How to Avoid Google’s New Rich Snippets Manual Penalty

Last week Google started enacting a new manual penalty for Rich Snippet SPAM.  Now for just using Rich Snippets, but for those websites which are blatantly abusing the system so to speak.  The question in most people’s minds is:  What constitutes Rich Snippet SPAM and how can I avoid getting myself and my website into trouble?

The update is aimed to target websites that use rich snippets in a black-hat, spammy manner. But the exact factors triggering the new penalty are not yet known.

And as lots of our plugin users send us worried emails, asking if their sites can get de-ranked by mistake (because they don’t know how to manage rich snippets properly), we put together this quick check list to make sure your rich snippets are in order.

 

What are Rich Snippets?

Rich Snippets are enhanced displays of web page results, including images and other extra information about the website.

As Google puts it, “rich snippets are designed to summarize the content of a page in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page is about in our search results.”  Some people call this Schema, microdata, and even Google calls it Structured Data as well.

Obviously this extended information is likely to attract attention and stimulate higher click-through rates. Thus if you haven’t already heard of rich snippets or incorporated them in your site, you’re missing a great chance to attract extra organic traffic.

 

What Data Gets Into Rich Snippets?

There are types of rich snippets you can use, depending on the type of your site’s content. These types differ for various search engines. Current rich snippets supported by Google are:

Authors: Author photo, name and G+ connections (guidelines)
People: Photos, occupation, contact information (guidelines)
Products: Ratings, picture and price (guidelines)
Businesses & Organizations: Location and customer review. Some other results can also shop up here — say, for restaurants rich snippets may include price range (guidelines)
Recipes: Photo, recipe, rating, time required and calorie content (guidelines)
Events: Event date, location and time (guidelines)
Music: Lyrics and link to play (guidelines)
Videos: preview thumbnail (guidelines)

How Do You Set Rich Snippets Data for Your Website?

Rich Snippets are the result of properly implemented structured data markup. By marking up your page data, you show the search engines and enable them to show users some of the most important information on your pages.  Plus, it also allows you to communicate to Google and other Search Engines more information about your site, its content, and how it should be delivered to visitors via search.

And here’s where it gets a little more complicated, normally there is no easy on or off button inside your CMS that will implement structured data automatically, so you’ll have to apply some tech knowledge and read guidelines for the markup format you prefer (unless you use the SEO Booster Pro Plugin):

  • Microdata as outlined at www.schema.org (view markup example).
  • RDFa (view markup example).

One more thing you have to understand is that implementing structured data doesn’t guarantee that your site will get a rich snippet displayed in search results. It just makes rich snippets possible. Google will ultimately decide if they show the snippets for your site and this also depends on your site’s quality and rank (according to Google).

 

How to Avoid the Manual Penalty?

Ok, so here is the actionable checklist to make sure your rich snippets are in order, the easiest ways to validate your structured data markup and the main points to consider.

Tools to use:

1. “Structured Data Dashboard” in Webmaster Tools Account.

First of all, check out the “Structured Data Dashboard” which you can find at Search Appearance > Structured Data in your Webmaster tools account. There you’ll see a list of the structured data types found on your site and any no errors and technical issues related to them.


2. Rich Snippets Testing Tool.

The rich snippets testing tool lets you check your markup and make sure that Google can extract the structured data (rich snippets markup, meta data, authorship information, and PageMaps) from your page.

This tool will display the following:

— Rich snippets markup found on a specific web page
— PageMap data associated with the page
— Meta tags found on the page
— Author information found on the page
— Keys available to use for restricting and sorting/biasing search results
— A preview of how that page might appear in Google search results
— Examples of extracted markup for specific information types.

Faults to avoid:

1. Hidden Content.

The first no-no for your rich snippets is the content, seen to search engines and hidden from your actual visitors. Even if the data you’d like to be displayed in the rich snippets does not match your design or isn’t really needed to your visitors — never use CSS, value-title, display:none or any other means to hide this data, because this is what Google can potentially see as spamming.


2. Structured Data not matching your pages content.

Make sure the info represented in your structured data markup actually matches the page content, the products or events described on it.

Google sees the main function of rich snippets in making it easier to understand, what a page is about. So, rich snippets that are “alien” to your page can be seen as misleading and manipulative.


3.  Different markup formats within one page.

Make sure rich snippets (at least within one page) are built using one specific markup format. Otherwise Google may find it difficult to read your data correctly.


4.  Incorrect Nesting.

Some items of you structured data can include other items. For example, a restaurant review might include a Person as the author of a review. In this case, you can convey the relationship between these types of data by nesting Person information (reviewer details) inside that review.

Incorrect nesting is a technical issue that is not directly related to spamming, but makes it difficult for Google to correctly interpret your data and may potentially put you into troubles.

You can read Google’s guidelines for proper nesting here.

All of this should help you understand and ensure your Rich Snippets/ Structured Data is in order and meets Google’s guidelines.

Of course, since this subject is one in which we are Experts here at WPSocial.com, You can also simply use our WP Social SEO Booster Pro Plugin and You can rest assured your markup will be perfect and Google friendly.

 

 

10 comments
Julie
Julie

I just checked my Structured Data and here's what Google shows... We do not detect any structured data on your site. What plugin do you recommend to take care of this? Thank you! :)

Chris
Chris

Hey Mike, I'm a wpsocial seo social user and I 'm getting errors on hatom markup, says I'm missing entry title and missing.. updated. it says, This property is missing in the html markup or was not properly highlighted in the Data Highlighter. Do you know how i can correct this? I thougtht i had wpsocial set up correctly unless it doesn't cover this particular markup. I'm good on all the rest of the markups.

gio
gio

Hello Mike, I just wanted to mention that none of the images in the post are displayed properly on Chrome here (your about picture DOES show)

Kim Snyder
Kim Snyder

Hi Mike, I use your WP Social SEO Booster Pro on my blog but not on my website. My site is also Wordpress but it is ecommerce. How can one set up rich snippets for a ecommerce site? Can the WP Social SEO Booster Pro be used with woo-commerce shopping cart?

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

The plugin doesn't cover hatom markup. Quite a few Wordpress Themes do already, so that is something to look at. Mike

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

I just checked the page in 3 browser to include Chrome in Windows and my Mac and it all looks fine to me. Anyone else having issues? Mike

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

Yes it can. It already has the ability to automatically set the Rich Snippet Microdata for "Products" when using the WooCommerce Plugin. For other plugins you can simply set the Product attribute in the Plugin settings. Edit: We use WooCommerce here at WPSocial.com and you can see the effects of the SEO Booster Pro by testing our product pages here in the Rich Snippets Testing tool and see for yourself. :) Mike

Michael
Michael

Which plugin are you using for Woocommerce?

Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

We are using our plugin, the WP Social SEO Booster Pro. It is setup to automatically add the Product Rich Snippets and Open Graph meta data for all WooCommerce products. Mike