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What are rich snippets and how can you use them?

You may have come across the term “rich snippets”, but you may be unsure about what they involve. We’re here to tell you!

Rich snippets are essentially a website preview. Created by Google in 2009, rich snippets sit below search engine results while providing a quick sample of that site’s content. It acts as a taster of sorts, attempting to entice you into entering the website. For instance, a rich snippet for a retail store will quickly summarise what the shop sells (e.g. women’s clothing), and perhaps measuring one of the shop’s unique selling points.

It’s a very effective method; it acts almost as a secondary search engine, because the primary search gets up a list of sites, whilst the additional data – the rich snippets – give the site a bit of context and personality. It’s useful for any websites, but it becomes very important for businesses. As stated, the goal is to persuade a web user who is looking for a specific topic to give the respective site a chance by delving in. So, for a business, this represents the first step towards a potential sale; the initial search has brought up the organisation, and the rich snippet acts as the first hook to bring in a possible customer. Rich snippets also cover multimedia platforms such as video, so if your business has a YouTube channel, a rich snippet can act as another way to bring in viewers.

Example of a Rich Snippet in Google's search results

Of course, the success of a rich snippet depends on its content. Just like traditional website copy, the rich snippet has to do an excellent job of selling your business or product; it has to be exciting, thought-provoking, sexy even. If a random user who is locating your business for the first time is to enter your site, the rich snippet has to drag them in through persuasive and interesting text. In short, the rich snippet has to sell your company within two dozen words or so. If the rich snippet does not perform a good enough job of promoting your company, then it has a reduced chance of success.

So, how can you make your rich snippet work? Firstly, use Google to help you. Google have three tools to assist you with rich snippets: Structured Data Report, Data Highlighter and Structured Data Testing Tool. This allows Google to play a hand in putting together your rich snippets, as well as measuring the success that they have. Like any marketing tool, data will be provided to identify whether rich snippets are having the desired impact.

Secondly, think about what it is that you’re trying to sell. Let’s say that you’re a distributor of videogames; the most obvious example would be Game itself, one of the more well-established UK retail names. New games and games consoles are always hitting the shelves, but note that their rich snippet does not name any titles or platforms. Instead, it reads: “The UK’s leading games retailer with great deals on video games, consoles, accessories and more. Plus earn 2% of your purchase value back in Reward Points …” Within less than two lines, Game has summarised what they do, emphasised how successful they are, noted how valuable their deals are, and even mentioned a special offer in the process. Now, not every retailer is as famous as Game, and your business may not be able to make the claims that Game does. But if you follow that formula, and find a way to tell people what you do, how successful you are, why you’re the best, and any other incentive which can be quickly summarised, then you’re on the right track.

Oh, one final thing: the rich snippets have to be backed up by what you’re providing. In other words, it’s no good claiming that you offer a particular service in your rich snippets if, in fact, you don’t. Just as a web user would be put off by searching for a topic and then being fed irrelevant results, a potential user will not be impressed if they read the rich snippet, decide that they’ll check out the site and find that what they see is totally unrelated. This irks the user and kills any chance of a sale. So, your rich snippet has to be fully supported by the website, otherwise their use becomes misuse.

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