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Rich Snippets, Microdata and Schema.org

By Dave Rodecker on March 29, 2013 in Blog
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Do you use Schema.org microdata in your HTML? If you don’t you are missing out. In addition to helping lay the groundwork for semantic search (link to previous semantic search article), Schema.org offers ways for you to get rich snippets. A rich snippet is a way that search engines display your meta data on a SERP. There are numerous types of markup language to get rich snippets, however,Google has specifically expressed a preference for the Schema.org standard.

You have probably seen rich snippets without even realizing what they were or how they function. One of the most common types of rich snippets is the video snippet. It shows a video thumbnail directly in search results and allows you to play the video without even going to the page. In case you haven’t seen one, they look like this:

Video Rich Snippet

Another common type of snippet is an authorship snippet. Those are the ones that show an authors picture in a SERP along with a byline. They look like this:

Authorship Rich Snippet

[As an aside, if you haven’t read anything by Seth Godin I highly suggest reading Tribes.]

Getting back to business, both of these types of rich snippets help convey meaning to searchers above and beyond normal search results. In fact, Cyrus Shepherd, formally of SEOmoz, did a test to see how much a Google+ picture could impact the CTR he got when having an Authorship rich snippet. He found he could get a 35% increase in free, organic search traffic by optimizing his rich snippets. I’m not going to go into to much detail on how to setup authorship as the topic has been written about extensively. If you want some insight above and beyond a how to check out this excellent post by Mike Arnesen on why you should care about Authorship and the forthcoming AuthorRank. The most important thing to know, you will be leaving money on the table if you don’t take advantage of this.

Think Like Google, Act Like A Marketer

This result shows how rich snippets and microdata provide a better user experianceLet’s start at the end. The bottom line with microdata and semantic markup is that it helps search engines understand web content and provide better results to their customers (the searchers.) You should give both what they want, especially since it helps them deliver a better user experience. While there is no concrete data right now showing that using microdata will have a direct positive impact on you rankings, it makes logical sense. It helps search engines better understand a sites content and provides better results to users than it should have a positive impact on SERPs. This good tactic to implement to not only drive better results right now, but lay the ground work for the future. Also, I think its important to remember that there is a certain amount of vanity in having high rankings. Yes rankings are important, but they are a top of funnel metric. If users don’t click through when you show up on SERPs then your high rankings don’t matter. Just look at the rich SERP results that get displayed with microdata and the data showing their higher click through rates. Don’t ever lose focus on the main objective: getting users from a SERP onto your site and than converting (in whatever way that means for you.)

Rich Snippets have Gone Global

Rich Snippets aren’t just for Google searches either. The Schema.org standard is backed by the four biggest players in search (Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex). Google’s rich snippets are still far an away the best, which is unsurprising considering they are still the best search engine by miles. Just take a look at Bing’s snippets and judge for yourself.

bing seth godin authorship rich snippet

Tackling Microdata Implementation

Recently Schema.org refreshed its Local Business standard which gives local business owners a robust way to pass rich semantic microdata about their business directly to search engines and thus prospective customers. I will be writing more about this in a future post. They also offer clear representations of what microdata markup looks like when added to basic HTML.

If this seems daunting, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources to make the processes easier. Google offers a extensive set of tutorials and walkthroughs related to rich snippets. It also offers a rich snippet testing tool to trouble shoot your structured data markup. Be very careful when using Google’s testing tool, as it is prone to make mistakes when validating your markup. You might also want to try the Live Microdata tool. With some trial and error you will have rich microdata in no time. Schema.org also offers its own tutorial. Just keep playing around with it until you get the hang of it. Since the internet is moving faster and faster toward rich semantic markup it will be a valuable skill to have for your clients or your business.

If you are a local search professional or local business, have you used any type of microdata to enhance your company’s (or client’s) presence online? What were the results?

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