It’s been a while since I had a proper geek out and recent changes around microdata gives me a great opportunity to look at some of the more technical aspects to improving your SEO; Rich Snippets.

Using additional HTML tags to highlight key pieces of content in SERPs isn’t a new thing, there have been a variety of different ways to use structured data markup for a while. But now the main search engines, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, have come together to produce a consistent language that can be read and interpreted by all search engines, meaning your rich snippets will display across all searches and not just one particular search engine.

For anyone not familiar with microdata, it’s the extra useful bit of info that appears alongside a search result. It could be a product review, details on the author of a post or event details such as time and place. Having this information display in the results means users can more quickly identify relevant results and improve CTR for webmasters. It also allows Google to identify the content on your site that is most relevant to the search query.

Google has a great video introduction to rich snippets along with more specific insight into the different types.

The example below shows how this data can make a search result more useful. The top result is from the BBC and is a perfectly acceptable result for a recipe for shepherds pie but the second and third results include rich snippets from the page itself which include an image, reviews and the third result includes a link to the author.

While BBC food appears higher in the results, the 2nd and 3rd most likely are seeing higher CTRs as they contain more information and grab the user’s attention.

It’s still relatively early days especially for the newly agreed collaborative approach but from some of the initial reports coming out, many companies have reported a 20-30% increase in CTRs since using rich snippets which makes it something to consider for your site.

Adding this kind of data to a result is now even easier using the standard collection of html tags known as schemas. Schemas provide a shared markup vocabulary that can be used by all webmasters an understood by the main search engines. The current types include:

  • Events
  • Organisations
  • People
  • Place, local business, location
  • Product, offer
  • Reviews and rating

There are many others and these can all be found at where you can explore the various types and help to yourself to the appropriate code. If you need a little extra help you can also use schema creator which will generate the code for you.

Google have a lot of useful resources in their webmaster tools around rich snippets, microformats and microdata and they have provided a rich snippets tools to allow you to test how your site will display in the search results once you’ve included the code. Read more about using Schema Markup in our In depth guide

This comes with a firm warning from Google though to anyone attempting to apply microformats inappropriately, with more weight being added to this in Google’s algorithm, so the penalty for trying to con the search engines gets higher. If your content type isn’t covered, do nothing, it soon will be and in the meantime your competitors won’t be using it either.