February 10th, 2016
Search Engine Optimization
Google is dedicated to displaying each entry on the search results page in the most attractive and click-inducing manner. Since 2009, Google has been encouraging developers to add code around important website elements so that searchers can get exactly what they’re looking for in a glance. These additional lines of code are called, “rich snippets.” They enrich the search results to a level beyond just a few lines of black and white text.
Take a look at the search results here for the query “tuna steak recipe.” Which listing draws your eye?
Beyond the stars from reviews and images, enrichments can include: video thumbnails, product ratings, event details and social media links. In the same way color newspaper ads edged out black and white (back in the old days), search engine results from websites with rich snippets provide the variety that draw attention.
Not surprising, research shows that Google’s efforts to make its search results pages more exciting are working.
Marketing research firm Blue Nile found that “rich snippets in position two will have a 61 percent click capture rate, whereas no rich snippets on position one would have a 48 percent click share.” If number one and number two both had no rich snippets, the number one result would get a 48 percent click share and the number two would get a 35 percent share. With the rich snippets, the chance of winning the click in position two nearly doubles. This finding bears out a feature of human wiring marketers have long known: we are drawn to images.
Another study mirrors these findings. Search marketing research firm Search Metrics analyzed Google search results for tens of thousands of keywords from 500,000 websites. It found that websites using “rich snippets” ranked four places higher than those that didn’t. While it would be tempting to give the rich snippets all the credit, study authors also concluded that this advantage may result from the fact that the webmasters using rich snippets were a particularly sophisticated lot. The websites they optimized had advantages in addition to rich snippets. The discrepancy could also result from the fact that the snippet enriched websites drew more attention, earning more clicks, traffic and therefore Google’s respect.
Despite the fact that Google has been pushing rich snippets for years, a very small percentage of websites actually encode the website with rich snippets themselves. This is good news for anyone reading this post! Take the opportunity now to stand out in your field by “blinging” up your how your website renders in the search results.
Implementing rich snippets can be complex, requiring experience with microdata, RDFA, or JSON-LD. Those who don’t recognize those terms can depend on their developers or agency to make the additions to the html code on their websites.
Just 18 years old, Google is still very much a work in progress. It brought “authorship”—photos of a page or post writer alongside the search result—into play, only to kill it within a year. Still, we think that because rich snippets offer so much helpful information to the user looking at the results page, this coding upgrade will have more staying power.
Read our whitepaper “Driven by Data: How the Discovery Process Uses Data to Guide Strategy” to learn more about how to optimize your website data for the best results.
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