Structured Data, Rich Snippets & SEO - The Importance for an eCommerce Website
Rich snippets and schema have been regarded as an advanced SEO technique that should be at the pinnacle of your SEO campaign. This powerful bit of HTML markup is an essential element that is read by search engine crawlers to provide information to searchers before they even click on your search result.
This results in enriched search engine positions that improve click-through and conversion rates by channeling more qualified traffic to your website.
What are Rich Snippets?
As stated, rich snippets are HTML coded bits of data that once implemented in your HTML markup produce a more informative search engine result that helps users with specific queries. This bit of information displays directly below the page title and surround the description of the webpage depending on the schema or type. These types are associated with a set of properties or code read by search engines and implemented in the search result.
There are many types of rich snippets that can be coded into the HTML of a webpage. Listed below are some of the common rich snippets utilized by websites to date:
- Images and Google Authorship – The author rich snippet otherwise known as Google Authorship styles your organic search listing with a personal and trustworthy appearance. This snippet includes the author’s picture, the author’s name and the amount of Google+ followers the author has.
An example of rich snippets is utilizing authorship to display a photo next to the search engine result.
- Reviews and Ratings – The reviews and ratings rich snippet displays the rating of the company, organization, recipe, product, etc. with the number of reviews. This rich snippet is an excellent method to show off the overall quality and reliability of the particular page.
Using rich snippets for reviews allow a star rating to display next to your search result.
- Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs rich snippets display a breadcrumb trail of a set of links that assist the user understand and navigate your site’s hierarchy.
Breadcrumbs can be displayed in the search results allowing the searcher to know where the page resides on your website.
- Products – Product rich snippets display the price, availability and ratings of your products. This snippet helps attract qualified consumers before they click on your search result.
Rich snippets can offer searchers many details in the results. Ratings, price, breadcrumb and "In Stock" can all be shown.
- Recipes - A recipe rich snippet displays an image of the food item with a user rating. Often times this snippet contains the amount of time it takes to make it and sometimes additional information about the nutritional value.
- Music Track Info – The music rich snippet shows a list direct links to songs and the song time length and album underneath the description.
- Event Info (time & location) – The events rich snippets displays the date and location of the particular event.
All in all, the additional information accompanying the description help users recognize what the page is really about. This is just one facet in the evolving semantic web or collaborative movement to enable sharing and interpreting of information.
How to Implement Rich Snippets
There is a small degree of technicality when implementing rich snippets into the HTML code of your pages. First off, you need to understand the options and formats of structured data to apply. There are three main types of markup that Google recognizes and translates into a rich snippet that include microdata, microformats and RDFa.
Google recommends using microdata, so we will focus on this type of code. Microdata is defined by Google as a way to label content to describe a specific type of information using a set of attributes and Schema vocabulary. Schema vocabulary was a major movement made by search engines to come together to provide a shared collection of vocabulary to be used by webmasters to mark up their pages in ways that can be understood by major search engines. Therefore, using microdata formatting in conjunction with schema vocabulary to markup the HTML of your webpages produces a coded block of information that is interpreted by major search engines as a rich snippet.
Implementing rich snippets sounds like a difficult task, but it is actually fairly easy. Microdata was designed to utilize very easy HTML tags to allocate Schema attributes to HTML blocks. So, there is not a big learning curve when it comes to applying code to create rich snippets. I suggest following these steps when implementing rich snippets:
- Before you begin marking up your code, fully understand microdata. Html5 Doctor is an excellent resource to learn more about the different tags, elements and attributes.
- Once you feel like you understand microdata, you should review what your page is about in order to implement the most applicable rich snippet code.
- Now that you have a basis on what your page is about, choose a set of schemas relevant to your page. For instance, you would choose music related Schema attributes if your page contains song track listings and information. It would not make sense to apply recipe attributes to your HTML code. I recommend referencing Schema.org to assist you in selecting schemas.
- Now it’s time to implement your code! If you need additional help setting up your rich snippet you should reference Google Webmaster Tools. Google created a set of webpages to reference in order to assist webmasters in implementing rich snippets as well as other coding methods.
- Once you have marked up your code with microdata and applicable Schema vocabulary, you then need to test your page to see if Google can read your markup. If your code is wrong, Google will not be able to interpret it as a rich snippet and it will not appear in the search results. You can test your rich snippet by using the Structured Data Testing tool created by Google Webmaster Tools.
- If you get the “green light” by Google that your rich snippet code is working don’t be alarmed if the rich snippet is not working right away. It takes Google about two weeks to index the new data.
Why Use Schema and Rich Snippets on eCommerce Websites
Rich snippets have been known to increase conversion rates by channeling more qualified traffic to your website. In fact, many companies have seen a 20-30% rise in click-through rates when using rich snippets according to Moz. This just makes sense because users acquire more information about the page before they even access the site. Thus, more qualified traffic subsequently increases transaction rates and revenue.
Schema.org has created a standard in website coding to allow developers to include code that the search engines are looking for. Of course this is the most basic description, but it allows you to include certain snippets such as reviews, pricing, etc. that can then be displayed in a unique format by Google. In June 2011 Google officially introduced schema.org and began using schema in their result displays. There are many different elements that can be used on a website but for this article we’re covering mainly elements that benefit an eCommerce website.
The most used eCommerce schema item types for eCommerce include product rating (AgrregateRating), brands, model, product ID, offers and reviews. All of these schema "Product" tags can be found on the schema.org product information page. To include schema microdata into a website is fairly easy as certain tags or html elements are included are specific text or code. For example a tag of itemprop="reviews" would be included on the section of the website code for your reviews. There is a little more to it than this and certain more detailed tags such as "worstRating", "ratingValue" and others can be included on detailed elements.
If you think of it this way, the additional information in the search result helps to alleviate the uneasiness of users selecting a page that is not relevant to what they are searching for. They will think they are making the right decision when clicking on the search result. For example, if you implement a rich snippet on your product pages, your search results will contain your product’s availability, pricing and reviews. This establishes rapport and communicates the value of your product giving searchers motivation to click through to your site. In essence, you can communicate your product’s whole marketing pitch through a rich snippet making your search result extremely powerful.
Rich snippets can communicate the value proposition of your product and establish a clear competitive advantage against other ecommerce sites in your industry. By making your link stand out with more real estate and information, you will drive more qualified traffic to your pages. Users that click-through to your page have read the information in the search result and will want to make a purchase decision.
No matter the type of website, we advise implementing rich snippets to communicate the value of your page to increase your click-through-rate and volume of qualified traffic to your site.