The Rich Results Get Richer

Over the past few years, Google has been continually rolling out new rich search results to create a better search experience for its users. Rich search results (also known as “enhanced search results” or “rich snippets”) are informationally- or graphically-enriched results that often include more information than a standard Google search result.

You’ve probably noticed by now that in addition to Google’s traditional list-style rankings of the most relevant pages related to a searcher’s query, search results pages now display featured sections that highlight different types of content, such as reviews, recipes, pricing information, etc. These rich results appear in more prominent formats compared to standard results, using eye-catching images, videos, and concise text that boils down the ranking page’s content right there on the search results page.

Rich search results present a great opportunity for websites of virtually all types to catch their users’ eye and draw additional search traffic. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of rich results that Google is currently displaying on the SERPs, and get started with optimizing your content for those featured spots. 

Rich Results Guidelines From Google

Google has detailed guidelines for each type of rich result. Google’s documentation explains which content is eligible for various types of rich results and provides technical guidelines to help you optimize your content. It’s vital that you thoroughly read and understand their guidelines and requirements for the featured results you’re aiming for — and check back frequently, since Google adds new result types all the time. We’ve linked the corresponding Google documentation to each rich result type analyzed in this post. 

Optimizing Content for Rich Results

There is no “Get Rich Results Quick” scheme or hack that will magically grant you a featured snippet in organic search. The best way to earn rich results is to publish rich content. The goal of winning a rich snippet is to draw organic traffic to your website, so it’s very important that your content delivers on the initial impression it makes in the SERPs. 

Start by sizing up your content against your competition to see who’s currently dominating the rich results in your space. Click on some of the top-ranking results and take note of the quality of the content that you land on. What value does their content provide to the customer? How dense is the copy on your competitors’ pages? How developed is their user experience? How quickly do their pages load? 

While you’re at it, observe the content format that competitors are using to earn rich snippets. Google prefers certain formats for different rich results. For example, if your competitor’s rich result is being populated from a bulleted list, your best bet is to structure your content in a similar fashion.

Use these attributes as benchmarks to assess the quality of your own content, and then set out to improve the aspects of your content that may be inferior to your competitors. Take it a step further and shine up your content to the point that you’re confident that users will benefit more from visiting your site compared to other big-hitters in your field. 

Structured Data for Rich Results

While there are numerous different types of rich search results, one aspect that they all have in common is that they’re primarily driven by structured data. Structured data is used to distill a web page’s information in a concise format so that search engines can easily read and categorize its content. Google relies heavily on structured data to understand the purpose of the page, and uses that data to populate important information in rich results on search results pages. 

Structured data can be written in many different formats, but Google and other search engines have acknowledged Schema.org as their preferred structured data vocabulary. Schema markup is a highly flexible markup language with a wide range of data models suited to different types of content. You can customize your Schema markup with dozens of specific data points, many of which you’ll notice on Google’s rich results. For an in-depth guide on how to add Schema markup to your website, here’s an excellent resource from SEMrush.

A Schema.org structured data snippet consists of an array of standardized properties that describe the fundamental information about the page and its content. These properties include data points like the page’s title, author, products, images, reviews, and many others. It’s possible for Google to populate a rich result from a page that hasn’t used structured markup, but marking up your data is the best way to make sure you’re eligible for a rich snippet.  

Although there are other factors that come into play when it comes to optimizing for enhanced search results (such as search device type, location, content quality, etc.), implementing the right Schema markup is something you can do right away to better your chances of winning a rich result. The tricky part is knowing which rich results you should aim for, and which Schema markup type you should use to provide Google with the information they will require for your content to be featured as an enhanced listing.

Google’s Data Highlighter Tool

Alternatively, you can use Google’s Data Highlighter tool to tag information about your event. Using the Data Highlighter tool, you can easily select key data points to help Google present your event in the search results. However, keep in mind that Google’s Data Highlighter will only mark up your data for Google; if you want to make sure other search engines such as Bing can parse your structured data, you’re better off using another method such as schema.org or RDFa.

Now, let’s explore some of the rich snippets that can be found in Google’s search results.

Top Stories

Supported Content: News articles, blogs, sports articles

Schema Markup Type: Article

Important Notes: Currently, only AMP pages are eligible for Top Stories rich snippets. However, Google has announced that non-AMP content will also be eligible for the Top Stories feature starting in May 2021. See full guidelines from Google.

The featured “Top Stories” section highlights the most current, relevant articles related to a user’s search, for searches that Google thinks would benefit from recent related news. These featured articles appear in a carousel with the article’s featured image, organization logo, headline, and recency. Earning one of these slots gives your news article a major boost in visibility and credibility. 

Top Stories rich snippets are driven by Article structured data. The headline property specifies the title text that will be displayed in the search results. Keep this in mind when creating a headline for your article as you’ll want a powerful, intriguing title that entices users to click through to the full story. The featured image of the Top Stories snippet is another important element to consider, as you’ll want to avoid generic stock photos and instead choose a captivating image that makes searchers want to learn more. Then use the ImageObject or URL Schema property to specify a featured image for the snippet. Google will use datePublished or dateModified to show the article’s recency in the display.

One unique characteristic of the Top Stories featured snippet is that only AMP pages are supported. This is slated to change in May 2021, when Google rolls out changes that will allow non-AMP pages eligibility for Top Stories results. If you’re not currently using AMP pages on your news website, use this guide by Search Engine Land to get started. You can implement structured data on your non-AMP pages to mark up your article’s various properties, but those pages will not be eligible for a spot under Top Stories.

Breadcrumbs

Supported Content: Any web page at crawl depth 2 or higher

Schema Markup Type: BreadcrumbList

Important Notes: BreadcrumbList markup must contain at least two list items. See full guidelines from Google.

Google uses BreadcrumbList markup to enrich a page’s search listing with a path that provides extra context to the user. It’s a relatively small enhancement, but is useful in telling users where they will be entering your site and giving them a better understanding of the broader purpose of your site in relation to their query. 

BreadcrumbList markup is highly recommended for any page at a crawl depth of two or higher. In other words, if it takes two or more clicks for a user to navigate to the page from your homepage, it’s best to add breadcrumbs (if they’re not already present) and breadcrumb markup to that page. The ListItem property will specify each page that Google should use in the page path, and the name and position value under each list item will define the name and order in which the pages will be displayed in the breadcrumb path.

BreadcrumbList markup provides the added benefit of helping search engines understand the page hierarchy of your website.

COVID-19 Announcements

Supported Content: Government, health organizations, schools

Schema Markup Type: SpecialAnnouncement

Important Notes: COVID-19 announcements can also be submitted in Google Search Console. Announcements submitted in Google Search Console must have an expiration date of no longer than a month from the announcement date, and cannot be updated once submitted. See full guidelines from Google.

With COVID-19 still at large, government and health organizations, schools, and other institutions often need to make public announcements regarding closures, quarantine guidelines, revised hours, and transitioning events to online platforms. To add a COVID-19 announcement, use SpecialAnnouncement Schema markup to provide Google with the essential details of the update. The Schema.org library features properties like schoolClosuresInfo and quarantineGuidelines that let you specify the nature of the update. 

SpecialAnnouncement markup includes properties that let you specify the subject of the announcement. Google requires you to include one of these properties to create the proper rich result pertaining to the announcement: 

  • diseasePreventionInfo
  • diseaseSpreadStatistics
  • gettingTestedInfo
  • governmentBenefitsInfo
  • newsUpdatesAndGuidelines
  • publicTransportClosuresInfo
  • quarantineGuidelines
  • schoolClosuresInfo
  • travelBans

Your customers will appreciate being kept apprised of your current open hours, quarantine restrictions and the like, and you’ll save yourself loads of time answering phone calls from people looking for up-to-date information. You can also set an expiration date for an announcement using the expires property. After the expiration date, Google will automatically stop displaying the update.

You should also leverage Google My Business in conjunction with structured data to provide updates to your customers. Google My Business offers a “special hours” feature that allows you to indicate temporary closures or modified hours. You can provide even more detailed updates by creating a COVID-19 Post in Google My Business. 

Additionally, Google Search Console offers a tool that can be used as an alternative to structured data to submit COVID-19 updates which can be handy if you do not have access to the site’s HTML code. However, updates can not be changed once submitted which can be a costly limitation if circumstances change. Using the structured data method gives you more flexibility in terms of date ranges for which you’d like the announcement to be seen and changes that need to be made on the fly. 

Critic Reviews

Supported Content: Review sites

Schema Markup Type: LocalBusiness or Book

Important Notes: Reviews on local businesses, books, and movies require some unique properties depending on the type of review. See full guidelines from Google. 

If your website offers reviews, Google’s Critic Review featured snippets present an opportunity to highlight your review on the results page of local businesses, movies, or books. Critic reviews include a snippet of 200 words or less from your review, your website’s logo, and a link to your website. Earning a Critic Review spot in the search results can greatly improve your website’s visibility and lead to a boost in organic traffic. 

In order to be eligible for Critic Review rich snippets, implement LocalBusiness or Book Schema markup on the applicable page with the full review. Use the description property to place a snippet of text from the body of the full review. The snippet must be less than 200 words. 

Also be sure to adhere to Google’s content guidelines to ensure you’re following the proper protocol for Critic Review snippets.

Events

Supported Content: Event pages

Schema Markup Type: Event 

Important Notes: See full guidelines from Google.

Use the VirtualLocation Schema property to markup online events. To mark up special updates for your event, use the eventStatus property.

Google has especially interactive features when it comes to events, integrating Google Maps and providing ticketing information, organized times and dates, and much more. Optimizing your event pages for rich results can be the difference between a handful of attendees and a packed out show. Eventbrite is a shining example of the power of Google’s event features, as they saw a 100% increase in YoY traffic after they optimized their website for rich search results. 

An easy and effective way to optimize your events is to use third-party websites like EventbriteMeetupGig Guide, and even YouTube to post your upcoming events. These platforms are already integrated with Google’s event search experience, so your event posts will appear in Google’s search results, assuming they are set up properly and match user search interests. 

If you post events on your own website, implement Event Schema markup in your event page’s HTML. Event markup lets you define all of the pertinent information that Google uses to populate your listing in its rich results, including the name property, which lets you set the display name of the event; startDate, which specifies the event’s starting date and time; and location, which Google will use to pinpoint the event’s location on Google Maps. 

Virtual events are also supported using Event structured data. To mark up a virtual event, use the VirtualLocation value under the location property instead of Place. You should also use the eventAttendanceMode property to let Google know if it’s an online, offline, or mixed event using the OfflineEventAttendanceMode, OnlineEventAttendanceMode, or MixedAttendanceMode values.

FAQs

Supported Content: FAQ pages

Schema Markup Type: FAQPage

Important Notes: The FAQ page should be written by the site itself, with no way for users to submit alternative answers. See full guidelines from Google.

FAQ pages can be optimized to display questions and answers directly on Google’s search results page with a link for users to click through to your site. To give your FAQ page a chance to appear with these rich features, implement FAQPage Schema markup on the page. 

Google will populate your FAQ answer box using the mainEntity property to define a list of questions and acceptedAnswer property to define answers to each question.

When it comes to winning an FAQ answer box, it’s equally important to be publishing the right questions and providing informative, concise answers. Start by creating a list of questions that are frequently asked by your customers, and then do some long-tail keyword research to find commonly searched queries related to your business and its offerings. You can also use Answer the Public and Quora to find more relevant questions. 

Once you have a complete list of questions, write out short, clear answers for each one. Avoid fluffing up the answer copy with company jargon or advertisements. One sentence is usually all you need to give searchers the answer they’re looking for. 

How-To

Supported Content: How-to instructions

Schema Markup Type: HowTo

Important Notes: Does not support recipes, which have their own result type. See full guidelines from Google.

How-to articles are one of the best ways to demonstrate your authority and leadership in a given space, and Google can reward your efforts by displaying your how-to content in an easy-to-find, easy-to-read rich search display. Google supports both text/image and video content for these results. 

In order to optimize your how-to content, you’ll start with HowTo structured data. You can provide Google with lots of information using properties such as estimatedCost to provide a cost estimate for the task, totalTime to specify how long the task will take, and supply and tool to let users know what materials will be needed to complete the project. 

You’ll need to mark up each step of a how-to article using the step property, where you can include an image and step title. If you want to mark up a specific section of a how-to article, you can use the HowToSection value under the step property.

For video content, use the video Schema property, and mark steps of the how-to video with hasPart properties. You can also use the Clip value under the video.hasPart property to specify a section of a longer video to point users to the how-to instructions without them needing to watch the entire video.

Job Posts

Supported Content: Job posts

Schema Markup: JobPosting

Important Notes: Only pages that contain a single job posting are eligible for rich results. Job postings must also include a way to apply without requiring the applicant to log in. See full guidelines from Google.

Optimizing your job posting for Google’s job search results will help your chances of getting your open position in front of the right candidates. Google’s search features provide a rich experience for job seekers, aggregating job postings from job sites and individual businesses in one convenient place. Users can sort job openings by location, date posted, company type, and more.

If you want Google to help you make your next big hire, start by creating individual pages for each job posting. Google’s rich job posting results do not support pages that require the applicant to log in, and the page must include a way for users to apply. 

Google’s job search features require you to implement JobPosting Schema markup with properties that specify critical data such as jobLocation, baseSalary, and employmentType. For remote jobs, use the TELECOMMUTE value under the jobLocationType property.

Recipes

Supported Content: Recipe pages

Schema Markup Type: Recipe

Important Notes: See full guidelines from Google.

If you’ve searched for a recipe lately, you probably noticed Google’s rich search results for recipes. These featured results add visual context to your recipe pages, which is a vast improvement over the standard text listings. Rich results for recipes can also include reviews and an estimate for how long the dish takes to make. Google often uses recipe content as a testing ground for new information and snippet types, so even if you’re not publishing recipes, it’s a good space to keep an eye on to get an idea of the kind of data Google might include in other rich snippets in the future.

Recipe rich results rely on Recipe Schema markup. Using Schema structured data, you can choose an image that depicts the finished dish and the dish’s name that you want displayed in the search results. Using the aggregateRating property, you can provide data that will populate the star ratings that will be visible on your listing. The prepTime and cookTime property lets you specify how long it takes to make the dish, which will also be visible to searchers. 

While you’re at it, you can optimize your recipe for Google Assistant by adding the recipeIngredient and recipeInstructions properties. This will allow people to get guided recipes using Google Home. 

Reviews and Ratings

Supported Content: Any website with content or products getting reviews from third-party websites

Schema Markup Type: ReviewAggregateRating

Important Notes: Ratings must be aggregated from third-party review websites. See full guidelines from Google.

Review snippets can be added to Google search results for several types of content including books, recipes, products, local businesses, and more. These ratings can appear in the form of rich results or in the subject’s knowledge panel. If your product, book, etc. is getting solid reviews on the greater web, optimizing for review snippets can add a valuable testament to your content. 

For obvious reasons, Google will not allow you to use reviews controlled by your own site. Therefore you’ll need to create, request, or claim a listing on a third-party review site. Luckily, there is no shortage of these types of sites, so getting started here is quite easy. Some popular general review sites include FacebookYelpYahoo! Local and Foursquare. A quick Google search of review sites that are specific to your website should turn up more opportunities for you to activate a listing that can garner consumer reviews.

There are two key structured data types you’ll need to implement in order for your content to be displayed with reviews and ratings. First, implement Review markup where you’ll specify the author of the review and the item being reviewed using the itemReviewed property. Then you’ll need to include AggregateRating to let Google know the average rating the reviews give the item in question. Google will use this data to create a rating snippet that can appear in your search listing or knowledge panel. 

Videos and Live Video Streams

Supported Content: Videos

Schema Markup Type: VideoObjectBroadcastEvent

Important Notes: See full guidelines from Google

Google’s enhanced video results give you a chance to place your video at the top of the search results page. The most relevant videos can be displayed as a list with thumbnail images of the video or even as a full video window that allows searchers to preview the video directly on the search results page. 

Since video content is much more difficult for Google to understand on its own, it’s important to markup your video with VideoObject structured data. You can include the thumbnailUrl Schema property to specify an image that Google should use as the thumbnail of your video listing. The description, name, and uploadDate properties are also required to fill out the video rich result. 

You can even optimize live videos to broadcast live events. To do this, implement BroacastEvent markup on the live video page, using the publication.startDate and publication.endDate properties to tell Google when the broadcast will take place. Make sure Google crawls your broadcast stream using their Indexing API designated specifically for livestream videos. Send a request using the Indexing API when the video goes live and when the video has stopped streaming.

Test Your Content for Rich Result Eligibility

Thankfully Google offers free tools that allow you to test whether or not your content meets the technical requirements for eligibility for rich results. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool has been the go-to testing tool for featured snippet markup. However, Google has announced that this tool is set to be phased out in April 2021 and replaced by the Rich Results Test which provides a more straightforward evaluation of your site’s markup for rich results

Get Rich Results or Die Tryin’

Hopefully the rich results we analyzed have inspired you to take on new optimization projects. Google is constantly evolving, so keep an eye out for new featured results that your content could be eligible for. Happy optimizing!

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