First off, what are rich snippets?

Rich Snippets add extra information to your organic search listing beyond the standard page title, URL, and meta description. You’ve probably seen it before when searching for products online, where some sites have the rating, price, and stock levels shown right in the search results page:

 

Rich Snippet In Google Search showing Rating, Review, Product and Offer Schema

 

Or when looking for a receipe, where again you get extra information like the rating, cooking time, and number of calories:

 

Rich Snippet In Google Search showing Recipe Schema with an image

 

What are the benefits of rich snippets?

Rich snippets have a number of benefits for websites:

  • Improve your SEO by giving clarity to search engines by classifying content on your page
  • Improve the click-through-rate on your results by giving users more information about your page
  • Establish how your brand appears in organic search results

But there’s still a few hurdles to getting this implemented in practice. So I’ll cover a few things in this post:

  • The two main languages to write Schema: JSON-LD and microdata
  • The current state of affairs for Schema support on Google and Bing (as of Oct 2017)
  • Workarounds to making Schema implementation easy

Ways to implement rich snippets

JSON-LD and microdata are two main ways to get Schema onto a page. JSON-LD is derived from JavaScript and microdata is derived from HTML.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons:

 

JSON-LD Microdata
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Sits separately to the HTML content on the page, so it’s easy to write and troubleshoot Not supported by Bing because Bing doesn’t ‘do’ JavaScript Supported by all major search engines Traditionally has to be weaved into existing HTML content, making it harder to write and troubleshoot

 

Despite being generally easier to write, implement, and troubleshoot, JSON-LD is not supported by Bing. Microdata is the only way to guarantee Schema support on your website across the entire web—especially important for international facing websites with more fragmented search engine usage.

Some recent news

However, Bing is seemingly getting on board with research showing that they now support JSON-LD based Recipe Schema. Good news? Not quite.

We’ve run a test of some sites using JSON-based Product Schema and it looks like Bing has no support for JSON-LD based Product Schema:

 

Bing search results organic

And there’s no other evidence to suggest support for other Schema types.

A workaround to make writing microdata easier

The main reason why JSON-LD is easier to write is because it doesn’t have to be integrated into the HTML on the page. However there’s a workaround for Microdata which can get pretty close to JSON-LD by:

  • Allowing you to add content for Schema without needing to have that information visible on the page, e.g. GTIN barcode numbers
  • Allowing you to add all the elements together, so you can troubleshoot problems easily

You can do this by adding meta tags to the microdata in the body. See the example meta tag for the GTIN8 tag:

 

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
  <span itemprop="name">Visible product name</span>
  <meta itemprop="GTIN8" content="12345678"/>
</div>

As you can see, it’s pretty much as easy to read as the equivalent Schema in JSON-LD:

 

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Product",
  "name": "Visible product name",
  "GTIN8": "12345678"
}
</script>

Schema made simple

So we seem to be stuck with microdata for now. But using the meta tag workaround is a step forward to maximising your brand’s visibility in search with the least effort. Schema’s not going away anytime soon, so getting your website updated with the right markup is no longer a nice to have, but a must for future-proof SEO.

And as an aside, if this kind of stuff excites you, take a look at our open roles and join our team today. We’re a rapidly growing agency looking for all types of specialists in the digital space. We’d love to hear from you.

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Ming Kang Chen

Starting at Reprise in 2015, currently I'm a Digital Solutions Specialist looking after all things SEO, CRO, UX, and content. I've got a keen interest in all that's on in marketing and tech, and love cooking up a storm when I'm away from the screen.

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