the given data in a meaningful way.

While all three standards are supported by the major search engines, the most popular – and recommended – format is microdata. The microdata vocabulary was collaboratively developed, so it is straightforward and expansive. Furthermore, the major search engines Google, Yahoo, Yandex and Bing have joined forces to produce schema.org, which is a library of microdata markups that they have jointly committed to supporting.

The easiest way to think about implementing markups is to view them like normal metadata – they are simply additional HTML tags, added to the of a page, that enrich the information about the page that is provided in SERPs.

Guide to Rich Snippets by BlueGlass Interactive on SEOmoz
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