Can Rich Snippets Help Your Website with SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | February 05, 2013

If you’ve paid any attention at all to SEO industry news in the past year or so, you’ve probably heard the term “rich snippets.” Just what are these snippets, and how can they aid you in your SEO strategy?

Rich snippets defined

Rich snippets are those informative chunks of text (and sometimes images) that show up in search results when a user performs searches for certain types of information. These snippets show up for things like restaurant reviews, music, video, people, businesses and organizations, events, products and recipes. Though it doesn’t cover all types of content, that’s a pretty wide range – meaning that you can most likely make use of rich snippets for some portion of your website’s content. (Product pages or how-to videos spring to mind.)

But rich snippets add more than just relevant text. They can also include an appetizing photo of a dish to go along with a recipe page, a price range and quick preview of a restaurant review, a screenshot for a video, or the track listing to accompany a review of a music album. In all of these examples, the rich snippet adds not only some important informational text but also eye-catching visual appeal that makes it more likely to attract the user’s attention (and clicks).

Getting started with rich snippets

Does your site have the kind of content that qualifies for rich snippets? You can begin creating them quickly. Google’s Webmaster Tools has a handy guide to structuring your data in such a way that Google can recognize what the content is and generate rich snippets based on that information.

If you’re familiar with HTML, using Google’s markup tags is easy. You can choose from three formats: Microdata (recommended by Google), microformats and RDFa. Google also has a structured data testing tool so you can instantly see if you’ve used the markup language correctly.

Another option: Data Highlighter

If your site has events pages that don’t fit the rich snippet guidelines, you might want to try Google’s Data Highlighter tool. This tool allows you to group pages into sets containing similar content (such as rock music concerts, classical concerts or speaking events) and use your mouse to highlight data fields – no markup required.

Basically, Data Highlighter helps Google learn about the way you format your data so that the next time Google crawls your site and finds similar data, it will be able to create rich snippets.

Data Highlighter has its limitations, however: It can only access pages recently crawled by Google. And it’s currently only available for event content, although Google promises that other data types are in the works. But if you want rich snippets for your events pages and don’t have access to your website’s HTML (or knowledge of how to edit your web content), Data Highlighter might be a good solution.

Rich snippets, your website and SEO

If you’re not using rich snippets but you have eligible content, it’s well worth a try. The markup is not difficult to learn, and the rich snippets Google generates based on those tags can make your search results stand out from the crowd and generate more clicks.

And the more Google understands your website and the quality content you have there, the more likely it is that you’ll see some improvement in your search rankings. (Your search results will look a lot nicer, too!)