I have been scouring the Internet in my quest to learn more about microformats and using schemas, but unfortunately, the majority of posts that I’ve found are from authors trying to exaggerate its difficulty level in order to make something quite simple sound more technical.
With that in mind I thought I’d try and clear the air a bit and create a beginners guide to rich snippets, schema and microdata.
What are Rich Snippets?
Way back in 2009 Google decided to add rich snippets to their search results helping users find more information on a large variety of subjects including people, food recipes, events and reviews. The goal being to help webmasters advertise their content better, and giving users as much information as possible before they made the decision to click through to a website. Check out an example of a recipe rich snippet below:
How have rich snippets evolved over time?
Over the last few years Google have added many more types of rich snippet to their armoury including products, video, music info, restaurants, business organisations, people and authors. As you can see below the snippets provide more eye-catching options than the review above.
If you are yet to add the Rel=”author” tag to your website check out Ben’s excellent post; How to Implement the Rel=”Author” Tag – A Step by Step Guide
Schema.org and Microdata
Fast forward to 2011, and in a surprisingly kind act, Google agreed to work alongside Bing and Yahoo! to support a set of schemas that could be used across their search engines to help improve search results, and more importantly, offer the chance of superior visibility for the savvy SEO consultant or company. The schema alliance has since been joined by the Russian search engine Yandex, and they are apparently open to other search engines joining them in the future.
So what is Schema.org?
As they say here; “Schema.org provides a collection of shared vocabularies webmasters can use to mark up their pages in ways that can be understood by the major search engines: Google, Microsoft, Yandex and Yahoo!”
In its simplest terms schema.org is based on microdata. Each kind of data can then be described by the schema vocabulary. This means that Schema vocabulary + microdata formatting added to HTML content = Happy webmasters who can markup their pages to further improve their visibility in the search results.
There are many different types of vocabularies available via schema.org, ranging from job listings and movie information, to bakeries and liquor stores. You can find out whether your website is relevant to schema by checking out this rather long list.
An example of schema at work
There are 100s of different schemas that I could have chosen for this example but, as I am new to Verve and this is my first post, I thought I’d use the person schema. Using the excellent Schema creator tool courtesy of Raven Tools, I was able to create my personal microdata within a minute!
Now, the second image is only a preview but as you can see in the first image above, this example is simple to understand (even if you were coding it manually!) and was quick and easy to create. Once you have added the microdata to its relevant page you can check it via Google’s rich snippet tool to find out whether it will be read by Google et all, and isn’t full of errors.
Benefits of adding microdata to a website
Beyond the person schema being a cool thing for your ego, or the ability to add a nice review to your lasagne dish, should you be looking to add microdata to your site? The benefits of doing so are below:
1 – Eye catching results – Drawing a search users attention from your competitors and to your own result.
2 – Potential CTR increase – Possibly increasing click through rates and lowering the chance of the user ‘bouncing’ as they have more information on the page before clicking through (there is also the potential to put off users if the increase in information shows something they are not looking for).
3 – Providing ‘quality’ results – Offering results that are closer to user specifications (again, however, there is a chance that the user is only reviewing information, for example – the price of a pair of football boots. Had the microdata not been there, the user may have clicked through and been convinced to make a purchase).
The future of rich snippets?
Considering the time and resources spent by the larger search engines combined with their evolution it looks like rich snippets are here to stay, so what do we think could happen in the future?
1 – More relevant search results? – The schema alliance are aiming to create a more semantic web, will this bring improved usability, happier users and better search results? We hope so!
2 – Increased rankings? – There have been a few posts discussing how rich snippets can increase CTR, the main one being via Search Engine Land. The question is; will they ever gain substantial weight within the algorithm and help increase rankings in the future? The potential is definitely there and you should expect a rush to add them if it is ever publicly announced by Google.
3 – More time spent on Google? – The counter argument to rich snippets has been that by supplying so much information, the user may never need to click through to the website offering more quality information. This is, after all, what Google really want – more of your content, more users spending longer on their site and more users spending money with them.
Gaps in the market?
With hundreds of options and rich snippets still in relative infancy (when reviewing the majority of non SEO related search results anyway), where do we feel there are gaps that could be exposed by rich snippets?
Reviewing Google search results over the last year or so if I was to own websites, or work with clients within recruitment, professional services (dentists, electricians, plumbers etc) or health and beauty business markets, I would be discussing rich snippets pretty quickly!
If that wasn’t enough goodness for you we have more information on schema via Google, Bing and Yahoo! below:
Google: Introducing schema.org: Search engines come together for a richer web
Microsoft Bing: Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects
Yahoo: Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data