Can you remember SERPs with 10 blue links and little else on the page? A distant memory.
Search engine results pages have evolved to contain a lot of rich content on the page. Knowledge graphs, featured snippets, carousels, product lists ads, and don’t forget the Google Ads.
It’s no longer enough to rank on a SERP; you now need to make sure your listing maximizes its position.
Rich snippets can be used to optimize your listing and grab more space and attention on the page so that your listing stands out.
This guide will tell you what rich snippets are, show you the most common types of rich snippets, and show you how to get rich snippets on your search listings.
What Is a Rich Snippet?
Rich snippets are the extra bits of information that can appear on a search listing below the meta title or description.
For example, the star ratings for reviews, the cooking times and calories on recipe results, or times and locations on events listings.
These additional bits of information appear because of structured data used in the code on the page that is being listed. Google uses rich snippets to enhance the SERP listing and provide key information directly on the SERP page.
Rich Snippet, Rich Result, or Featured Snippet?
The term rich result is often used interchangeably with rich snippets, and there is confusion between what is a rich snippet and a rich result. And then you also have SERP features and featured snippets.
Basically, rich snippets and rich results are the same thing. However, snippets can be considered to be a type of rich result:
SERP features are anything that is not a standard blue link listing — knowledge graph, PLAs, local pack, image carousels, and featured snippets are just some types of SERP feature.
Rich results are bits of information on the SERP page that are generated from structured data. FAQs are a type of rich result but also a SERP feature.
Rich snippets are a type of rich result that appears alongside a search listing to enhance it. Review stars and cooking times are both rich snippets and rich results.
Do Rich Snippets Help SEO?
If you compare two search listings on a search results page, the impact of a rich snippet is immediately obvious:
Your average search listing:
And the enhanced rich snippet version:
Review stars and thumbnail images add extra real estate on the page to draw attention to themselves. So, it’s not a surprise that studies indicate that users are more likely to click on rich results than non-rich results.
If you want a recipe for roasted chicken and see a listing that shows the time it takes to cook and the calorie count of the chicken, you have confidence that by clicking on this link, the page will tell you what you want to know.
Seeing a thumbnail image of a cooked chicken instills even more confidence because it shows the desired intention. You can almost smell the delicious food; click now.
Types of Rich Snippets
There is a wide range of rich snippets in search results, and these appear depending on the content of the page.
Some of the Most Common Rich Snippets Are:
The review snippet displays a star rating under the description. As a note, star ratings also appear in the knowledge panel.
Recipe snippet markup will display features, such as cooking time, ingredients, and even calories.
The music rich snippet displays additional information about the artist in question, such as record label and music genre.
Product Markup Snippet
Product markups display valuable information about your product, such as its availability, price, and reviews. These enhancements are essential for ecommerce sites.
The movie snippet shows details about the director, release date, run time, and the box office revenue. The most eye-catching feature is the star rating, as you can see if you compare the results below.
For events, this markup highlights important details, such as the time, date, and location of the upcoming event.
For a full list of types of rich snippets and SERP features that you can apply to your pages, refer to Google’s list of search features.
How To Get Rich Snippets
The benefits of a rich snippet should be clear now, but how do you get them to appear on your search listings?
To get a rich snippet to show on a SERP requires structured data markup to be included in the code on your page of content. Google crawls your page and translates this code to appear as the different types of rich snippets highlighted above.
What Is Structured Data?
Structured data is a language or code that can communicate information about elements on your content page. It can highlight the types of content, and a search engine will translate to better understand what the content on your page is about.
Structured data underlines how Google organizes entities through their knowledge graph and is a critical part of their long-term understanding of making sense of information.
Structured data is a type of language that Google trusts to provide correct information. So, alongside the organization of entities, structured data has the benefit of being able to inform enhanced elements to search results.
As search engines become more sophisticated at understanding and organizing information, they rely on structured data to help them sort entities and the different types of content. Images, names, places, weight, height, a "what is" question, or a table format are just some of the endless applications.
If you have a recipe, you could add structured data for:
Schema.org is a site dedicated to the universal vocabulary for structured data and a great resource.
If this is your first experience of structured data, it’s not as complicated as it might first appear. If you know how to add HTML markup in the source code when styling your text in WordPress, you can understand how structured data and markup works.
Read more about structured data here.
How To Add Markup For Rich Snippets
Structured data has two parts:
Schema is the vocabulary that identifies the entity elements to the search engine. Alongside Schema, Open Graph and Twitter cards are both forms of structured data vocabulary that search engines can translate. Use Schema.org as a reference for an extensive library of vocabulary.
The format is the markup code that communicates the vocabulary to the search engine. There are three main formats: JSON-LD, microdata, and RDFa. JSON-LD is the preferred format of Google and becoming more widely used.
You can imagine that Schema is like the HTML and JSON-LD is the CSS or the PHP.
If you are confident tweaking basic code, adding structured data directly into the code on the page gives you the most control. If you’re not a coder, don’t let this put you off. A little reading and experimenting will help you to do this.
Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper can help you generate the markup code for page elements. Although be aware, the code is not always as clean as it should be. It’s a great starting point, but it’s good practice to review the generated code before applying it to your page.
If you are not comfortable with adding code, you can use a plugin that injects the markup for you. But you have less control over the results and are dependent on the quality of the plugin.
WordPress has plenty of plugins that can implement structured data for you:
How to Validate Your Structured Data
Once you have applied the structured markup, you need to validate it to ensure that it is being read and it will display as you expect it to.
Google's Structured Data Testing Tool used to be the tool to test your structured data markup. Then Google tried to deprecate the tool and brought it back to use after much opposition from the industry.
Note: the tool is to be relaunched in April 2021 and will not test for rich results but will check syntax and compliance of markup with schema.org standards.
Google’s Rich Results Test tool is the replacement to the Structured Data Testing tool and now the standard to validate your structured data markup.
How To Find Rich Snippet Opportunities With Semrush
Semrush can help monitor rich snippets and find pages that could benefit from having snippets applied.
Use the Semrush Site Audit Tool to run an audit on your domain. Click through on ‘markup,’ and you can see how many pages have structured data and how many are valid or invalid. You can also see the data types used:
Scroll down to the page to see the types of structured data
And click on all invalid items to find pages that have errors that you can fix.
Click on the button on the right, and you can test your page directly in the Rich Results tool to find the errors.
Note that the Semrush Site Audit Tool uses a slightly different vocabulary to Schema.org but does use the same vocabulary as Google. To see the vocabulary differences between Schema.org and Site Audit Structured Data tool, see this table here.
Applying Rich Results to Your Pages
At first glance, schema and structured data might seem confusing to implement, but you don’t need to be a coder to write your own structured data code snippets once you understand the basic principles.
We recommend reading this beginner's guide to structured data and then experimenting.
The great thing about applying structured data is that you can get instant feedback from the Rich results tool to help you practice. And Semrush can pick up any pages on your site that have invalid markup.