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updated 6/14/2013 3:17:56 PM ET 2013-06-14T19:17:56

Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) strategy and best practices change constantly as search engines like Google continue to roll out new algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin. The result is that brands and marketers can no longer take shortcuts. It's all about building trust and driving quality website traffic that will impact the bottom line. This comes from improving click-through rates for organic search results, which is where the underutilized function of rich snippets comes into play.

A rich snippet is essentially just a small summary of the data that a user can expect to see on a webpage. Rich snippets have no direct effect on improving rankings, but they add significant value to an organic listing in the search engine results and can dramatically increase website traffic. They can come in the form of Google author information, ratings and reviews, event notifications and products.

Rich snippets improve click through rates dramatically by improving the appearance of the listing, providing more information to the user, and increasing real estate on the page for better visibility. They help verify exactly what the user is looking for, so when they click through to the web page, they are more likely to stick around. This reduces bounce rate and increases time on site.

Now that we understand the benefits, let's look at the two most impactful ways to use rich snippets and how to get started:

Google Authorship
One of the most popular ways to use a rich snippet is through Author snippets. This relatively new feature allows users to see the author's name, Google+ profile picture, number of followers and links to more content the author has created. Content marketing is the new foundation for SEO. Guest posts with links back to your site are a great way to improve rankings. 

Here are some simple steps to set up Google authorship for guest posting:

  • Setup a Google+ profile. A Google+ profile is a prerequisite for Authorship markup. This is how Google knows you are, in fact, you, and not someone else with the same name.
  • Link to your Google+ profile from your guest posts using rel=”author” tag. Typically, you will want to set up a contributing author BIO page and include the link there. For blogs that allow guest posts, your author BIO and Google+ link will appear at the top or bottom of each post. 
  • Link to the article from the Contributor section of your Google+ profile. Now that you have the Google Authorship markup language in your bio on the guest post, we have to complete the connection. This is a simple process. Go to your Google+ profile and edit the contributor section to include the url of the blog where the guest post is being published.
  • Verify the connection with Google's Rich Snippet Testing Tool. Navigate your browser to the Google Rich Snippets testing tool and input the url of your guest post once it is published. The tool will tell you whether authorship markup is present.

Once everything is set up properly, and you run a keyword search for your posts, the results will appear as shown below.

Ratings and reviews
Another effective way to use rich snippets is for ratings and reviews. The goal of a review rich snippet is to improve the appearance of the listing and provide users with review information about a specific product or service, such as the star rating -- 1 to 5 stars -- and the name of reviewer(s).

There are many different types of rich snippet code you can have within your HTML to display different reviews. The most common, and easiest to setup is aggregate voting, as shown in the example above. This allows a user to vote on a product or service giving a score, either out of 5 or 10. 

Wordpress has great plugins available to accomplish this. These plugins will automatically generate and update your rich snippets code every time there is a new review. One of the better plugins to generate rich snippet codes for your web pages is GD Star Rating. There are many plugins that all have the same functionality and generate the same rich snippet code.
 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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