SEO: Using Rich Snippets to Increase Clicks
If you don’t win the click, you can’t make the sale. But if you don’t get noticed, you can’t win the click.
Ecommerce sites need to take advantage of every option to entice searchers to click on their page instead of a competitor’s. Rich snippets enable sites to embellish their search results with add-ons like ratings and photos, which draw the searcher’s eye as well as offering additional information.
With so many paid ads, image results, and other visually stimulating elements vying for attention on the search results page, rich snippets can be that special something that draws the eye and wins the click.
What Are Rich Snippets?
Snippets are the lines of black text that accompany every search result listing. They describe the page’s relevance to the phrase that the searcher used as his search query, with the words that match the query shown in bold as shown below.
Rich snippets are additional pieces of information that the search engine is able to identify on the page, used to enhance the searcher’s understanding of the value of that page. Ratings, pricing, and availability are commonly seen in ecommerce rich snippets.
Search engines provide rich snippets not to play favorites with one page over another, but to enable searchers to make a more educated click decision and improve the likelihood that searchers will choose a page that satisfies their need.
All ecommerce sites can take advantage of at least one form of rich snippet: Products and offers. If you have something to sell and a published price, you can put rich snippets to work for your site.
The markup code that helps search engines classify the information for rich snippets can be easily inserted into your page templates so that the code appears on every relevant page on the site.
Think of rich snippets this way: Standing out in the crowded landscape of a search results page is similar to making the best impression in a field of ten candidates for a job. All ten candidates are qualified for the job and have worked hard to distinguish themselves. But out of that top handful of candidates, only one will be chosen. The candidate that wins the position has something special that distinguishes him from the pack.
It’s the same with search results: The page that wins the searcher’s click will be the one that distinguishes itself from the pack of ten blue links and various paid ads filling the search results page. In the crowded ecommerce field, where even commerce-free informational sites are competitors, rich snippets can win you eyeballs, clicks and sales.
Common Ecommerce Rich Snippets
Both Google and Bing support all of the rich snippet types most relevant to ecommerce sites.
- Products and offers. After identifying the product name, a variety of other attributes can be marked up as well, including price and availability. If your products are commonly searched for by SKU numbers, make sure to mark up the SKU in your product pages using the “identifier” property. If the product is on sale for a limited time, you can use the property “priceValidUntil” to drive a sense of urgency. If the product is unique and only a limited number available, you can also use the “quantity” property.
The Product markup type also includes the ability to mark up a product photo, but I’ve only seen Bing use product photos in traditional search results (see below). Still, every product on your site has a photo already. Why not mark up that photo for Bing’s search results with the possibility that it will be used in Google at some point?
- Reviews. The Reviews markup type also includes the more commonly seen Reviews Aggregate. An individual review would be marked up using Reviews tagging, but the aggregate of all of the ratings and reviews — 3.5 stars out of 5 over 50 reviews — is considered Reviews Aggregate. The commonly used properties are Item, Rating, and Count, the last of which identifies the number of reviews submitted. The Reviews markup type also includes the ability to mark up a product photo.
- Breadcrumbs. Only Bing uses a formal markup type for breadcrumbs, simply identifying Title and Child properties. Google recognizes breadcrumbs automatically.
- Businesses and organizations. If your company also manages brick-and-mortar stores, make certain to mark up the store pages. Valuable properties include address, geolocation, phone, and URL. These can be used to verify information for local search as well, so making them easily accessible and readable for the search engine crawlers can help on many fronts.
- People. If your site includes biographies of your executive staff, these can be marked up as well so that your company and their position are displayed in the search result.
Three other rich snippet types may be useful to ecommerce sites in certain industries: recipes, events, and music.
Recipe rich snippets with photos are widely used in both Google and Bing. If you sell food products and offer unique recipes on your site, including rich snippets in your recipe pages can greatly expand visibility as shown below.
The Bush’s beans recipe listing, above, includes markup for photos, cooking time and calories. Other recipe properties include reviews, ingredients, description, yield and more.
Events and music are more limited to sites that sell those forms of entertainment, though an ecommerce site that hosts a large public event could certainly use the event markup type as well.
How to Implement Rich Snippets
If all of this talk of markup and templates is confusing, don’t worry: Your developer knows how to do this (or can learn in about five minutes) using microdata following the Schema.org standard. Another name for the markup discussed here is “structured data” — simply a way of tagging information in pages to enable machine reading and classification. This is a common site development concept.
For more information on structured data and how it benefits SEO, see my article “SEO 201, Part 7: Using Structured Data.”
Google and Bing both publish detailed information on how to implement markup for rich snippets. They both offer complete support for both the microdata and RDFa standards, but microdata is recommended because it’s closest to the shared vocabulary supported by Schema.org, which was, incidentally, founded by Google.
For detailed implementation information, see the Google and Bing help guides.