iCrossing explain the benefits of rich snippets
Some of the most commonly asked questions we receive from clients include the potential impact on click-through rate (CTR) from:
- Authors’ photos appearing in Google’s search results
- Video thumbnails ranking for competitive keywords
In general, it’s difficult to forecast the impact certain types of rich snippets will have prior to implementation as it would largely depend on several factors such as:
- The niche itself. Different niches experience different CTR increases.
- The type of the query i.e. navigational, transactional, informational.
- The reputation and expertise of the person appearing in the SERP. Easily recognisable authors (i.e. experts or celebrities) are likely to attract a higher number of clicks.
- The quality of the author’s profile picture or video thumbnail. Those more appropriate and appealing to the audience’s niche will attract more clicks.
- The number of rich snippets appearing in Google’s SERPs for a given keyword. For instance, if for a given query there is just one snippet appearing with authorship that would attract a higher CTR compared to a query where all snippets appear with authorship. Similarly, a video snippet wouldn’t see a high CTR if it ranks amongst several other video results as opposed to a video snippet being the only one rich snippet ranking for a given keyword.
- Google’s reaction. There are no guarantees Google will turn a plain snippet into a rich snippet i.e. some keywords may rank with a video snippet whereas others may not.
Measuring the CTR impact of rich snippets
Once a new rich snippet type apears in the SERPs its impact can be measured by:
- Analysing the number of clicks reported in Webmaster Tools
- Looking into the the number of visits and pageviews in analytics
Combining the above data will suffice in order to measure the true impact of rich snippets. For authorship (or video snippets) it would be worth testing a few different profile photos (or video thumbnails) to help determine which ones perform better. In the unlikely event that authorship or video snippets appear to have a negative impact on CTR they could instantly be removed.
The major benefits of rich snippets
Despite CTR impact being difficult to estimate prior to implementation, it is still worth taking notice of all major benefits of rich snippets:
- Authorship snippets can increase CTR, even from lower positions
- Increasing CTR from lower positions could in some cases result in higher rankings i.e. when users do not bounce back in the SERPs and google decides to reward the positive user signals with higher ranking.
- Keywords ranking for pages where authorship has been implemented may get some extra ranking weight in the future.
- Stay ahead of competition and benefit from future Google updates.
Personalised results in organic search increase CTR
Google has recently published a thorough study on the impact of social annotations in web search. The focus of the research is on the way personalised results affect user behaviour but the findings can arguably demonstrate the impact of rich snippets up to some extent.
We expected subjects to fixate on peoples’ pictures more than names due to their saliency, yet our data suggests that pictures and names are noticed at about the same frequency
In the below eye tracking heatmap the 4th result, which appears with a profile photo, received a lot more attention compared to the second and third plain snippets.
It is also worth noting that the 5th result received hardly any attention. Google’s study does not provide any further information on how much of this behaviour is attributed to the rich snippet nature of the 4th SERP and how much to the fact that it is a personalised search result. However, both elements must have contributed to the increased attention.
Authors’ photos appearing in Google’s SERPs as well as other other types of rich snippets can definitely increase the user CTR depending on several factors. Because it is very difficult to estimate in advance the CTR increase of rich snippets it is best to implement rich snippets and measure the impact they have on CTR.