The low-down on rich snippets
Recently, Matt Cutts (head of Google’s web spam) announced there would be a 15% reduction in rich snippets.
So, what’s a rich snippet and does this affect you?
A rich snippet is Google displaying extra information about your site in the SERPs (search engine results page). You’ll almost certainly have seen them before – if you notice a product or page that’s got some little yellow stars next to it, that’s a rich snippet of a review. Google does this to give searchers more information.
So, if this helps searchers with their queries (and Google loves doing this), then why the reduction?
Well, simply because it can be abused. Adding structured data (which Google then turns into a rich snippet) to a website is pretty easy. Anyone with a basic understanding of HTML can add in schema markup which is one of the most common forms of structured data.
Reviews in particular can be gamed to give false impressions in the search results – making a poor products or services appear more respectable than they actually are. Understandably, Google is keen to crack down on this and other rich snippet spam.
With this in mind, is it still a good idea to add structured data to your website?
Adding in structured data to get a rich snippet can not only massively help your CTR (click through rate), but it also helps search engines process and understand the information you have on your page.
Okay, so click through rates first: when users are scrolling through their search results, the more you stand out and the more you’re likely to be clicked on. A rich snippet is perhaps the most effective way of distinguishing your listing from the sea of identical looking results above and below.
A rich snippet can not only help your site stand out visually, but can also help better answer the queries of a searcher. Imagine you’re searching for laptops. You get hundreds of valid results, but the one with the rich snippet telling you that 95% of people think that laptop is amazing is obviously going to answer your question without you having to click onto the site to see the reviews. This information again helps direct searchers to the right page and makes it more likely they click on a listing with a rich snippet.
Structured data also helps search engines interpret what information you have on your website. After all, the user never sees the markup, it’s purely for the benefit of the search engines. Putting in relevant structured data will allow the search engines to essentially get a grasp on your topic and hopefully return it for relevant queries. As Google moves more and more away from “search results = keywords searched for”, providing this information could potentially be very helpful.
The bottom line is: if you’re adding structured data in a meaningful and relevant way (i.e. not trying to create false impressions) and you are demonstrating the value of the content, then Google is likely going to display a rich snippet with your search listing. And, both structured data and rich snippets can have a significant and positive impact on your SEO.