A new way to stand out in Google mobile search results

In mid-2016 Google launched what it calls “rich cards”. These were initially limited just to the USA, but this week Google has rolled them out globally.

That now means certain types of NZ websites have the potential to be featured as rich cards and really stand out in Google.co.nz mobile search results. And when that happens it means more website visitors.

So just what are ‘rich cards’?

Rich cards are enhanced search results shown in Google mobile search. They feature extra information that provides searchers with a richer preview of what they’ll see if they click through. Below you can see a graphic from Google which shows how rich cards differ from both traditional text search results, as well as ‘Rich Snippets’. The latter are search results enhanced with things like review ratings and images. Rich cards are essentially Rich Snippets enhanced for mobile devices. Rich cards are presented in carousels, making them easy to browse on mobile devices by scrolling left and right. Note, carousels can contain cards all from the same site or from multiple sites.

Google Rich Cards

At this stage, unlike Rich Snippets, Rich cards are only available for limited types of content and so aren’t an option for every web site. When Google first rolled out Rich cards in the USA the only content categories initially available were movies and recipes. Then in November last year, Rich cards became possible for restaurants and online courses.

Just like Rich Snippets, Rich cards need structured data to inform Google what your page is about so they can use it for the enhanced presentation. Structured data tells search engines about the meaning of the elements on your page.

The structured data format favoured by Google is the Schema.org vocabulary implemented using JSON-LD. The big advantage of using JSON-LD is that it’s easier to create than using RFDa or Microdata (which are much fiddlier because that code has to be embedded inline with each of the different page elements).

If you want to add structured markup to your site check out Google’s very helpful Structured Data Testing Tool. This shows which fields are essential to mark up in order for a Rich card to appear; highlights any errors in your markup code; and shows a preview of how the Rich card might appear in Search.

In addition, Google has tracking and performance metrics for Rich cards within Search Console.

A point to be clear on is that, while having structured markup on your website is essential for both Rich Snippets and Rich cards, doing so does not guarantee it will happen. That said, in most cases, it’s well worth the effort because if it does happen your website can really stand out and get a lot more traffic.

If you want to see Rich card results in Google NZ mobile and how they differ to desktop, first do a search on your laptop search for lamb chops recipes. You should see something like that below which has a “Featured Snippet” as the top result followed by (1) “People also ask” questions and then (2) 10 search results which are all Rich Snippets (3).

Google featured snippet and rich snippet search results

Now do the same search on your phone and the results should look identical, except for the inclusion of a carousel of Rich cards after the “People also ask” section and before the first Rich Snippet result. As you’ll see, in this case, all the cards in the carousel are from the same website (allrecipes.com.au) which gives this site a whole lot more exposure on the page.

Google rich cards carousel

Why should you care?

Marking up your site with structured data is probably something you should be doing already to enhance your chances of your site showing up with Rich Snippets in Google search results. And if you have a website involved in recipes, movies, online courses, or a restaurant, then Rich cards give you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd when people are searching on their phones for what you offer.


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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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