or “Rich Results”
Google is constantly shifting and evolving, its developers coming up with new and intuitive ways to display answers to users’ search queries. One recent development is the ‘rich answer’.
Also known as ‘rich results’, rich answers are becoming increasingly important to SEO as Google users are coming to rely on them for both quick answers to quick questions and breakdowns of complex topics.
What are rich answers?
The best way to answer that question, appropriately enough, is by showing you a rich answer:
Immediately familiar to googlers everywhere, rich answers are the snippets of information often found in boxes above the normal search results. These rich results are taken from websites that rank highly in search, answer a question in what Google thinks is a comprehensive and readable way, and use a form of structured data markup that helps Google display them dynamically.
Though infrequent at first, Google is increasing the number of rich answers it presents. Some have calculated that Google displays rich results for up to 31.2% of search queries. At the moment, this is likely a vast overestimate, as most one-word or non-question searches do not return rich answers. Still, given Google’s recent introduction of ‘rich cards’ and the continued focus on mobile search, it seems likely that rich answers will grow in prominence as Google continues to change.
What are the types of rich answer?
Rich answers can appear in a variety of formats depending on what kind of search query a user has entered and what kind of answer Google thinks it needs. Each kind has a different look, intended for a different purpose or functionality.
Rich snippets (sometimes known as ‘featured snippets’) were the first kind of rich answer and they are still the most common. They consist of a text box which encompases an exerpt of text from a web page above the title of the page it is taken from, often with an image.
Rich snippets can often take the form of lists, making them perfect for the following items:
Rich cards are a new development in the world of rich answers. Google introduced them in May 2016 as part of its continued shift towards a focus on mobile search. Since nearly 60% of searches take place on mobile, this refocus is intended to help Google stay current and adapt to user trends.
Unlike rich snippets, rich cards appear in squares with minimal text. Half of the card is the title and star rating; half of the card is an image.
You may have encountered other rich results during your time searching. Answers pertaining to things like dates, measurements and definitions are often sourced from Google’s own knowledge graph, and not from websites. Things like filmographies are also sourced from the knowledge graph.
For information about the knowledge graph and SEO, see our glossary page on the knowledge graph.
How do rich answers affect SEO?
SEO agencies need to pay close attention to rich answers as they grow in prominence in order to keep their clients relevant in search results.
Research has shown that the size of rich answers means they obscure traditional search results. Rank 1 is moved down the page to around the position of rank 2 and so on. Because of this good SEO agencies will do all they can to get their clients’ web pages to appear as rich answers in Google.
But creating a rich snippet-worthy web page is a difficult and complex process, as Google takes many factors into account to choose the rich results it displays.
How does Google choose rich answers?
There are a few components that any web page needs before Google will consider it as a rich answer:
1. Valuable, high quality content
If the page does a better job at answering a question or addressing a query than any other page, it may well make the grade for a rich answer. SEO agencies can help you write informative content with the relevant keyword vocabulary to give your pages a stronger chance of being chosen as a rich answer.
2. Schema markup
Schema markup is the key to getting a page considered as a rich answer. It is essentially a kind of code vocabulary that allows web developers to tell search engines more about certain entities on their site. For example, Google may see the words “Go Up” as a simple verb and direction, but schema markup can tell them it is the name of a company. The best SEO agencies will be implementing schema markup in a strategic way wherever they think it will have an impact.
3. The answer to a popular question
At the moment, Google only returns rich answers for popular questions or searches that can be addressed in a simple box. SEO agencies can help you find a popular search that your company could provide the best answer to and optimise the page to give it more chance of appearing as a rich result.
Rich answers reading list: