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If you’ve performed a Google search—let’s face it, we all have—then you’ve seen rich snippets in action. They’re everywhere in the search engine results these days, as they provide useful information and help searchers visualize what they’re looking for on a specific site.
Using graphics to capture attention isn’t new. This tactic has been used for decades to lure in readers and visitors. In the past; however, there hasn’t been a defined method for including graphics in the search engine results. But with the release of rich snippets, that has since changed.

What are Rich Snippets?

Rich snippets are a type of structured data mark-up that site owners can add to their sites’ HTML. Instead of just the site, URL, and meta description, rich snippets give Google more information about your page, such as whether it’s about a person, a product, a business, a review, or something else.
In May 2009, Google introduced rich snippets as part of the Semantic Web Initiative. Today, they offer support for a wide variety of formats including:

  • Review ratings – Individual or aggregate reviews that show either an average review or the total number of reviews.
  • Products – The name of the product, its image, a description, and brand.
  • Organizations – The business’s name, URL, address, telephone number, and location.
  • People – Their name, image, title, role, and more.
  • Events – A description, summary, location, start and end dates, as well as the URL, and more.
  • Recipes – Dish type (appetizer, main course or dessert), photographs, and even recipe summaries.

Even still, Google continues to add support for an increasing number of new formats. But why are they called rich snippets? When rich snippets are implemented correctly, the search results feature a thumbnail photo or video, a summary of ratings, or a bite-sized piece of data that describes what you’ll find on the page.

These tidbits are called “rich” since they add much more detail to the search engine results. When you perform a search, your eye is automatically drawn to the rich snippets as they provide a visual impact you can’t get from text alone.

Why Use Rich Snippets?

Rich snippets offer an avenue for site owners to communicate with search engines. Remember that the job of the search engines is to provide high-quality links to searchers. With structured data and rich snippets, the search engines can more easily understand what types of content your site produces and use that information to better index and rank your site.
As a result, when your site is displayed as part of a search query results page, it will be marked-up with additional information. With a more descriptive listing, your site then becomes more visible to viewers. Rich snippets can, therefore, help improve organic traffic, as well as promote the authority of your site (which can boost your inbound traffic further, as more prominence often equates to more traffic).
Imagine that you were to take a side-by-side comparison of two Google search results – one with text and one with rich snippets. Which result would appear more attractive and entice you to click? Probably the link with rich snippets.
Moreover, rich snippets clarify exactly what a page provides. To illustrate, a rich snippet can verify if a page is talking about Paris, France or Paris, Texas. Rich snippets give searchers instant information relevant to their query, which, consequently, decreases the number of bounces that result when searchers do not find the content they expected.

Implementing Rich Snippets within WordPress

The benefits of adopting rich snippets via schema mark-up are clear. But what’s even better is the fact that, though they may sound complicated, they aren’t actually difficult to implement – especially if your site is built on the WordPress platform.
There are several ways to implement rich snippets through a mark-up within your WordPress website. Currently, WordPress supports a number of different mark-up formats and languages, including:

  • Microformats
  • RDFa
  • Microdata

Since Google recommends using microdata, we’ll focus on that language here. Microdata uses HTML tags span or div to add descriptive names to properties and items. Here is an example of a basic block of HTML with basic information on “Jane Dominus.”

Now, this is what it would look like when marked up with microdata.

Itemscope tells the search engines that the data in the div refers to an item. Then, “itemtype=”” conveys that the item in question is a person. The itemprop attribute is used to identify each property of the person item.

Using Rich Snippets for Recipes

Recipes are one of the most common applications of rich snippets. In the image below, each chicken and dumplings recipe has been marked-up with an average ratings score, total number of ratings received, cook times, and calories:

Here’s how the rich snippet code to achieve something like this would look:

Within this code block, you can see schema mark-up covering everything from prep time and cook time to ingredients and recipe instructions.

Using Rich Snippets for Book Listings

Here, different schema tags are used to mark-up a fictional book listing, including details about the author, book format, ratings, price, availability, and more.

Using Rich Snippets for Menus

One final application we’ll cover here where you may see rich snippets used is in the example of menus.
Though this is only a partial menu mark-up, you can see tags denoting everything from the language of the menu to its specific items and their prices.
Writing these rich snippet tags by hand isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Using a text editor (like CodeAnywhere’s editor, used in the images above) can help ensure that you get your desired mark-up correct, though you may also find it helpful to test your code against Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Just paste your mark-up in the tool box or use the “Fetch URL” link; then click “Validate” to review.
That said, if you’re using WordPress for your site, you also have the option of utilizing a WordPress plugin to build your rich snippets much more quickly and conveniently.

WordPress Rich Snippet Plugins

Several options for free WordPress rich snippet plugins exist that make the process of adding markup to your site’s code easy.
All in One Rich Snippets
This plugin instantly inserts schema microdata into posts, which Google then translates into rich snippets. Currently, some of the specific formats it supports include:

  • Events
  • Personal reviews
  • Recipes
  • Software reviews
  • Videos
  • Events
  • People

After installing the plugin, locate the metabox beneath your text editor which features a drop-down menu with all of the available snippet types. Then, make your selection, fill in the appropriate fields, and click “Publish.”
51Blocks JSON Schema Generator
Another option for adding schema microdata to the posts of your choice, this plugin supports formats such as:

  • Books
  • Organizations
  • Products
  • Persons
  • Recipes
  • Reviews
  • Movies
  • Events

Once you’ve loaded and activated the plugin, you’ll see an extra button appear above your visual editor. Look for the drop-down menu where you can select your snippet format, fill out the required fields and add your mark-up.
Whether you use a plugin or mark-up the data yourself, there’s no question that adding rich snippets to your pages makes a powerful visual impact that can also positively affect your traffic stats. Give them a try today, and watch the impact they can have on your site’s bottom line.
Are you currently using rich snippets? If so, have you seen a positive impact on your website’s performance after installing them? Leave us a note sharing your experiences in the comment section below.

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