Why don’t my recipes show images on a Google search?
We are 100% confident that the snippet markup EasyRecipe generates is correct, so if you’re using EasyRecipe, why aren’t you seeing rich snippets for your pages in the Google search results?
Unfortunately Google doesn’t guarantee to show snippets even if the rich snippet markup is all present and correct.
Google is frustratingly vague about how they decide whether to to show snippets. Their stock explanation is basically the same as their SEO guidelines: “make your site relevant, unique and build authority”. (http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf)
From around the end of 2013 Google started hinting that they were reducing the number of rich snippets they show. This appears to be partly in response to sites creating “spammy” snippet markup, usually by inflating ratings and reviews for product pages, but there is other chatter among SEO geeks that Google doesn’t want to display a snippet for every result that qualifies. The reasoning goes that if every result shows a snippet, then the impact of snippets is lost. Whatever the reason, Google’s more restrictive approach seems to apply to the whole range of snippet types including recipe snippets.
Of course most of what you can discover about how and why Google does what it does is pure guesswork on the part of those who think they know (and regrettably by some who have absolutely no idea). The only people who you can be sure are 100% correct about SEO are those that work for the search engines themselves, and they won’t tell you much. (The notable exception is Matt Cutts who is the head of the webspam team at Google – he’s worth listening to. Search for “matt cutts seo quotes” and you’ll find lots of good, relevant and reliable SEO info)
However, there are some things we do know for certain. At the very minimum, you should:
- Give it time
Allow Google time to index your site and then time to generate a snippet. How long you have to wait varies from site to site, but you’d normally expect Google to scan your site within a week (or so). We find on our own blog (The Orgasmic Chef) that a new post is usually picked up by Google within 24 hours and a snippet appears (if Google decides to show one) within a few hours after that – but every site will be different.
- Make sure your markup is correct
Although the rich snippet markup generated by EasyRecipe will be correct, there may be other elements on your page (or in your recipe if you’ve added links etc) that confuse Google’s rich snippet generator. You should use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure you have no markup errors. Note that the test tool no longer shows an actual thumbnail even if an image is recognised. However, if it finds an image in the structured data, a blank thumbnail is displayed in the preview. If the test tool doesn’t find an image it can use, there will be no thumbnail at all in the preview.
- Make sure you have enough recipe data
Google requires that some data must be present for rich snippets to be generated. You can read about the requirements here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1093493#enoughinfo
- Make sure you don’t have serious HTML errors
Search engines, like browsers, will generally forgive most HTML errors and Google won’t penalize pages just because they have errors. However some HTML errors, from a search engine bot’s point of view, can change the whole structure of a page. This is particularly the case if you have missing or extra end tags or invalid nesting. So even though your page might display just fine in a browser, a bot may “see” a very different structure than you intended. At best, important clues to the page content (like headings or content hierarchy) may be lost or confused. At worst, entire slabs of content might be effectively “invisible” to a bot. So although Google won’t penalize you for the bad HTML per se, it may not get all the right signals that will help it decide whether to show a rich snippet and of course, errors like that will be very bad for your search engine ranking generally.
If everything above checks out and you still don’t see results, then try searching for your site explicitly by using site: (e.g. search for site:yoursite.com) and/or add some other qualifiers (e.g. site:yoursite.com recipe). The search terms you use will influence whether snippets are shown or not. A snippet might be generated for a page found using one search term but a snippet might not be shown when the page is found using a different search term. Your physical location, whether you’re logged in to Google, which Google site you use (e.g. google.com, google.com.au, google.co.uk …) and (possibly) your search history will also affect the results you see. I’m in Australia and I will often see a different set of results than someone in the US sees for the same search term – even on the same Google site.
If you still don’t see results, then the problem is probably that Google is simply choosing not to show snippets for your site. As best as we can tell from our reading, this is because your site doesn’t have enough “authority” for snippets to be shown. Authority is not only constantly recalculated but Google often changes the rules, so even if you saw snippets for pages on your site last week, it doesn’t mean you will always see those snippets. You need to constantly work on maintaining and improving your site authority. This will also get you higher search engine rankings and more traffic.
How you build authority (and traffic) is a whole other discussion and there are thousands of sites that deal with it.
Matt Cutts Video at around the 4:10 minute mark