What are rich snippets?
Ever searched in Google and saw a ginormous ranking just above the search results?… These large search results are called “rich snippets” and can send a mind-blowing amount of traffic.
Before I jump into techniques, still not sure what I’m talking about? Quickly Google a couple of questions and look for the giant search result at the top of the results, you can’t miss it—it’s four times bigger than a regular search result. Here’s example searches that usually deliver a rich snippet in the results, “what are rich snippets”, “how to get started in real estate”, “how to increase your blog traffic”, and so on…
Why you need to focus on rich results.
Considering banging your head against the wall, wondering why you’re reading such a soul-destroying dry topic? Well, don’t throw this book out the window just yet…
These new technologies allow greater control over search listings, making it easier for search engines to crawl your site, potentially featuring your content as a “rich result” appearing at the top of the results, helping you get higher click-through rates and get more eyeballs on content. Think of this technology like meta tags on steroids…
Still not convinced? With voice search predicted to be 50% of searches by the end of 2020 by Comscore, and 40% of voice search results originating from rich results, targeting rich-results is a must—if you want to get amongst the rising voice search trend.
Why use Structured Data and JSON-LD?
To tell Google which parts of your content you want considered for a rich result, you need to use code called “structured data.” With new technologies, as always, there’s a debate about the best to use—JSON-LD, RDFa, microdata, the list goes on…
I won’t waste your time with a technical debate. Google has openly stated JSON-LD is the preferred code—and made it clear not to mix structured data technologies for fear of confusing the search engine spider…
We’re here for high rankings and traffic, not a lengthy diatribe on each individual technology, so let’s go with what Google recommends for the purposes of this book—JSON-LD.
How to get started with JSON-LD.
So, what does all this JSON-LD structured data stuff look like? Let’s look at a business listing to see how it should be coded, according to Google’s recommendations.
“name”: “Unlimited Ball Bearings Corp.”,
“contactType”: “Customer service”
The JSON-LD example code from Google gives the search engine a friendly nudge to recognize the information as a business listing, such as the name and the phone number.
While the above example will be just enough if you have a simple business listing, you or your developer will have to use Google’s documentation and tools, listed later in this chapter, to ensure your code is implemented correctly.
Different Types of Rich Results Supported by Google.
Google supports the below rich results. If you have any of these content types on your site, you can benefit from Google’s recommended additional code.
– Critic review
– Employer Aggregate Rating
– Fact Check
– Job Posting
– Job Training (beta)
– Local Business Listing
– Review snippet
– Sitelinks Searchbox
– Software App (beta)
– Speakable (news content)
– Subscription and paywalled content
Holy cow! That’s a lot of different search result types. Fortunately, Google has listed them neatly with example code at the following page.
Search Gallery of Structured Data – Google
When you or your developer are testing the code on your site, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and make sure the code is implemented correctly. Finally, use Google’s Rich Results Test and preview how your page can appear in the search results.
Structured Data Testing Tool – Google
Rich Results Test – Google
How to target featured snippet rankings in Google’s search results.
After you’ve uploaded a bunch of fancy JSON-LD code into your site, you’re probably wondering when you appear at the top of the results… Using JSON-LD is just one step, if you want to achieve the coveted featured snippet ranking, you’ll need to satisfy the following requirements.
1. Rank on the first page, first. Almost all featured snippets are fetched from rankings on the first page. Follow techniques from the On-Page SEO and Link building chapter and work your way up the results first.
2. Create “snippet bait” targeting 40-50 words. SEMrush did a giant study on rich results and featured snippets, finding almost all text-based rich snippets range between 40 to 50 words.
3. Structure your content to target featured snippets. Hint: putting target keywords as H2 or H3 headings, followed with clear and concise paragraphs around 40-50 words, is a solid approach.
5. Use images. Featured snippets often contain images, I like to call them “snimmages”—for some reason, this terminology never really caught on like I hoped… Using images increases chances for both text and images appearing in the featured snippet. According to Google’s official guidelines, images should be at least 1200 pixels wide. And using multiple high-resolution images with aspect ratios 16×9, 4×3, and 1×1 can help with appearing on different devices.
How to target “People also ask” and question-based rich results.
There’s another popular type of rich snippet appearing for almost any question type search—the “People also ask” rich snippet. Fortunately, some clever SEOs have figured out general techniques for targeting these sexy rankings.
1. Your desired ranking must be a question type keyword. Searches not phrased as a question won’t always trigger a “People always ask” snippet, best focus on question type keywords.
2. Your answer should be clear and concise. Well-written and clear answers have a much greater chance of being featured then poorly written answers. Remember the 40-50 words technique from earlier in this chapter.
3. Include a Q&A or how-to section on your site. Increase content in a question and answer format and increase your odds of being featured for question-type searches.
4. Provide more valuable information than a simple and direct answer. If your answer has numbered lists, rich media such as images and videos, and is generally more helpful than an obvious answer to the question, then you have a greater chance of being featured.
5. Add Google’s recommended question-type JSON-LD code to relevant pages… While this won’t guarantee results, it’ll encourage Google to look at your pages and consider them for use in the rich results. Recommended JSON-LD code is listed at each of the following pages.
FAQ – Structured Data, Google Search
How-to – Structured Data, Google Search
Q&A – Structured Data, Google Search
Voice search SEO and Google’s Speakable structured data.
With the rise of miniature circular voice speaking robots invading people’s homes—virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant—it comes with little surprise Google is making moves to capture this market, and you can too!
Before we cover Google’s “Speakable” markup, and how any business can optimize for voice search, you might be wondering why voice search is important—after all, you want customers to read content on your site, not have it spoken aloud, right?
Well, not necessarily… If voice searchers find a solid voice answer, they are likely to visit your site. Voice search is in an upward trend and best viewed as an additional source of traffic, not something that will take away from current traffic. Now we’ve established it’s worthwhile putting voice search optimization on the radar, lets jump into the gritty details.
Implementing Speakable for US based news publishers.
Implementing Speakable is straightforward. Firstly, you need to be a US based news publisher. Secondly, you need to submit your site for consideration in Google’s Publisher Center. Finally, you will need to direct your site developer to review Schema.org’s technical guidelines and implement the code on your site. Review the following resources and get started.
Google – Speakable and Submission for Eligibility
Schema.org – Speakable Developer Documentation
Voice Search Optimization for regular site owners and marketers.
We’re not all US-based news publishers and it’s understandable regular site owners and marketers want to jump on the voice search bandwagon. While voice search optimization is new, a handful of techniques have been established by industry insiders. Implement these and you will increase your chances of having your words of wisdom echoed by a voice speaking robot in a stranger’s home.
– Short answers in substantial content… Pages with over 2000 words appear more frequently in search results than articles with 500 or so words. Within long-form content, include short-form content, in a question and answer format, using short and concise answers, following the 40-50 word rule mentioned earlier.
– 65% of voice search results use HTTPS and have SSL certificates installed… If you’ve read this far and haven’t installed an SSL certificate, I’m starting to get a little concerned.
– Focus on building an authoritative site in your niche—relevant links, high value content, active social profiles, and so on.
– Make sure your website loads fast—4.6 seconds or faster to be precise. A large portion of voice searches are performed on mobile devices with slow Internet connections.
Check out Neil Patel’s quick and dirty VSO guide for more practical tips.
Neil Patel – 3 SEO Tips for Voice Search Optimization
Facebook Open Graph.
While we know schema.org is the best approach for adding meta data to your site, there is one additional meta data technology you should also use.
Facebook’s Open Graph language allows you to determine how your site listing appears when shared on Facebook.
If you do not include Facebook’s Open Graph code on your site, when a user shares your content on Facebook it will show a plain listing on the news feed, with the responsibility on the user to describe the article and make it worth reading. If you include Facebook Open Graph code, it comes up looking sexy, just like your search listings if you have been using your meta title and meta description tags correctly.
By putting your best foot forward, and making your listing show up correctly on Facebook, you will encourage more customers to click to your site and increase the amount of likes and shares for your page. This will increase the overall social signals of the page.
Here’s an example of properly formatted meta code using Facebook Open Graph. As you can see, there are only minor tweaks required to make your page show up nicely on Facebook’s news feed. So go ahead and use it on your site!
<title>Buy Baseball Jackets Online</title>
<meta property=’og:type’ content=’site’>
<meta property-‘og:description’ name=’description’ content=’Wide range of Baseball Jackets online, for all leagues and players. Free delivery and free returns both-ways in USA.’/>
If you’re worried about confusing search engines by using several “structured data” technologies at the same time, such as Open Graph and schema.org, don’t worry, you won’t have any problems.
Facebook Open Graph is mainly used by Facebook’s web crawler, not by search engines, so you can use Open Graph and schema.org in tandem without any problems.
If you want to read up further on Facebook’s Open Graph, or if you have complex types of listings on your site, checkout Facebook’s Open Graph guide below.
Open Graph Protocol
11. Powerful SEO tools.
The following tools can help find link building opportunities, diagnose site issues, create easy-to-understand SEO reports, make Google crawl your site faster and much more. Ultimately, the following tools make it easier to achieve high rankings, and can potentially save hours, days or weeks of time.
Are there more SEO tools out there than in this list? Sure. SEO tools are a dime a dozen. The following is a selection of the tools I have found useful and to list out the tools mentioned in this book, for ease of reference. Some are free, some are paid, but most offer a free trial long enough to start optimizing your site. I have no affiliation with any of these sites, I’ve just listed tools that I find useful. So, jump in and have fun.
KWFinder is a fairly new research tool to the market, providing traffic data for keywords, estimated SEO difficulty, competitive data on sites ranking in the top 10, and much more. Its well-rounded feature set means you could use this tool alone for your keyword research without having to use multiple tools. Plans start at $49 per month.
Google Ads Keyword Planner
The Google Ads Keyword Planner has been mentioned several times throughout this book for good reason, it allows you to download estimated traffic for keywords users are typing into Google’s search box—powerful knowledge to have in your SEO toolkit. You can see how many times a keyword has been searched in Google in granular detail. You can narrow this down by country and device type, including mobile phones and so on. During recent years, Google has clamped down on the free data available to non-paying users, to access all the research data you will need an active Google Ads campaign and must be regularly spending at least a modest amount of money.
Google Trends -Free
Google Trends provides powerful stats of search trends over time. Great for seeing how your market performs overall, and how demand changes over time for your keywords.
Moz – Free and Paid.
No book on SEO would ever be complete without a mention of Moz. Moz offers keyword analysis, brand monitoring, rankings tracking, on-page SEO suggestions, search engine crawl tests, and much more. An essential toolbox for every SEO practitioner, from beginner to advanced.
SEOQuake – Free
The SEOQuake toolbar gives you a powerful set of stats for any site you visit, right within your browser.
SEOQuake also has a great option that gives you the important stats for pages ranking in Google’s search results. A great tool for snooping on competitors and doing market research.
SEOQuake’s powerful toolbar works on Google Chrome, Safari & Firefox.
Ubersuggest – Free
Automatically download the auto-suggested keywords from Google’s search results for a nice, juicy collection of long-tail keywords.
LSIGraph: LSI Keyword Generator
Generate semantic, long-tail and LSI keyword suggestions. Great for both SEO and PPC campaigns.
Answer The Public
Answer The Public crawls the web and generates a massive list of questions your customers are asking, across the Internet, related to your keyword.
Google Page Speed Insights – Free
Google Page Speed Insights is a fantastic tool provided by Google to help speed up your site. Google Page Speed Insights will give you a score on how well your load time is performing, and provide a simple set of suggestions to forward to your developers and speed up your site.
Google Snippet Optimization Tool – Free
This handy little tool lets you type out title tags and meta tags and see a live preview of how your site will appear in the search engines.
Google Search Console – Free
Google Search Console is another great tool. If you haven’t got Google Search Console set up, drop what you are doing and set it up now!
Google Search Console will report urgent messages if there are any severe problems when Google comes along and crawls your site. You can also submit your sitemap directly to Google from within Google Search Console, meaning you know Google has been given a friendly nudge to come around and pick up all the content on your site. This is a must-have SEO tool for every site.
HTTP Status Code Checker
If you have ever set up a URL redirect, or asked your developer to, it’s always a good idea to check and ensure the redirect has been set up correctly.
Use the redirect checker to make sure your redirects are returning successful responses to the web browser, so you can feel confident Google is picking it up properly too.
Lighthouse – Tools For Web Developers – Google
Lighthouse provides reports on website performance, accessibility, adherence to programming best practices, SEO and more—with actionable steps on improving each of these areas. Lighthouse is best suited for advanced developers working on complicated projects, opposed to finding easily identifiable improvements for simple websites.
Robots.txt Analyzer – Free
Many robots.txt files can often have slight errors that are difficult to pick up, especially for larger sites. Run your robots.txt file through this tool for a free analysis to see if there are any errors.
Robots.txt Generator -Free
If you’re lazy like I am, you’ll love this free robots.txt generator. Works great for both basic or advanced robots.txt users to create robots.txt files quickly and easily.
Schema Creator – Free
Great and easy-to-use tool to automatically generate your schema.org markup.
Pingdom Website Speed Test – Free
The Pingdom Website Speed Test is a great tool for monitoring how quickly your site is loading and find opportunities to make it load even faster.
With the Pingdom Speed test you can see how fast your site loads, and how large the files are on your site. You can easily find the large files on your site that are chewing up resources and bloating your load time.
Test My Site – Think With Google
This tool is both easy-to-use and indispensable for finding easy-win load speed improvements for mobile users—and handy for seeing how your site performs compared to competitors.
Fortunately, the handy tool provides free reports and if you follow the recommendations and get your site performing better than competitors, you can make out like a bandit in the search results.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth – Free
Don’t be put off by the old-school design of the page that offers this very powerful SEO-tool for free.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth is one of the most powerful SEO-tools available, that will crawl your entire site, or a list of links, and offer very powerful and juicy stats for each of your pages, such as stats on which pages have 404 errors, 301 redirects, server errors, title tags, meta desc tags, the list goes on! This tool has been around for years, and is a must-have tool for the more advanced SEO practitioner.
XML Sitemaps – Free trial. $19.99 for large sites.
XML Sitemaps is a fantastic tool for creating an XML sitemap to submit to Google. Useful for sites that do not have a built in XML sitemap functionality.
The tool automatically formats the sitemap so it is in the right format for Google and other search engines. With XML Sitemaps you can create a sitemap for your site within minutes.
Link building tools.
Possibly one of my favorite tools. Link Clump is a free Chrome extension that allows you to highlight and copy all the links on the page in one click. Great for copying the Google search results into a spreadsheet, without having to individually visit each page.
Ahrefs All-in-One SEO Toolset – $7 trial, then $99 per month.
Ahrefs offers arguably the most up-to-date index of links pointing to websites, and a highly accurate tool for analyzing links pointing to your site—and to your competitors. It also offers other competitive data, like keyword suggestions and estimated traffic numbers, so you can be sneaky and copy keyword ideas from your competitors.
Buzzstream – Free trial. $24 per month starter plan available.
Buzzstream is the darling of many link builders and content marketers. It is an end-to-end outreach platform, meaning it can find contact details, send emails, track relationships, and more. Buzzstream doesn’t allow automatic follow-ups nor one-click sending for your campaigns, so a bit of manual work is required to run campaigns through Buzzstream.
Hunter is purely focused on finding contact details and is very good at it. It has a nice Chrome plugin that shows you the all the contact details it can find for a particular site while browsing. Free plans include up to 100 contact information requests, for more contact requests plans start at $49 per month.
Mailshake is pure-outreach. You will need to provide contact information yourself. It is effective at sending personalized email campaigns, and you can import all the personalization info including name, address and a personal message via csv file. Includes automatic follow-ups, email template libraries, and more. Plans start at $59 per month.
Ninja Outreach is another end-to-end outreach platform, including finding contact details, sending emails, personalization, automatic follow-ups and more. I have noticed the majority of bloggers on this platform ask for you to pay to contribute to their site, which is a downside in my opinion. Pricing starts at $299 per month.
Pitchbox is an enterprise-level outreach platform, including finding contact details, personalized emails, automated follow-ups, detailed reporting, and more. Pitchbox is more suited for larger teams or campaigns, SEO agencies and SEO professionals. It comes at a higher price point, but it is sometimes the preferred tool for serious SEO guys and gals, due to having more features and flexibility than the other platforms. Plans start at $195 per month.
Moz – Link Explorer – Free for limited access. $99 per month for pro users.
Link Explorer is a must for understanding the links pointing to your site and competitors’ sites. Cheeky little tricks with Link Explorer include exporting competitors’ backlinks and looking over these links for opportunities to build links to your site. For higher level of detail, I do prefer Ahrefs when it comes to analyzing links, but Moz’s ease of use and simple design for beginners make it a solid choice for SEO newbies.
Web analytics tools.
Google Analytics is the market leader in web analytics, and the best part is it’s free. It allows you to track the visitors on your site, where they came from, how much money they spent if you are running an online store, and you can track online enquiries if you are running a local business. It’s an essential tool for every website.
Call Rail is popular for its ease-of-use, international support, integrations with Google Analytics, Google Ads, WordPress, Salesforce and flexibility. It also includes cool features like text messaging, geo-routing, voicemail and more. Plans start at $30 per month.
Call Tracking Metrics
Call Tracking Metrics is another popular platform, also offering international support, Google Analytics, Google Ads, WordPress integrations, and overall, similar features to Call Rail. Some online user reports mention preferring Call Rail for its simplicity and flexibility, and found Call Tracking Metrics a little difficult to navigate, but in the end, it’s often best to trial both platforms initially and see what works best for your business. Plans start at $39 per month.
Crazy Egg – Free to start. Plants start at $24 per month.
If you want a visual indication of how visitors behave on your site once they arrive, Crazy Egg is a fantastic tool. With Crazy Egg, you can get heat maps of where visitors click on the page. You can also see heat maps of how far visitors scroll down the page.
Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio will create visual reports so you can monitor almost anything—calls, ad campaigns on various platforms, search rankings, Salesforce leads, your bookkeeping system, the list goes on. The best part is, it’s free.
Bonus chapter 1: Google’s algorithm updates.
You need to be informed about Google’s updates to ensure your site doesn’t trigger Google’s spam filters. In some cases, you can take advantage of updates to the algorithm and get higher rankings. In this chapter I will walk you through the biggest updates over the years that you should be aware of. And at the end of this chapter, I will show you resources for catching wind of the newest updates as they are released. Let’s get started.
Google’s Interstitial update – A.K.A. “Death to mobile popups.”
Google announced on the Google Search Central Blog on January 2017, sites displaying obtrusive “interstitials” to mobile users wouldn’t rank as high in the search results, and this type of advertising behavior would be banished from the cosmos! If you’re wondering what “interstitial” means, it’s Silicon Valley tech-speak for a popup ad.
Let’s have a quick read over the announcement from the team at Google and then look at what this update means for businesses:
“Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:
Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.”
Helping Users Easily Access Content On Mobile
In other words, with the exception of cookie verifications and legal notices, age verifications, and app install banners, all other popups will lead to poor performance in the mobile search results.
I’m on the fence on this update, I know from experience a lot of site owners and business owners achieve significant sales from subscribers that sign up to their popups. Dictating the marketing of site owners to such a degree could be considered an over-reach from Google. By making it more difficult for site-owners to maximize the sales of their website visitors, is Google encouraging site owners to spend more money on Google Ads and remarketing campaigns to encourage more customers to return to their site?… I’ll let you decide.
On the other hand, a significant number of sites load unnecessarily slow and make mobile web browsing a clunky, slow and unreliable experience. Quite often, the cause of the slow loading is the site owner clogging up their site with complicated scripts and files that power the popup ads—sorry, I mean interstitials. Google has played a significant role in nudging website owners to update their technology and make browsing the web an effortless and usable experience, which is good for the Internet community as a whole.
Whatever your feelings about this update, this is going to be a positive change for users. The way we browse the web on our phones will become faster and more reliable as a result. Just ensure you disable mobile pop-ups or you will likely see some drop-offs in your mobile search visitors. Death to popups, long live browser notifications!
Accelerated Mobile Pages—A.K.A. Mobile web browsing on steroids.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What are Accelerated Mobile Pages all about, exactly?” If you haven’t, then maybe you should, because the behemoth open source project known as Accelerated Mobile Pages can help sites get a major boost in the search results. So much so, the Google team announced on September 12, 2016, on the Google Search Central Blog that sites equipped with the Accelerated Mobile Pages technology are going to be rewarded with “expanded exposure.” The descriptions are noticeably vague, like most statements from Google, but before jumping to conclusions let’s look at what Accelerated Mobile Pages are all about, exactly.
Accelerated Mobile Pages is a collaborative effort between Google, and a gazillion notable publishing companies around the globe, such as Mashable, The Guardian, The New York Times, and many others. The development teams of these organizations have been working together to craft a new technology making mobile web browsing faster, to a significant degree. To their credit, pages enabled with the Accelerated Mobile Pages technology are noticeably fast, snappy and responsive when you view them on your phone.
Some examples of techniques AMP employs to make mobile web browsing super-fast include:
1) Only allowing asynchronous scripts. Quite often websites won’t load the page until particular scripts have been downloading in full, with this new restriction it will only accept scripts that load in the background and don’t block the loading on the page.
2) Only running GPU-accelerated animations. Believe it or not, some webpages use unreasonably complicated scripts causing your mobile’s processor to slow down, with this restriction the AMP creators are forcing simpler calculations on websites that can be processed quickly by the graphics processor on your phone.
3) Pre-rendering, A.K.A. loading pages in advance. Another powerful technique, pre-rending intelligently loads pages you are likely to visit in the background, so that when you get around to visiting them there’s no need to wait for it to download.
The above examples are only a few of the many techniques the authors of AMP use to make websites load significantly faster on mobile phones. If you want to check out which platforms support this technology, the folks over at the AMP project have created a list of websites currently providing AMP capability.