Rich snippets are a type of on page mark-up. They are the extra bits of text that appear under search results. Think of them like bacon bits for search engines. That extra pop of flavor that differentiates you from the plain old potato next to you. Are they necessary? That depends. Do you want your listing to stand out? If so, rich snippets are a great way to get your content noticed!
To understand the difference, look at this image of the Google results for search term "Battlestar Galactica". The second result is just a regular "snippet”. The snippet of information that is displayed under the blue hyperlinks on the search results page. The first result is a "Rich Snippet" and according to Google Webmaster Tools, it offers users a summary of what’s on the page and why it’s relevant to their query. Notice the difference?
Why Should I Care?
Which result was your eye drawn toward? The one with the pretty yellow stars? Precisely. That is why you should care about Rich Snippets. If that is not enough, then how about higher search engine rankings? Even in this example, the listing with the Rich Snippet ranked higher than the listing without.
If you are an author, there is even more reason to implement Rich Snippets. Look at the three search results for the search term "social media marketing". Which one are you most likely to click on? Yep, the one with the smiling face. Don't you want it to be YOUR smiling face getting all those clicks?
Types of Rich Snippets
How To Implement
Pick a data format and include the markup in your content. Google suggests using microdata, as outlined at schema.org, but any of the three formats below are acceptable. You don't need any prior knowledge of these formats, just a basic knowledge of HTML.
Remember the example with the smiling face next to his content? You can be that face! Well, not THAT face, but you can see your face.
First, you'll need to create a Google+ Profile with a good, recognizable headshot as your profile photo, if you do not already have one. Then, verify authorship of your content by associating it with your profile using either of the methods below. Disclaimer: Google doesn't guarantee to show author information in Google Web Search or Google News results.
Note: If the snippet doesn’t appear in the Webmaster Tools Rich Snippets Test, try checking the url you have entered in the contributing site section on your Google+ profile page. If url does not include "www" you should try adding it. I have not found this to be a problem, but some sites do need the "www".
Rich snippets are a relatively easy to use type of on page mark-up that can set you apart from the competition, increase your click through rates, and possibly, increase your page rank. Though Google stipulates that marking up your data for rich snippets won't affect your page's ranking in search results, and Google doesn’t guarantee to use your markup, they do state that you can improve the rank of your site by creating content that users will want to use and share. How is that determined, by click-through rate. Rich snippets increase click-through rate, which results in higher rankings.
Have you implemented Rich Snippets? What's your experience been so far? Have they helped you find more valuable content? I'd love to know your thoughts!