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Rich snippets 101 for news publishers
In newsletter 10(!!), we look at rich snippets – what they are, and why they matter to publishers.
Hello and welcome back to another newsletter looking at the value of SEO for newsrooms
This week, it’s me, Jessie, talking about rich snippets – one of the 11 key SEO concepts we think publishers need to know.
What is a search engine results page?
A search engine results page, or SERP, is the result of any Google search. It’s made up of a mix of organic results, SERP features and usually includes paid search results and ads.
What is a rich snippet?
Remember the briefly famous Saved You a Click Twitter account? A rich snippet is Google basically trying to accomplish the same thing: providing you, the user, the answer to your search without needing to click a link. Snippets can appear at the top of the page – above the standard set of blue links – but can also be found below the results depending on the search.
When a user searches for the best oat milk, the search engine results will display a mix of organic results (web pages that match my search intent effectively), and SERP features. In this example, the results page includes several features: a Featured Snippet, People Also Ask questions, recipes, and paid advertising.
More than two-thirds of Google searches are conducted without a click to another page, according to Sparktoro. As Google takes over more real estate in search results, it’s important to find alternative ways to answer reader queries and drive people back to your website.
There are many types of SERP features (dozens, as detailed by Backlinko), but let’s focus on those that are editorially-driven: Featured Snippet, Knowledge Cards and Panels, News Box, and Related Questions (or People Also Ask).
Google gets the data for a Rich Snippet data from structured markup (like Schema) from your website’s HTML. Structured data helps the robots understand exactly what kind of content is on your webpage and how it should be represented in search results. For example, by setting the title tag, URL, and meta description, you are telling Google what information from your page to display in SERP (though Google does sometimes pull text other than meta tag as a description).
Why are rich snippets important for news SEO?
Rich snippets – in part because they are clearly showing users that your site has the answer to a specific query – will often have higher click-through rates compared to traditional blue links. They can also help bring “targeted users to a website.” Those target users have expressed an active interest in a given topic and are more likely to stay on the site longer.
Which rich snippets should newsrooms pay attention to?
What is it: These are answer boxes that appear in organic results for certain search queries, pulling a snippet of text that best matches a user’s query. Literally, this is Google “featuring” a snippet of your website.
Common formats for featured snippets are paragraphs, bullet point or numbered lists, or tables of data. Most often, Google will pull its featured snippet from content that is already ranking high in search. This is commonly known as “position 0.”
News Box (or Top stories)
What is it: A carousel of news stories from Google News. Only sites approved by Google News will appear in this box (here’s how to get on Google News).
This snippet will pull an article headline, timestamp, publisher name and featured image for a set of stories. These are, naturally, very time sensitive and ranking in this section is usually very short-lived (for example, all of the stories in the Top Stories for Prince Philip were published within the last day).
What is it: A collection of recipes links. Includes a photo, recipe rating, description and the time to complete. Use the Recipe schema to help your recipes show up in SERPs.
People Also Ask (or Related Questions)
What is it: A box/accordion with a list of questions related to your search query. Includes questions and answers with text pulled from a variety of websites.
It is possible to appear in the People Also Ask box by answering common questions (using structured data on your site and proper heading structure), but this feature doesn’t often translate to a ton of clicks.
Instead, it can be a useful tool for research for sub-topics to explore on your site.
Knowledge Cards and Panels:
What is it: Knowledge panels and cards pull semantic data from a “number of sources including human-edited sources like WikiData, data extracted from the Google index and private data partnerships.” They will often appear on the right-hand side of a results page. Since the data appears as part of a partnership or agreement, it’s unlikely you will rank for a Knowledge panel.
However! News publications should ensure they have the proper organization schema on their site to improve the visibility of their site on search.
Get rich snippets
Once you have identified a Rich Snippet type that aligns with your content, use Structured Data to help search engines understand better what information is on your webpage.
Schema, according to Moz, “is a semantic vocabulary of tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in SERPs.”
Schema.org is a collaborative effort from the search engines to help tell website builders what information a search engine needs to correctly interpret your page.
If you have a recipe on a webpage and it’s structured using the correct schema, search engines have an easier time connecting readers to your recipe.
In rich snippet land, there’s no guarantee that just using the correct structured data will mean your webpage nets a Rich Snippet, but audience editors should experiment and try to answer queries in a natural way while remembering the evolution of Google. (The objective of Google, of course, is to provide their users the best possible experience, and sometimes that means saving them a click.)
This insight, from Moz, is worth remembering: “[T]here is no generic ranking factor associated with structured data usage. But using the right schema types, with a good spread of usage, can provide relevant results for users.”
The bottom line: Use properly structured data across your entire site, but it’s not necessary to prioritize this effort over, for example, tweaking evergreen content or doing efficient keyword research.
Read more: 6 common Google SERP feature misconceptions
✔️ Action item: Do you have recipes on your site? Or movie reviews? Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to see if the appropriate schema is there.
FUN + GAMES
Question: What percent of all Google searches are zero click?
🔗 RECOMMENDED READING
Moz has an excellent guide to dozens of SERP features that exist.
Debunking link building myths in 2021
🔗 EVEN MORE SEO
FUN + GAMES
The answer: 65 percent of all Google searches are zero click – which means a user was able to fulfill their query without actually clicking a link thanks (likely) to SERP features.