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What Are Rich Snippets and How They Help SEO

In 2011, Google, Bing and Yahoo came together to create a project called schema.org. This project consists of a series of HTML5 tags used to help search engines understand the content on a page. Google uses schema.org rich snippets to alter the appearance of SERP (search engine result page) listings; while Bing and Yahoo give a boost in organic search rankings for implementing it. What this means for webmasters is a new way to improve search performance from Bing and Yahoo, and to improve the likelihood a user will click on your search listing in Google.

schema rich snippet example

Take a phone number for example. To users, a phone number is a phone number, but to search engines, it is just a set of numbers. By adding schema.org microdata to the phone number like in the example above, both users and search engines will understand that it is a phone number. A telephone number is just one basic example of a schema.org rich snippet. There are hundreds of different item types and item props out there.

Item Types

There are two attributes that go into valid schema.org markup – item types and item props. Types and props have a parent, child relationship with types being the parent and props being the child. Each page on the site should be wrapped with one item type, which gives search engines the overall idea of what type of content the page contains. There should never be a 2nd item type wrapped inside another item type. Here are some examples of different item types:

  • Organization
  • WebPage
  • Recipe
  • Movie
  • MedicalEntity
  • SelfStorage
  • Place
  • Person

There are dozens and dozens of other item types, but rather than listing them all, you can check out this list to see them all. More and more item types are added each year and are supported by the major search engines.

Item Props

Item props are used to help search engines understand individual elements on a page, and there are hundreds of them out there. Each item type has a series of item props nested underneath them, with a lot of cross-over between types. The “telephone” item prop as you saw earlier in this post is just one example of an item prop. Here’s a few example of other item props:

  • address
  • aggregateRating
  • image
  • description
  • brand
  • contactPoint
  • gender

These item props help search engines fully understand your content, and parse these rich snippets into SERP listings.

Examples of Rich Snippets in Action

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, adding schema.org microdata to your content will change the way it appears in search. Here’s some examples:

recipe rich snippet example The example above demonstrates how a SERP looks for a recipe page using rich snippets. Take note of the user ratings, image, and nutritional information. Without rich snippets, this would just be another boring SERP listing.

user ratings rich snippets

Here’s an example of basic e-commerce rich snippets in action. Take note of the user reviews.

sports rich snippet example

Another one you may see frequently is sports rich snippets. The above example shows the current score (Go White Sox!), current standings, where the game is played, and what channel the game is on. This is all controlled using rich snippets.

Are you taking advantage of schema.org microdata on your site yet? If you’d like to improve your site optimization and appearance in search, learn more about our SEO services here.

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Written by

Harrison Jones is the VP of Digital Marketing at MWI. With over 10 years of digital marketing experience, he specializes in SEO, PPC, content marketing, analytics, conversion optimization, usability analysis, and information architecture. He writes for several industry-leading publications including Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal.