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How to avoid Getting Your Website Penalized for Using Rich Snippets

How to avoid Getting Your Website Penalized for Using Rich Snippets 1

The concept of rich snippet spamming is totally intriguing as it looks a lot like the old fashioned meta-keyword spamming technique. It remains hidden in the website code so the users are not aware of them. However, it seems that the abuse of rich snippet affects the users in terms of search results. Therefore, Google has decided to take serious action against the website that use this type of Rich Snippets spam black hat strategies. If you are a totally legitimate website, you should be concerned about this issue because if you are reported multiple times, Google might actually block you from showing those snippets for your site. On the other hand, the spam reporting is not the best strategy that Google should use, so detecting abuse can be a little bit difficult.

The Usage of Rich Snippets

Google Rich Snippet Preview from Google Search

In case you are not familiar with the rich snippets concept, you have to know that they are used in order to bring an enhancement to the web page results display. These snippets will include images and information like rating, reviews, last update or publishing time and so on. Google states that the rich snippets have the roles to sum up the page content so that the user can grasp the essence of the page and its relevance in terms of search results. Here is an example of rich snippets underlines by the black boxes.

The information may draw attention to the page and it is likely that the user will click on it more often. The truth is that if you do not know how to use the rich snippets for your own website, you might be missing a chance to attract a lot of organic traffic.

The Rich Snippets Data Types

Depending on what your website contains, you will be able to use a series of snippets. They will be different from one search engine to the next. However the snippets that are used by Google are the following:

  • Authors – You can include the name and photo of the author, together with its Google + profile or circles. The Google guideline states that you need a Google + profile that has a decent photo in order to use this snippet.
  • Products – It is possible to add prices, picture or ratings of the products that you advertise. You can get extra guidelines from the Google answer page.
  • Organizations and businesses – You can add customers’ reviews or location and some restaurants like to include their price range. Find out more right here!
  • People – You can insert the contact information, occupation or significant photos. You can get the needed codes for all the information that you want to insert from here.
  • Videos – The best snippet for videos is inserting a preview thumbnail that can be accessed right away by the users.
  • Music – The Google team suggests that you insert links to play the songs or even lyrics in the snippets.
  • Recipes – Publishing recipes include the photos, rating, required time and even calorie content.
  • Events – You get the time and location of the event together with the date. In order to make an interesting appearance, you should check these guidelines.

Setting Rich Snippets for a Website

Google Rich Snippets

The secret behind the rich snippets is that you have to implement them in the proper way in the coding of your website. You have to mark the page data so that the search engines will get the vital information about the pages that you have. The truth is that this whole process can be a little bit complicated. There is no such things as an automatic function in the CMS that implements everything right away. So you need to get deeper into the technical knowledge in order to get the markup that you want.

Another crucial thing is that the structured data presents no guarantee of a snippet display in the search engine. However, it does make them possible, but Google will be the one which decides whether to use them or not. Here are the possible formats that you should use:

  • Microdata – This is a good way to label your content so that it describes a kind of information like events, personal info, reviews and so on. You can use the code from here.
  • RDFa – This manner of labeling items or entities is based on a number of properties. In case of a person the properties are email address, company, job, address and name.
  • Microformats – They are conventions that will describe your product, business, review, event and so on. Google gives a really good example of such a format.

Quick Tips for Clean Rich Snippet Usage

Rich Snippets CleanupIf you do not want to get penalized for using the rich snippets in the wrong manner, you should follow these quick tips. They are easy to use by any webmaster and you should check all of them.

1. Structured Dashboard – You need to pinpoint the Structure Data menu on your webmaster account. In most cases it will be under the Search Appearance menu. Make sure that you identify the data types on the website in the form of a list so that there are no technical problems or errors connected to them.

2. Testing tools – There is the possibility to use a testing tool for rich snippets. This will ensure that Google is able to get your structured data like PageMaps, authorship, meta data and markups with ease. The following data is displayed by this tool:


  • Extracted markup
  • Search results preview
  • Sorting and restricting keys
  • Authorship information
  • Meta Tags
  • Page Map
  • Rich Snippets

Below you will find an example of what this tool offers for the above mentioned recipe page.

Four Mishaps to Avoid on your Website

Even if it is tempting to use the power of rich snippets in the wrong way, you have to know that this may cause you permanent damage. So play it clean and avoid these things that might get you penalized.

  • Usage of hidden content – This aspect is crucial because all your content should be visible for the visitors and for the search engines. It is possible that the data used are not seen in the way you want it. However, you should not use CSS coding, display:none or other type of ways in which you hide the date. This is viewed as spamming by Google.
  • Various markup formats – You need to use only one markup format on a certain page, otherwise you may experience problems in reading the data.
  • No matching structure data – You need to make sure that the structure data are in alignment with the page content.
  • Poor nesting – This is more of a technical problem as the current items contain other alien structure data than the exact type for a specific review. You should read the proper nesting guideline from Google in order to get things right.


It is true that when you let people give you data that will be included in the search results, like in the case of rich snippets, there is always the prospect of abuse. However, you need to know that these black hat SEO approaches will get you some benefits on a really short term. The search engines will eventually figure things out for your website and penalties are about to come. So before you use the rich snippets in the wrong way, you should wonder if it is worth the risk of penalization after all that hard work.

How to avoid Getting Your Website Penalized for Using Rich Snippets 2

Sharanyan Sharma

My name is Sharanyan Sharma - An award winning Sri Lankan Tech entrepreneur, Founder of Extreme SEO Internet Solutions. I'm a certified Digital marketing trainer, Performance marketing consultant worked with Forbes 2000, and Fortune 500 listed Startups and large corporates over the past decade.

5 thoughts on “How to avoid Getting Your Website Penalized for Using Rich Snippets

    • Sharanyan Sharma says:

      Hi Martin,

      Yes, Google Authorship is really important and It’s more prominent and more valuable. Even if you are not a regular blogger or networker Google Authorship will work, it will display your profile picture on search and it will indicate how many people already in your connection or connected with verified site and more! read more : http://goo.gl/7SYCWy

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