Have you noticed a change in the way that Google showcases the results on their first page? Maybe even more than one change?
Google is constantly evolving how they do things, but there’s one change that stands out the most here: beyond simply showing ten websites to click on, Google is dedicating more space and text to addressing the Google search query, right at the top of the search results. That’s in addition to new sections like the ‘people also ask’ section, the knowledge panel (ie. information about well-known entities), local search results, reviews, and so much more.
Yesterday’s Search Results
Today’s Search Results
This blog will detail how and why these changes came about over time, and how website owners can take advantage and gain more visibility online with these new features.
What are rich snippets and schema markup?
The first thing you might ask yourself is: what are these new features, and how does Google source the information that they showcase? Well, broadly speaking, these new features on Google are called rich snippets (also known as rich results), and Google refers to websites with schema markup (also known as structured data) in place in order to display this specialized information.
So, why is Google increasingly utilizing schema markup on websites to showcase rich snippets on their results page? The answer is that Google wants to answer the user’s question or query as directly and immediately as possible. That means that instead of always pointing users to ten of the most relevant websites, Google answers common questions, and provides further context to users directly on the search results page.
Rich snippets are their way of doing that, while schema markup on websites is relied on by Google to source the information it displays within the increasingly prevalent rich snippets. Let’s examine what rich snippets and schema markup look like in detail.
Rich snippets refer to standard Google search results with additional information displayed on the search results page as well. As mentioned, there are more than a few examples of information on the search results page that’s displayed as a rich snippet, including:
- People Also Ask – This common new section on Google displays 3-5 commonly asked questions around a topic, and allows you to open up an answer to a question within an accordion folder. As you open up more answers, the People Also Ask section expands with more commonly asked questions around the topic.
- Knowledge Panels – These panels on the right-hand side of Google compile public information around a well-known entity, like a location, company or public figure. Google relies on public sources like the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia and local online directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages, along with social media accounts and other Google entities like a Google My Business page or a website’s Google Search Console account, to verify the information that’s displayed.
- Reviews & Ratings – Positive reviews and ratings are so important to encourage a customer to complete an order, or to generate foot traffic to a business location, which is why this type of rich snippet is increasingly utilized by businesses online to associate positive experiences with their products and services.
- Product, Price & Product Availability Markup – Detailed product information is crucial for e-Commerce websites to stand out on Google, and also to encourage users to visit their website rather than another business’ with the same or similar product or service. Showcasing a low price, a special offer, or immediate availability can make all the difference, particularly when a user can rely on household names like Amazon or eBay instead.
- Video Schema – It’s no secret that video content is increasingly popular and engaging, which is why video schema is such an important tool for businesses to use to ensure maximum visibility for the videos they create. Videos can help explain the service they offer and the value it provides, or demonstrate what their product looks like and how it can be used.
- Top Stories – This type of schema is extremely important to news, blog, and sports websites in particular, in order to ensure that their timely and relevant new updates and content are displayed quickly, near the top of the search results.
Schema Markup (or Structured Data) refers to specialized code that website owners can place on a relevant page on their website to provide search engines like Google with more context about the information on that page. It’s a standardized format that Google and other search engines like Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo rely on to classify website content and provide further informational context.
This is where it’s easy for business owners to be intimidated by the technical updates needed to apply schema markup onto their websites. The good news is that there are a number of helpful tools and plugins, depending on the type of website and content that you’re focusing on, to write that code for you.
Some of the resources I recommend utilizing if you’re looking to create schema markup (also known as structured data) include:
- Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper – This tool can easily create structured data for either a website or an email, and it offers a helpful preview tool to see how your structured data can translate into a rich snippet. It offers the choice of over 20 different data types, such as products, local businesses, events, articles, movies, restaurants, job postings, and many more.
- WordPress plugins like WP Review and All in One Schema Rich Snippets – These plugins for WordPress websites boast strong reviews and consistent updates, which is important as rich snippets and schema markup evolve in the future. It’s important for WordPress website owners to consider their plugin of choice’s compatibility with other plugins and their website as a whole, along with its effect on website performance.
- Shopify website plugins like PageFly Landing Page Builder and Ali Reviews – Product Reviews – Shopify website owners can utilize a number of different apps to help apply specific schema markup onto relevant pages on their website. There are apps that focus on the building of SEO-friendly pages as a whole, which includes schema markup and other SEO elements, or apps that focus on the application of specific schema markup for a single purpose. Similarly, let reviews help determine the app you choose to utilize.
Why Website Owners Should Embrace Schema Markup
When new updates and changes emerge on Google and across the online landscape, it’s important for businesses and website owners to take a step back and ask how these changes affect their businesses’ online presence, and how they can capitalize on these new elements to stand out from their competitors and contemporaries.
The most common reservations I hear from business owners who are considering the application of schema markup onto their website are:
- Won’t this divert online traffic away from my website, and keep users on Google instead?
- It’s too technical for me, I don’t know how to write code.
My answer to the first objection is that Google will showcase rich snippets regardless of whether or not that’s on your website or another one, and if these users were visiting your website only for a quick answer, then these users aren’t yet customers or leads who are ready to take action on your website just yet anyways.
It’s hard to estimate how many searches on Google do not result in a visit to a website, but some estimates are as high as 65%. I’d argue to website owners that, despite the importance of a high volume of website traffic for SEO performance, making impressions directly on Google can be just as important, especially in the long run.
This goes for your website’s core pages in particular. Since many of the users searching these types of queries are not ready to take action yet anyways, making an impression on them early in their online research can ensure that they come back to your website when they are looking for more information about the topic of interest, and when they’re ready to take action. Taking up more real estate on Google can only help your website and business in the long run. Because the application of schema markup can often be done for free, it’s an increasingly important tool in any website’s online arsenal.
That also addresses the second reservation, surrounding the technical side of schema markup application. To that I would say that there are many online resources available to you to walk you through the creation, preview, application and testing of schema markup onto your website.
From Google’s schema markup resource and their collection of resources on Search appearance topics, to TechnicalSEO.com’s schema markup generator, to detailed guides on FAQ schema, there is so much free online help available to you to modernize your website with schema markup. Taking advantage of these early can only improve and diversify your online presence, especially when the very top of the Google results are within reach through use of schema markup.
Just like a real estate agent will focus on location, location, location, a website owner should have that same laser-focus on the top of the Google results in order to beat big businesses on Google. Luckily, schema markup is the free, straightforward and widely available resource to acquire the online real estate you’ve always had your eye on, as long as you make the most of it.
If you’d like to learn more, or are interested in taking your business’ website to the next level, why not contact the experts at TechWyse today!