What are rich snippets? Rich snippets, also known as enhanced descriptions, are the facts and extra bits of essential information that appear next to a website’s link and meta description in Google results.
What is schema markup? Schema markup is the HTML code used to generate the information shown in rich snippets.
Let’s take a simple example to illustrate what a rich snippet is and how it can benefit you.
Imagine you’ve been invited to a party and have been asked to bring a dessert. You know that the host loves profiteroles, and you’re always up for a challenge in the kitchen. You perform a Google search for “profiteroles recipe”.
Here are the top results you’ll see above the fold.
Google is giving you a lot of information to help you make your decision. Before you even click on any of the results, you have an image to accompany each recipe, a star rating, the number of reviews the recipe has received, the amount of time the recipe will take, and a list of ingredients. This is information given to you by Google immediately after you’ve performed your search and before you’ve clicked on a single result.
Based on this information, which one would you choose? The photos aren’t much help since they’re very similar (although a recipe without a photo would be unlikely to receive as many clicks as the results with photos. In fact, a recipe without a photo is unlikely to even be featured in this top position at all).
The second result takes twice as long to make as the other two and has a lower star rating. Some people would then choose the first result which takes a little longer to make but has a five-star rating, while others would choose the third result since it’s the fastest recipe, although its star rating is slightly lower.
These additional pieces of information are all examples of rich snippets and, as you can see, they are incredibly valuable. Google wants to provide as much value as possible to users and will prioritize results that display additional information directly on the results page without requiring users to click through to the website to get the information they need.
Click-Through Over Rankings
Rich snippets don’t have a direct effect on your SEO ranking; however, they do have an enormous impact on the attractiveness, visibility, and ultimately the click-through rate of your site. Of course, the higher your click-through rate for certain keywords, the more notice Google and other search engines will take of your site. High click-through rates indicate relevant content, and it is always Google’s aim to feature the most relevant search engine results for every search query.
Rich snippets are also currently an underutilized feature, with only about one in three websites using schema markup to create rich snippets. This means that there is an enormous opportunity for you to put your website at the fore and overtake your competition.
Creating Schema Markup Manually
While there are plenty of excellent WordPress plug-ins to create schema markup for you, it is always useful to know how to go through the process yourself.
Creating schema markup starts with visiting Schema.org. This website shows you how to manually annotate every HTML element on every page of your site with tags that explain to search engines what the content is about. The process starts with identifying the item type for each HTML element. Item types come in the form of a URL, and there is an enormous amount to choose from.
To take an easy example, imagine you own a café. The location of your café is vitally important information so that people looking for cafés in your area can know that you’re local. Even though you’ll have the address of your café on your website, schema markup tells Google that that’s what this information is. Even then, the address will be broken down into will further sub-tags telling Google which piece of information represents your street address, which represents your locality, and which represents your telephone number.
While your original HTML may have looked like this:
<p>Your Local Cafe</p>
<p>123 Fourth Street</p>
<p>Tel: (01) 23 456 789</p>
After you have created your schema markup, it will look more like this:
<p>Your Local Cafe</p>
<span itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<p itemprop="streetAddress">123 Fourth Street</p>
<p itemprop="addressLocality">Fifthville, XY</p>
<p>Tel: <span itemprop="telephone">(01) 23 456 789</span></p>
There’s a lot of information to take in there, but the Schema.org website walks you through the process step-by-step.
A slightly easier process is to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper which allows you to paste in the URL of your website and then systematically highlight and tag each element on your page.
Top Schema Markup / Rich Snippets WordPress Plug-ins
If you only have a small page or you’re very keen to learn the manual schema markup process, the above procedure will help you to create all the schema markup your website needs.
For most people, however, it will be much easier to use a WordPress plug-in to automate the procedure. That being said, it’s always helpful to have even a basic level of understanding of schema markup so that you can understand what the WordPress plug-in is going to do.
Here are some of the top-rated scheme markup WordPress plug-ins to help you create rich snippets for your site.
Best Suited For: Those with straightforward websites who are looking for a free schema markup solution.
This plug-in supports the most popular schema types including ratings, videos, local businesses and organizations, and events. It allows you to easily create schema markup for geographical locations, working hours, people’s names, and other common elements.
Price: $99 and up
Best Suited For: Agencies and webmasters running niche sites.
This plug-in is unique in that it lists more than 30 individual schema types, including many that simply aren’t available with other plug-ins. For example, the “how-to” schema type allows you to list important steps in your rich snippet, while the “audio” schema type gives you options of adding information like the length of the audio and the date it was uploaded to your rich snippet.
Best Suited For: Those running simple websites who don’t mind adding schema markup to each page individually, but who need guidance and help along the way.
This plug-in is extremely simple to use but doesn’t allow automation. You will need to go through each page of your site and manually add schema markup, but the plug-in takes all the difficulty and guesswork out of the process. Think of this plug-in as a middle step between manually inserting your own schema markup without the help of a plug-in and paying for a plug-in to automate the process for you.
Price: $79 and up
Best Suited For: Those who want to automate the schema markup process across many pages.
This plug-in will support more than 10 of the most common schema types, including movie and book reviews, recipes, products, courses, and local businesses. This plug-in is created by the same group as the free All in One Schema Rich Snippets above.
Rich snippets have become an essential part of your WordPress site’s SEO strategy. Not only do rich snippets make your site look attractive, but they also give potential website visitors a ton of extra information to encourage them to choose your site over your competitors.
While using schema markup to create rich snippets won’t directly impact your site’s SEO, it will have a marked impact on the click-through rate of your site. From the point of view of search engines, a high click-through rate for particular keywords is a clear sign that your site is relevant and informative. This can then have a flow-on effect by causing search engines to take more notice of your site – ultimately improving your SEO after all.
If you’re not already using schema markup to create rich snippets, now is the time to add this technique to your arsenal of SEO marketing must-haves.