Whenever you use a search engine like Google to find a product, company or service, very often a short piece of text will appear immediately below each search result. This brief caption is called a ‘Rich Snippet’ and represents a small snapshot of key information from that listing. As an example, here’s a location specific Rich Snippet for Edge Digital:
While focusing on such a short paragraph might sound like a pointless detail to an online marketeer, effective manipulation of that Rich Snippet could be the reason that a new customer clicks through to your website rather than anywhere else.
This is where the coding becomes interesting, because Rich Snippets can be crafted to suit the core message of your platform in a variety of ways; pulling out product detail, flagging five star reviews or linking directly to your site’s social media networks.
Getting Started with Rich Snippets
In order to create a Rich Snippet, it’s important to learn how content is generally read and interpreted by the major search engines such as Google. Structured data markup is the insertion of a piece of code, written according to a specific vocabulary and usually invisibly embedded within your site.
When internet search engines scour your site for information to populate their indexes, the mutually recognised code will be re-digested into a Rich Snippet.
In fact, this information goes further than just Rich Snippets; Google and other search engines will also use this information to index your content more effectively, using it to power new and developing tools such as Google’s Knowledge Graph for authoritative content.
If you are unsure of whether structured data already exists on your site, then visit Google’s Structured Data testing tool. The testing tool asks you to enter your website’s URL and is the easiest way to reveal any working structured data already active on the site.
How to Implement Structured Data Markup on your Website
First, visit Schema.org or Google’s Structured Data testing tool to work out which type of structured data is most appropriate to enhance your website for a target audience. If you are not sure which library to use, here’s a note on differentiation: Google’s tool is far more user friendly (especially to the uninitiated), but the Schema.org vocabulary supports a more extensive range of options.
In any case, both library tools contain the vocabulary to support structured data markup for the most common types of data to promote, including Products, Recipes, Reviews, Events and Software Apps.
Creating Tantalising Rich Snippets
The best way to think about selecting the most useful data to markup on your site, is to think about your overall business objectives in attracting an online audience.
If it is an e-commerce site or other selling platform, then highlighting vocabulary tags such as Product and Price are going to be quite influential for a shopper skimming search engines for the best deal. This is also a good place to label the top selling attributes of your product.
On the other hand, if the website supports a physical shop that can be easily coordinated using Google Maps, then perhaps Location, Telephone and Opening Hours would be more useful.
Alternatively, consider boosting reviews to Rich Snippet status. You can markup data using an ‘aggregate rating’ so that the Rich Snippet contains a reviews average from across the web. (Obviously, before selecting this option it is a good idea to double-check that such a rating will reflect positively on your brand or product!)
You can find some more helpful examples of the different ways to markup data to suit a particular business purpose here.
Deciding on a structured data markup format
The second major task is to decide on which markup format to use. That’s right, more choice! On the markup table currently are JSON-LD, RDFa, RDFa Lite and microdata. As a general rule, RDFa and microdata can be used for basic structured data markups but JSON-LD (the most recent addition) can be easily embedded within a script tag in the HTML
Currently Google suggests using JSON-LD for more powerful websites which contain data pertaining to Knowledge Graphs, Sitelink search boxes or Event Related Rich Snippets.
Testing whether your Structured Data Markup is Working
Whatever data format you choose, the structured data will need to be tested in order to make sure it works. We suggest you do this using both Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and selecting another at random from this comprehensive list of external validators.