Marketing success today, rightly or wrongly, is often determined by your visibility in search engines, and the biggest by far is Google.
Your business could live or die depending on your search results. So getting your SEO right, and ensuring that your buyers find you when they are looking is crucial to success.
But while your competitors are also employing their SEO techniques to lead to their content, what can you do to get ahead in the SEO arms race?
One way is through Google’s rich results, previously known under various names – rich snippets, rich cards or enriched results, Google has now tied them down and called them rich results. But what are they? And how can they help a B2B business?
What are Google’s Rich Results?
According to Google: “Rich results are search results that go beyond the standard blue link, they may include a carousel, image or other non-textual UI elements.”
If you do any kind of search in Google, you will notice that there are now different types of entries and if you ask a specific question, there is often a box highlighting a good answer. (Search for How do I Create a Marketing Plan – for example).
Now some of these entries are adverts – and this is a good way to get noticed (search engine advertising is a whole separate topic in itself), but some will be featured because they are rich results with images, maps and text boxes. No longer are Google’s result pages just a list of links. Not only are these links often featured above other links that would normally rank higher, but they are more noticeable – they are often presented in boxes and always stand out more.
So it is in your interest to understand how they work and how you can take advantage of them.
Types of rich results
There are five main types of Rich Results:
Featured snippets (also known as instant answers) are the featured answers in a box that you will often see at the top of the results. This is sometimes shown in a list with bullets or numbers. The information is drawn from a web page and displayed with a link to that page below.
Map Snippets are minimaps that show locations – Google shows this when you are looking for something that you might have to visit a physical location for. The map has red pins with three listings below showing address, ratings, contact information and business hours (if appropriate).
Rich ads are adverts with images; these would have to be paid for and are not part of organic search.
Videos – these don’t often turn up as featured snippets at the top of the page, but appear for some searches. Generally, 'how to' videos are the most likely type to be highlighted. Otherwise, you often see videos as a thumbnail alongside a search result.
Rich Snippets appear in the regular results but include a small image and sometimes further information depending on what you are searching for.
Not all of these rich results are useful or appropriate for B2B marketing. But where they can be used, they will give you a distinct advantage over the standard listings. (You can see examples of many of the different types of rich results at Google’s developer site.)
How do they work?
Google looks for Schema Markup on your website. If a site owner has implemented the correct markup in the right way, Google can lift those marked elements out and display them in search results.
Without getting too technical, it’s something that your web developer should be able to implement fairly easily – Google even provides a Structured Data Markup Helper to help generate the right code.
But it’s not that easy.
While you can have the markup perfectly implemented throughout your site, there is no guarantee that Google will choose your information to feature in a rich result. So how can you optimise for Google’s featured snippets?
The answer should come as no surprise to anyone involved in content marketing – you have to provide useful, relevant information that answers the questions that people searching for your products and services are asking.
When working on SEO for your content you are constantly looking at keywords – especially groups of keywords and phrases – and that’s what you need here too. Try and think of common questions that your buyers would be asking. These are questions that typically start with:
- How does
- How do
- How to
- What is
Write as many of these down as you can. Then go to Google and run a search on each of them. Take note of those that produce rich results – especially the featured snippets. Look at the answers and see if you can create better, more concise and more helpful answers. Then incorporate that into your website with the appropriate schema markup.
Google also looks at the authority of the website too though, so you wouldn’t be able to replace an answer provided by Wikipedia for example, as Google is likely to rate its authority as higher than yours.
It is worth looking at your high ranking pages. There is some evidence to suggest that if your page ranks high, then information from it is more likely to feature in a rich result.
Some companies are setting up specific pages on their websites to answer customer questions with a view to generating answers that Google will feature.
There is also no harm in creating answers to questions for which there is no featured snippet show up in the search results. While it is less likely that Google will use your answer, it’s still worth doing just in case Google does, as the benefits will be worth the effort.
Be aware that Google can feature information from your website in a rich result even without markup – but that would be a long shot at best.
Finally, don’t expect instant results – it can take time for rich results to show up – up to two to three weeks, as it relies on Google crawling your website.
Even though there is no guarantee that you will get featured in rich results, if you do, then the impact can be significant.