The 2018 guide to rich results in search

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Over the past few years, Google’s SERPs have become progressively more enhanced and detailed.

Users require as much information as possible before deciding which result to place their trust in and click through to. It’s therefore no surprise then that rich results have become increasingly prominent.

Rich results are essentially a way of highlighting your website’s content in the SERPs.

They are the search results which have a little extra panache, in which Google displays more information about the result rather than just the traditional title, URL and meta description. This could include a star review, specific product information or even recipe details.

In this guide, we’ll look at what’s new with rich results in 2018, as well as how to give yourself the best chance of getting them.

Benefits of rich results

Previously known as rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results, Google have now put an end to the terminology confusion and allocated ‘rich results’ as the preferred term. You are probably already aware that these fancy pants search results require the implementation of structured data on your site.

But before we look at the how, let’s look at the why. The benefits of using structured data markup are clear to see:

  • Easier for search engines to crawl your site and understand the page, enabling them to return more relevant and detailed results. Frankly, anything that makes a search engine’s life easier is a win.
  • Increased click-through rates due to an enhanced appearance in the results. Information is more clear and it is a way of standing out from other results.
  • Decreased bounce rate due to the improved relevancy of results.

At the time of writing, the general consensus is that structured data is not a ranking factor. However, the combination of more relevant results, increased CTRs and decreased bounce rate are all factors which can indirectly lead to a rankings boost. At the very least, they will lead to increased website traffic, which is not something to be sniffed at.

Structured data & schema markup

Structured data is essentially information about a webpage and its content. There are three commonly known types of structured data: JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.

JSON-LD is the most recommended structured data type, primarily because it is the most clean and readable format. Given that it is personally recommended by Google, it’s really a no-brainer to deploy JSON-LD as the standard format.

Wait, so what’s schema markup? While JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa are the formats, schema is the language (or semantic vocabulary). It’s the universal code for structured markup that all search engines can understand.

Structured data can be tricky to get right, especially if you’re not particularly technically-minded. Before you stand any chance of achieving those sought after rich results, Google will analyse and assess your markup to ensure it is correct.

However, it’s important to clarify that getting it wrong won’t harm your organic traffic, as long as you don’t use the markup to refer to hidden content. If you get it wrong then your rich results simply won’t show, so you’ll be no worse off than you were to begin with. Don’t be afraid of structured data, it doesn’t bite.

Rich results test

In December last year, Google announced the launch of a Rich Results Testing Tool. The primary function of this tool is to let you know whether your page is eligible for rich results.

Simply plug in your URL, hit submit and then preview the different rich results available for your page. Another handy function is the ability to share results – perfect for showing off your markup prowess to your boss, or highlighting some essential SEO flaws to a new client. Plus, if your pages are eligible for rich results, you can also Submit To Google via the testing tool.

rich_results

It is important to note that the tool is still in beta mode and therefore does not provide comprehensive results as yet. This will undoubtedly be expanded on in the near future.

Currently, only the tests for recipes, job postings, movies, and courses are supported. As a result, if your structured data markup falls outside of these categories then the test may not yet be suitable.

Until the full version is rolled out, however, don’t forget that you can still use the original Structured Data Testing Tool. Although this won’t tell you whether a page is eligible for rich results, it will tell you if your markup is valid. You can therefore address any issues with the structured data quickly and efficiently.

Patience is a virtue

One of the slightly frustrating aspects of implementing structured data is that it can take 2-3 weeks for a page to appear as a rich result. However, if you ensure that you are re-indexing your pages following structured data implementation then this will speed up the process.

On top of that, there is no guarantee that your structured data will correspond to a rich result at all. By implementing structured data, you are enabling the rich results functionality, but don’t have a right to it.

Of course, there is a whole array of other reasons why rich results may not be displaying. This could be to do with the accuracy of your structured data, including hidden content in the markup, or failing to follow the guidelines. Whereas previously you would have to wait a few weeks to know whether your markup has done the job, you can now use the new testing tool.

Final words

In short, implementing structured data should be a priority for your SEO campaigns in 2018, if you haven’t already.

The benefits of rich results are plain to see, and the launch of Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool is a further testament to the importance being placed on these enhanced search results.

Providing as much relevancy and detailed information as possible to the user in the SERPs will always be a priority to the search engines. If you can be a part of this then your website will be in the best possible position to benefit from rich results.

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