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Don’t have time to read now? TL;DR

Rich snippets are still too easy to spam. Star ratings are a joke. Authorship and video snippets are (mostly) gone – good! Recipe images should be the next to go. Tweet John Mueller about rich snippets and you will lose your rich snippets ūüėõ Google must get better at detecting rich snippets abuse or scrap rich snippets altogether.


Whoever coined the phrase “give an inch and they take a mile” –¬†I believe they were talking about SEOs and rich snippets…

In my post about manipulating organic SERPs with a click bot I mentioned that rich snippets were a great way to naturally increase CTR.

I also mentioned that¬†sneaky, manipulative SEOs continue to misuse them and that’s one of the reasons Google keeps taking them away – and so they should!

Well, I have a small confession to make, I’m one of these SEOs that continually abuses the use of structured data markup to SERP rich snippets and I have no shame in saying that I will continue to do so¬†as long as Google allows them to exist.

Some SEOs will hate me saying this, but I believe the SERPs would be a much nicer place without rich snippets. Rich snippets are currently far too easy to manipulate and unless Google becomes better at identifying spammy structured data markup and rich snippets, it should get rid of them altogether.

Types of rich snippets

Star Ratings

Star ratings have always been very easy to implement and very easy to spam. This article by Razvan Gavrilas from cognitiveSEO was an interesting read and also identifies a lot of rich snippets abuse, particularly with star ratings.

How far can you push star ratings? Surely if a page was marked up with 1 billion reviews Google would smell something fishy and not display them. Surely!!

Nope.billion ratings rich snippet

Google seems to have no intelligence when it comes to star ratings and they happily display the 4.9¬†rating from 1 billion reviews. ONE BILLION!!¬†And this has been showing for more than a year!! Come on Google, you’re better than that!

This is why I hate star ratings and I do not trust them! They are too easy to manipulate and you can get away with anything!

Authorship Images

When authorship snippets came along, they made image rich snippets extremely simple. The images were quite small and there were limitations in what you could have as an image (it had to be a human face Рno text, logos etc.). You could play around with bright background colors or cartoon images to help you stand out in the sea of authorship images, but like star ratings, they became far too common and made the SERPs very messy.

The image below shows the size of authorship images in relation to video rich snippet images:

authorship rich snippet vs video rich snippet

Video Images

Video rich snippets were my absolute favorite because of the larger image size and they were quite easy to get – but they required a bit more effort than authorship images.

You had to go to the effort of creating the videos, adding the correct markup and creating a video sitemap.

I created videos that were all around 1 minute long and all consisted of a single frame. Google didn’t care that there was nothing of value at all in these videos and neither did I – they were only there to get the rich snippets.

For about 18 months I had an affiliate site that was doing very well with video rich snippets appearing for many terms that were ranking on page one.

Video snippets really made you stand out on the SERPs¬†until¬†Google decided to take them away¬†(for most sites). I don’t think anyone¬†was surprised by this because¬†they were certainly being misused – it had to happen.

Recipe Images

Recipes are now the only type of markup that display image rich snippets. If you do a search for any recipe you are likely to see a few images appear. Here’s an example from a search for “apricot chicken recipe”:

chicken recipe

I started marking up pages with hidden Schema recipe markup just after video rich snippets were removed but had no luck with getting them to display in SERPs. I thought Google must have been good at identifying sites that should legitimately have recipe markup and those that shouldn’t. Good job, Google.

In June this year I turned back to using recipe markup on some of my sites and after submitting these pages to index in Search console, I was getting images displaying in the SERPs, almost instantly. I also noticed a lot of lower quality affiliate sites doing the same thing.

Here’s an example for my blog post on manipulating CTR:

recipe rich snippet

This page featured a made up “recipe” for a SERP Cake and was in <noscript> tags so it wasn’t visible to anyone. You can see my SERP Cake recipe below if you’d like to try making it:

SERP Cake

If you did a search for “serp ctr” or “serp cake” you would see this snippet (you won’t see them anymore – keep reading to find out why). I still have these recipe snippets showing on my other sites¬†and none of them have anything to do with cooking.

I knew I shouldn’t ¬†be getting the rich snippets because they weren’t being used correctly, so I tweeted Google’s John Mueller to find out more about how rich snippets are penalized:

I’m interested to see John’s¬†response to this, but I also found it to be a major “coincidence” that a few hours after tweeting John¬†I received this email and my snippets were gone:

rich snippet warning

Hmmmm well I can’t say I didn’t deserve it! But I do¬†think Google should be better at recognizing rich snippets spam before it displays them in SERPs.

I’m not going to disclose my other sites publicly because I’d like the image rich snippets to last as long as possible, but they are still out there and still doing very well.

How can Google fix the rich snippets problem?

How can Google’s AI be so smart with RankBrain yet allow spammy star ratings and pages with incorrect recipe markup to pollute the SERPs?

I think Google have two options; take all rich snippets away or have some proper standards for sites that can get to display rich snippets in SERPs.

Personally, I’d be happy for them to scrap rich snippets altogether so SEOs can’t manipulate them and use them in a way in which they were not intended. BUT, until Google do this I’ll continue to have fun with them and use them where I can. Why not? ūüôā

Maybe Google needs to giver harsher penalties for rich snippets abuse or maybe they shouldn’t index pages they find with incorrect markup and not inform the webmaster of a structured data penalty.

TL;DR

Rich snippets are still too easy to spam. Star ratings are a joke. Authorship and video snippets are (mostly) gone – good! Recipe images should be the next to go. Tweet John Mueller about rich snippets and you will lose your rich snippets ūüėõ Google must get better at detecting rich snippets abuse or scrap rich snippets altogether.

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