Googling the phrase “What is Search Engine Optimization” will result in the following definition being displayed: “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.“
I would take this one step further, and say that in addition to the emphasis on appearing sooner in the search, it is important that the result looks appealing and attractive to users. This should improve the click-through-rate of the result and therefore have an eventual impact on search engine ranking. The best way to control what comes out as your search listing result is by using Rich Snippets.
So what are Rich Snippets and how do you make sure your digital presence is making use of them?
Rich Snippets are Search Engine Results that present highlighted information about the site in a format that is reflective of the type of site it is. As examples, a search result for a product site would include the product price and brand, an event result would include dates and ticket prices, and an about page result might contain addresses and contact information. We’ve all seen these lately when we’ve been searching on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The way to assist the Search Engine to compose these results is to provide embedded markup information in the page. When the Search Engine does a scan of the page, it looks for and records this marked up information in its indexing of the site. This is done through using microdata or JSON LD, microformats, and RDFa. Currently Google recommends marking up pages using microdata with Schema.org definitions
In 2011, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo got together to formulate Schema.Org, to collaborate on an agreed markup schema format that would be used by all major search engines. Something Google describes as “A shared markup vocabulary makes it easier for webmasters to decide on a markup schema and get maximum benefit for their efforts.” https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/99170?hl=en . Yandex, a major search engine in Russia, has subsequently joined the group of collaborators. The point being that industry best practices makes the job easier for everyone – searchers, those wanting to be found and the companies providing the search tools.
As a business with an online presence, how do you make use of these? Basically you make it a requirement of your web site design or content management system template to include this in your pages.
The Schema.org site provides the current agreed markup data types and is an excellent resource to see what can be included in your pages. They also have a forum for submitting suggestions for extensions and an informative blog.
Google as leaders in the field provide free tools to assist as part of their Google webmaster tools. (to use Google webmaster tools, all you need is a gmail account for login and to perform verification that you are the owner of your site.)
The Structured Data Testing Tool, allows you to input a url for testing and will provide a formatted possible preview into the search engine result. It also provides a look into the html markup data that is extracted from the site. What is interesting about this tool, is that it works for any url that you enter – not just your own managed site – allowing you to take a look at what other similar businesses have done.
The Structured Data Markup Tool, provides a tool to help you generate the html markup-data code. This can be done by either entering a url or the html code of your page. It’s a very easy tool to use. Not a huge task and one that will reap great benefits.
As to an example: I’ve recently launched an online store Shared Universe that sells Graphic Novels. The store is built on Shopify and I’ve integrated Rich Snippets into the Shopify template. Therefore, the Google search for “Shared Universe Wonder Woman TP” results in this Rich Snippet display:
Photo Credit: Google logo