Rich Snippets structured markup code is a way to help publishers provide information about their websites to Google. While Google has admitted that Rich Snippets do not increase or have an effect on search engine rankings, the additional information provided by a Rich Snippet can be the difference between a user clicking to a site or passing it over (possibly for another listing that does provide Rich Snippets?). To better gauge the effectiveness of Rich Snippets and how click-through-rates (CTR) are affected, I decided to run a test to prove and confirm the significant difference (if one existed) on user behavior with Google Rich Snippet data.
The Rich Snippet Test
To do so I decided to create Rich Snippets specific to recipes and reviews which seemed like a legitimate niche to take on considering the heavy search queries and traffic food sites and blogs enjoy. Not to mention, with the advent of Google Recipes being introduced in 2011 as a specific silo to all things recipe, the decision seemed sound (or so I convinced myself). I decided on a Food blog that maintained posts and static pages coded with Rich Snippet markup and to help establish a certain level of visibility, normal SEO attributes were implemented from basic linking to sharing recipes via social networks (i.e. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc…). As expected, the first month or so provided limited visibility and referrals in organic search, specifically for non-branded search queries. This despite using the Google Rich Snippet tool that confirmed the markup was working correctly. Unfortunately none of the Rich Snippet markup was appearing in the SERPs, even for branded search results. At this time, I was a little depressed and considering perhaps that my attempts at Food blogging were about as viable as announcing to the public that I was going to enter the 2012 NFL draft (I’m great in the secondary when it comes to Cover 2 and Nickel-Defense packages). However, within the second week of December, a Google search uncovered several results from my blog with Rich Snippet markup (I then decided to forgo the NFL draft….maybe next year?). The results over a few weeks proved the quintessential SEO theory that Rich Snippets do increase CTR and as a result greater traffic. According to Google Webmaster Tools, clicks to the site dramatically increased by +150% and this improvement resulted in an increase of visits and page views (see chart below).
Google Webmaster Tools Data – Rich Snippet Test
Soon after, recipe pages and posts with Rich Snippet markup were improving in SERPs (mostly long-tail) but more importantly, the markup was appearing everywhere! Now, this is not a shocking discovery by any means as the test simply confirmed what we had expected about Rich Snippet markup and the enticement it provides to users. However, we also discovered that impressions also seemed to increase around this time which led to a healthy debate and discussion internally as to what effect CTR (if any) has on search engine rankings. Did the increase in clicks contribute to improved visibility and standing of organic rankings for these recipe pages (this is a discussion for another post and another time)? But regardless of the alternative effects, the test did acknowledge that implementation of Rich Snippets can help your site and business goals in providing users more information pertinent to their search query. So if your site or client’s site contains information that Google supports and recommends in using Rich Snippets (i.e. Reviews, Authors, Recipes, People, Products, Events, Music, Businesses and organizations) it would be a lost opportunity to not take advantage and provide your customers and followers with Rich Snippet information.
By Eddie JL Emmanuel, a Search Director at Catalyst Online