What Are Rich Snippets and Schemas in Google Terms? - dummies

What Are Rich Snippets and Schemas in Google Terms?

By Peter Kent

A rich snippet is a Google term for extended information displayed in search results. For instance, search Google for, say, lamb and then click the word Recipes in the left column, and Google knows that you are looking for lamb recipes.


You’ll notice a few things; the search results contain both pictures and ingredient lists; some contain star ratings; and Google has a grid on the left side, which allows you to filter the results to show, for example, only the recipes that include mint, or those that do not use mint. You can even filter using the Cook Time and Calories tools.

Google is able to provide these rich snippets thanks to special codes used in the HTML that identify each piece of information to the search engine; Google is able to extract the information, store it in a manner that it understands the data, and display it in the search results.

Google introduced its rich snippets in 2009, reading certain microformats or structured data markup. Check out information about the Google rich snippets markups.

However, Google now also recognizes schemas, which is also used by Bing and some other search engines (though today Google recognizes both its rich-snippet markups and the schema standards).

Rich snippets and schemas let you code information such as the following:

  • Events

  • Local businesses

  • Music

  • Navigation breadcrumb trails

  • Offers

  • Organizations

  • People

  • Products

  • Recipes

  • Restaurants

  • Reviews

  • Software

  • Videos

Google provides a great little Rich Snippets Testing Tool that helps you learn by example. Enter the URL of a page you think has been coded, and the tool pulls the data from the page and extracts the individual fields.

Here, for instance, are a few pieces of code pulled from a FoodNetwork.com recipe. First, here’s the photograph that Google displayed in the search results:

<img class="photo" height="120" width="160"

The class=photo piece identifies this as the photograph of the dish. In the next piece of code, Food Network is identifying the author of the recipe; yep, the class=author is the relevant code:

<p class="author">Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2004</p>

Here you can see various ingredients (which Google will then parse to pull out the primary terms that it places into the snippet on the search results page: garlic, not 8 cloves garlic, minced):

<li class="ingredient">1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 to 7 1/2 pounds</li>
<li class="ingredient">1/4 cup fresh lemon juice</li>
<li class="ingredient">8 cloves garlic, minced</li>
<li class="ingredient">3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves</li>

Simple, eh? Well, not entirely. It can take some figuring out, but if you have specialty data such as the preceding listed types, you should spend some time reading up on this stuff.