Microdata and Rich Snippets

If you’ve ever wondered how websites get extra data about their products into their search results, this post is for you. For you WordPress users out there, there’s a link to a plugin you can try down below. But I’d recommend reading through the basic explanation first so you know what’s going on.

By using microdata in your site, your search results may start showing rich snippets, or additional information about your site. You can use microdata to tag different types of content for your site. For example, if you’re doing recipes, your results might look like this:
recipe_rich_snippet

See the rating, number of reviews, preparation time, and even calorie content? That’s the “rich” part of the search result snippet.

If you’re selling (or reviewing) a product, like headphones, your rich snippet might look like this:

headphones_rich_snippet

This one shows the rating, the number of reviews, and the price range of the product.

What is microdata?

Simply put, microdata is extra HTML markup that tells search engines what kind of content you have on your site (products, recipes, music albums, reviews, etc). There’s a standard way of marking up your content with microdata, and it doesn’t impact the way your site looks. It’s just some extra behind-the-scenes information about your site’s content, which shows up in search results as rich snippets.

Let’s take a look at some examples. Here’s an example pulled from schema.org of a product listing without microdata:

example_1

Here’s that same product with microdata:

example_1_microdata

It may look a little intimidating, but don’t worry. Let’s break it down by digging into the maroon-colored terms in the example above.

  • itemscope is what defines the scope of the item you’re dealing with. In this case, all the information about the Dell monitor for sale is wrapped in a div with the itemscope attribute. It doesn’t need a value, and you’ll almost always use this in conjunction with itemtype.
  • itemtype is the type of item you’re dealing with (product, reviews, recipes, etc). There’s a list of all the possible item types on schema.org.
  • itemprop is where you define a property about the item. This example uses image, name, and ratingValue as item properties (among others). Again, the proper terms to use here can be found on schema.org for the specific itemtype you’re using.

That’s it. Now take a second to go through the example above and see if you can figure out what each instance of itemscope, itemtype, and itemprop does. By using these three attributes in your HTML, you’re telling search engines what kind of content you have, and specifically what information they should care about when surfacing your site in their search results.

How do I know what microdata markup to use on my site?

Google offers a really helpful Structured Data Markup Helper, which will take the URL of your site and the type of item you want to markup, and help walk you through the attributes and values you should be using.

markup_helper

This should be your first stop as you work on figuring out how to properly use microdata on your site.

How can I test to see if my microdata is working?

Once you’ve tagged your content, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which lets you put in the URL you’d like to test. It’ll show you how it’s interpreting your microdata markup and how the rich snippet will look.

NOTE: Keep in mind that it takes time for your microdata to show up as rich snippets in search results. If you’re having issues with the process, check out this Google article on common issues and questions.

Here’s an example of what Google’s testing tool will show you, from some of my own testing for my wife’s product, Stitch People:

stitch_people_rich_snippets

You’ll see that it’s showing product rating, number of votes/reviews, and the price range of the product on the site.

Here’s a sample of what some of my microdata markup looks like to generate that information from StitchPeople.com:

stitch_people_microdata

Is there a WordPress plugin that’ll handle microdata for me?

Absolutely. There are several plugins available to help you start using microdata on your site. Take a look specifically at All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets to get started. You can also do a search for ‘schema.org’ on wordpress.org to find other plugins that’ll do the same thing.

Where can I find more info on microdata?

If you want to get a little more technical, you can start diving through the documentation on schema.org. If you’re not using a WordPress plugin or other tool to help you, you’ll probably end up going through the documentation to find the values to use for itemtype and itemprop.

Google also has a great page on microdata that you can check out.

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