They're these awesome things that can help you improve your SEO, and generate more site traffic from the SERPs, and I'm going to tell you how to set them up in this post.
Bet I got your attention now, right?
Well to answer your question, let me first pose another question to you. Have you noticed that when doing a Google search, certain listings just look sexier than others? For example, if you were doing a search for "apple pie," which of these listings when you rather click on?
I bet you chose option #1. If you didn't, you must really not like apple pie.
So what are these sites doing to make their Google listings include all these extra details? The secret to these fancy pieces of information are rich snippets that these websites have coded onto their website pages.
What are rich snippets?
Google rich snippets extract information from your website to display on your site's listing in the search results, in addition to the typical page title, page URL, and meta description. This extra information can include photos, ratings, author information, and more.
Okay, so here's the tricky technical part. There are a few options for how to install rich snippets, but I'm going to show you the easiest method: using microdata. Since I don't want to confuse you, I'm only going to show you this approach -- and once you get the hang of it, it's really not too difficult!
1) Learn what microdata is.
Microdata is a way to label content to describe what the information is all about. For example, an event has all sorts of information associated with it, including the venue, starting time, name, and category. So you can use a bit of code to say, "Okay, here's my event, and here's all the information that Google needs to know about it to display a fancy listing."
That bit of code will be written using HTML5. Don't worry, you don't need to learn an entire coding language -- microdata uses very simple HTML tags, such as <span> or <div> tags to assign descriptive terms to each bit of information.
Here's an example HTML block showing basic information about me:
<div> My name is Diana Urban, and I was born and raised in New York. I'm on the marketing team at HubSpot, an all-in-one marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. Learn more here: <a href="http://hubspot.com">www.hubspot.com</a> </div>
Here is the same HTML with microdata:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person"> My name is <span itemprop="name">Diana Urban</span>, and I was born and raised in New York. I'm the <span itemprop="title">Head of Prospect Marketing</span> at <span itemprop="affiliation">HubSpot</span>, an all-in-one marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. Learn more here: <a href="http://hubspot.com" itemprop="url">www.hubspot.com</a> </div>
2) Start marking up your content.
Review the different types of rich snippets below. Each rich snippet links to Google's instructions on how to set up each type of rich snippet -- when you load their page, always select the microdata approach to get the right instructions.
3) Test your rich snippet.
Google Webmaster Tools has a nifty feature that lets you test your rich snippet. Click here to use their Structured Data Testing Tool. This will confirm whether or not Google can read your markup data and whether your rich snippets are appearing in their search results.
4) Be patient.
If you don't see your rich snippets in Google's search results right away, don't freak out. It actually takes Google as long as a few weeks to crawl and index this new data. So go to the beach. Sip a margarita. Soak in some sun.
Okay, it's more likely that you'll just keep working on other stuff in the meantime, but a girl can dream.
What types of rich snippets are there?
Let's run through some of the different types of rich snippets that are available to use on your website. Each section links to Google's instructions on how to actually install the rich snippets -- remember to select the microdata option for the easiest installation process!
If you want a thumbnail of a video to display next to your search listing, the markup works a little different. Google recognizes the Facebook Share markup code, so you might as well kill two birds with one stone.