google's rich snippets

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You want to see a trailer before shelling out hard-earned cash for a movie. You’ll likely only check out a new television show after you’ve seen a commercial for it. Taking the point to the extreme, you’ll certainly take a test drive before buying a car, and a walkthrough is just the first step when you buy a house. It’s human nature to want some idea of what we’re getting into before we take action. 

Google recently introduced a new feature to its search results through which users can see detailed information about a subject—product specs, dates, addresses and so on—before they click on a result. They’re called structured snippets, and if marketers want to turn what could be a traffic-killing perk for users into a conversion booster, they’ll need to act fast to imbue their Web pages with as many helpful facts about a subject or product as they can.

Most marketers are familiar with the term rich snippets, and although structured snippets are a subset of that larger group, it’s important to understand what differentiates structured snippets if you’re going to make the most of them.

 

A rich snippet is the visual representation of a specific element, demarcated with HTML code on a Web page, within search results. Rich snippets often are clickable: One example would be a recipe.

HTML markup indicating a rich snippet:

rich_snippet

Photo courtesy of webmeup.com


Visual representation of the same rich snippet:

rich_snippe_example1

Photo courtesy of webmeup.com

By comparison, structured snippets are facts Google’s algorithm has pulled off a Web page and displayed below the standard meta title and description, often as simple, non-clickable text. For example, for a Web page about a camera, some facts found on the page and displayed might include the camera’s size, weight and sensor resolution.

Photo of an actual structured snippet:

structured_snippet

Photo courtesy of searchenginewatch.com

The data shown in a structured snippet can be unstructured on the page, which means it’s not as easy for marketers and content managers to tell Google specifically which data to show in search results.

But Google has made it clear that they’re rewarding publishers who focus on short, hard facts about a subject or product on a Web page with structured snippets.

Why should you care?

If anything, won’t structured snippets—which can show users essential information about a topic before the user clicks through to a Web page—negatively affect your organic traffic? Well, they could. But the upshot of revamping Web page content to generate structured snippets will likely outweigh any traffic falloff the new user-favoring feature might cause.

Think of it this way: If a Google user is only looking for detailed information about a subject or product and isn’t ready to convert on your Web page, the user’s clickthrough amounts to little more than traffic fluff. It contributes to a healthy organic traffic number, but it’s doing nothing to actually bring home the bacon.

Now imagine Google users who are ready to convert. They want detailed information about a product before they buy, and they see your structured snippet, giving them all the right information to inform their conversion. Would those users click through to your Webpage or go with one that provides them no info right off the bat? My money is on your Web page getting the click.

So how do you ensure your product-level content is optimized to show structured snippets?

Standard Marketing, an online marketing shop out of Vancouver, B.C., has a solid, simple beginning strategy for securing your structured snippets.

First, make sure your product-level or article-level pages are marked up with microdata: additions to the HTML coding on the page that identify and describe sections of a Web page to a search engine. If you’re already employing a solid rich snippet strategy within your larger content and SEO strategy, you’re no doubt using some kinds of microdata already. However, according to webmeup.com, only a small portion of available microdata formats and functions are widely used by marketers today.

There are hundreds of options for segmenting and marking the content of your product- or article-level pages that allow Google (and other search engines) to better understand your content, greatly improving the likelihood that you’ll be favored with a structured snippet. Head to Schema.org and Open Graph before worrying about more focused methods of shooting for structured snippets. You’ll likely discover options for enhancing your Web pages on the back end that you either haven’t considered yet or are not currently employing in your content strategy for whatever reason.

Once you’re sure that you’re using microdata to its upmost potential, the rest of your structured snippet strategy will depend on the quality of content on your page. It’s no secret that the days of robotic, near-gibberish SEO-crammed Web content are over. With every update, Google and other search engines have prioritized showering high-quality content with Web traffic and penalizing unoriginal, spun and/or duplicate content. With the release of structured snippets, facts reign supreme. But what does that mean for a marketer? How do you make sure you have the facts Google is looking for?

Coming up with a cut-and-dry definition of a fact according to Google is not so easy, because the company is updating and improving the aspect of its algorithm that decides what should (or should not) be included in a structured snippet. For now, it’s best to focus on examples of what is making the cut and to model aspects of your Web pages accordingly.

In the camera example above, we see that sensor resolution, weight and display size were included in the structured snippet. Clicking through to the product page shows that those same details are presented clearly in a table-like fashion and presented as absolute facts about the product.

In the example that follows from Standard Marketing, we see that open house times on Redfin, which again are presented in a table as absolutes about the subject, are featured in a structured snippet as well.

structured_snippet_example

Photo courtesy of standardmarketing.com

Many Wikipedia articles are also blessed with structured snippets for the same reasons: They present absolutes about a subject in a clear, structured fashion.

As you begin to develop your strategy for leveraging structured snippets and driving conversions, take an objective look at your product- and article-level content. Do you present the essential tidbits of information in a clear fashion, preferably in a consistent, structured section of the page?

You might have beautiful product copy and engaging, top-notch content unlike anything else on the Web, but the key here is to pull out the information at the heart of the matter—size, color, date, etc.—and make sure Google can recognize that data for what it is.

Of course, realizing that the data on your 10,000+ Web pages isn’t exactly optimized for structured snippets can petrify even the most stalwart marketer. But eZdia’s platform is literally designed to handle this type of problem, and its crowd of vetted freelancers is the human element you need to make sure your data is relevant and accurate.

You know that massive spreadsheet containing all the pertinent info about your Web pages? Each of those items can be a single task on our platform. A professional writer will simply click on the product or article URL, go through it, pull out the information according to its importance (or according to your rubric), and return the structured data—even packaged with HTML.

If you find you need to make some adjustments on a massive scale to turn Google’s user-favoring structured snippets feature into a new opportunity to drive conversions
Get in touch!

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