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How Rich Snippets Add Spice to Your Online Content’s Search Results

rich snippet example
Image via Google

You work hard to get your company’s online content listed on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). But all your efforts are wasted if no one ends up clicking on your listing. Rich snippets are an excellent way to help your company’s online content stand out and beat your competition to the top of the page. 

There are several different kinds of rich snippets that you can use, all of which will make your listing look more enticing and engaging than the average listing on the page.

Consider the following sample page of a Google search for the term, “getting started with WordPress“:

search example-wordpressAs you can see, a few of these listings pop off the page. First, notice there are two listings that show a thumbnail of a video. Two other listings display thumbnail photos of the author, but the remaining two don’t display any image or augmented information at all. Both the results with the video image and the ones with the authors’ photo are enhanced through the use of two different types of rich snippets. Clearly, the entries that feature these snippets of additional information look more appealing; and fortunately it’s easy to get started and bring these kinds of benefits to your own online content efforts. 

Rich snippet types and SERP listing benefits 

Once again, there are several options when it comes to working with rich snippets, depending on the type of content you are creating, and the goals you have for its performance. Here are a few of the options you can go with: 

Video: Video content for snippets can be hosted on YouTube or on your website. Either way, when users click on the video thumbnail, it takes them to the page where the video is hosted — be it your website, YouTube page, or even a dedicated landing page.

search example-native advertising video

Authorship: This is the most popular type of rich snippet, and one that many content marketers are highly familiar with at this point. As you can see, it displays the Google headshot of the listed author of a piece of content, as well as how many people have that author in their Google+ circles.

cmi search results example-content shock

You can also click on the author’s byline name for more information on who they are and what they do.

joe pulizzi search exampleRatings/Reviews: This is the most popular rich snippet for local businesses. It displays the number of stars that your company has earned through reviews, along with a link to all its Google reviews, a link users can follow to add their own reviews, and a direct link to your Google+ page.

chicago pizza star rating

Music: This snippet displays different songs on an album and is generally associated with links that connect fans to song downloads, YouTube videos, or additional information on the artist and its music. The format for these rich snippets has changed significantly over the years and now looks much larger than many of the other rich snippet options in searches for well-known artists:

search example-grace potterEvents: If someone is searching for online information and content related to an event, this snippet could be just the showstopper you need to draw attention. An event snippet can even display a few different events right there on the SERP to give searchers a preview of the type of information they would see by clicking:

search example-indie music festivals

You can also use rich snippets to enhance online content like recipes or product descriptions (more details on these can be found here). It’s also important to note that you can mark up your webpage with more than one snippet. For example, quite a few listings you’ll see on the web have both authorship as well as a star rating.

Getting started with the most popular rich snippets

Once you decide which type of rich snippet works best for your online content, it’s time to mark up your website with this rich snippet code. As you might imagine, the process for this differs depending on the rich snippet you are trying to use. Since the two most popular rich snippets are authorship and video, I’ll get you started by explaining how to work with these two options. My tutorials here are targeted to individual content creators, but this can easily be translated to content created on behalf of a business: 

Authorship: It only takes three steps to incorporate this snippet, making it a quick SEO win for anyone’s content discovery optimization efforts:

  1. Make sure that the email address connected with your Google+ profile has been verified. Open your Google+ profile page and click edit.This will open up the option to verify your profile.
  2. Visit the contributor to… section of your Google+ profile. When you click edit profile you can see this section on the right-hand side. This is where you can insert links to the author pages where you have contributed content in the past. If you don’t have an author page at a particular site, just type in the URL of your article.

search example-contributor to

  1. Insert the authorship markup tag whenever you’re creating an author bio. If you’re just writing one article for one site, ask that site to insert the markup tag (and remember to make sure to add that to your contributor to section!). The tag looks like this:

authorship markup tag

I also recommend using the Structured Data Testing tool to make sure everything worked correctly. 

Video rich snippets: Setting up video rich snippets is a little bit more complicated. You have a choice between hosting your video on YouTube vs. your own website. YouTube will typically outrank your site in the SERPs; however it does bring people to YouTube, which could cause them to get distracted and navigate from your YouTube channel to other people’s channels. (Take a look at some of the benefits and pitfalls here before deciding which route will work best for you.)

Regardless of which location you decide to use to host your video, there are still three basic steps for getting started:

  1. Upload your video using schema markup. You do this in the page’s HTML editor view when uploading your content. When I want to use a video rich snippet, I use this link and enter in the URL or YouTube ID of my video. It automatically generates a source code for me to use, so I don’t need to know much about coding.
  2. Download a WordPress plug-in to help you get started with a video sitemap. I recommend Google XML Sitemap for Videos if you’re hosting your video on YouTube, and Video SEO for WordPress from Yoast if you’re hosting your video on your own site.
  3. Log in to Webmaster tools and submit your video rich snippet (or to be more specific, your sitemap). This will let Google know your video exists. To do this: 

code with arrows

So why does it all matter?

We talked with Adam Heitzman, Managing Partner of SEO Company HigherVisibility, who explained that rich snippets are currently one of the best ways to make your website stand out. He says, “We started using different types of rich snippets for both our own company and our clients and have seen huge improvements in CTR numbers. People want to know what they are getting into when they click on a link, and aside from a headline and description, rich snippets are the only way to give users that information.”

Have you seen any positive results from using rich snippets? Was there anything you found confusing when trying to use rich snippets for search? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.

For more tips to help your online content rise to the top of the SERP, check out CMI’s eGuide on distributing content.