Optimizing for Rich “Jump To” Snippets

Back in September last year Google announced a new form of rich snippets: those with jump to links in them. They themselves used the example for this trans fat search result:

Google result leading to Wikipedia page for trans fat

Now I hadn’t paid too much attention to this new feature until we started testing a new search traffic monitoring tool we’ve built at OrangeValley, and I noticed that 5% of the traffic coming to my WordPress SEO article had such rich “jump to” snippets. I could see this because they entered the site with a URL with a fragment identifier (aka hash: #) in it.

Now 5% of the traffic didn’t immediately make me go all nuts, until I started thinking about what this meant usability wise: instead of people having to search within the article for the content they came for, they’re taken straight there. That’s a bonus, right? I’ve yet to prove that this improves conversions, but I’d guess it would.

Researching jump to snippets

So here starts the research: how do we optimize for these rich snippets? In the post on the Google Webmaster blog accompanying the official release, they state that:

There are a few things you can do to increase the chances that they [these jump to snippets, JdV] might appear on your pages. First, ensure that long, multi-topic pages on your site are well-structured and broken into distinct logical sections. Second, ensure that each section has an associated anchor with a descriptive name (i.e., not just “Section 2.1″), and that your page includes a “table of contents” which links to the individual anchors.

When I dove more deeply into our stats, I noticed a couple of things:

  • almost every article that has an internal Table of Contents is getting this kind of traffic
  • those articles are getting more search engine traffic in general (probably related to their length too)
  • they use different ways of identifying the anchor, and all seem to work
  • their tables of contents are always marked up using a list
  • articles with “just” inline internal links to other parts of the article do not seem to get this kind of traffic

How to create internal anchors

Basically there’s three ways of defining these anchors:

1. <h2 id="heading">Heading</h2>
2. <h2><a id="heading">Heading</a></h2>
3. <h2><a name="heading">Heading</a></h2>

All three options require linking to them like this:

<a href="#heading">Heading</a>

Where my WordPress SEO article uses option #2, our Magento SEO is using option #1, and the examples Google gives are using option #3. I can’t see any real reason to choose one over the other, so I chose the cleanest one: option #1.

Optimizing for jump to snippets

So what do we need to do?

It turns out this is awfully simple, you need to do two things:

  1. properly identify the different sections of longer articles, and identify their headings with fragments;
  2. create a table of contents, linking to these fragments.

While the Magento SEO article has a clearly marked Table of Contents, the WordPress SEO article only has a listing of internal links, without any heading. They do have one thing in common: a list, either ul or ol linking to the different sections with their appropriate fragments.

So your table of contents should look like something like this at the minimum:

<ol>
<li><a href="#research">Researching jump to snippets</a></li>
<li><a href="#createinternal">How to create internal anchors</a></li>
<li><a href="#optimization">Optimizing for jump to snippets</a></li>
</ol>

I’ll keep track of this kind of traffic from now on, and I’ll let you know if I find any more optimizations. There’s one caveat to this: this is not based on a very large data set yet, and it just so happens to be that all of the pages with ToC’s I found getting this traffic have these ToC’s marked up as lists. It could be that other ways of marking up a ToC work too, I just haven’t found a working example yet.

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46 Responses

  1. Bryan WatsonBy Bryan Watson on 1 March, 2010

    Another good point to note is that if your going to use a table of contents, make sure every major section has a “Back to Top” link available for the user.

    Having a table of contents is nice to have if your visiting the article normally, but if you visited the “jumped-to” link, you wouldn’t be aware that there was a table of contents available in the first place.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 1 March, 2010

      You’re absolutely right Bryan, just added those :)

    • LuciBy Luci on 2 March, 2010

      This is probably a stupid question, but why are the “back to top” links so important? Is it purely from a usability angle is that also something that Google takes into account?

      Love the post Joost, I’d noticed the jump links for a few sites on Google and was wondering how we could go about utilising that!

      • Bryan WatsonBy Bryan Watson on 2 March, 2010

        Hopefully I won’t step on Joost’s toes to much here and try to answer this question. The ‘back to top’ links are mainly for increasing usability, as they function the exact same as internal links, so Google will handle them the same.

        The reason they are important to use with a table of contents was as I stated above. If a user visits the the ‘jumped-link’, then most likely the user has no idea of what sections they missed or are coming next. Having a ‘back to top’ link is a clean solution to this issue, while at the same time saving a LOT of a scrolling for the user (which can be especially annoying on a laptop).

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 2 March, 2010

          Thanks, and 100% agree ;)

        • LuciBy Luci on 3 March, 2010

          Makes perfect sense, thank you very much for answering!

  2. JeroenBy Jeroen on 1 March, 2010

    Is there any specific wordpress plugin available for easy realizing this?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 1 March, 2010

      Not just yet :) Ow and you, Jeroen, should get yourself a gravatar :)

    • Gary BarrettBy Gary Barrett on 3 March, 2010

      Hakadelics ‘SEO Table of Contents’ plugin produced ‘jump to’ results for me. It automatically pulls in the content between header tags on a page/post to form a table of contents. You also might want to test ‘Tiny Table Of Contents’. Both are available from wordpress.org.

      • SEO DoctorBy SEO Doctor on 8 March, 2010

        I’ve been searching for a plugin, but couldn’t find one that looked good. Going to try @ Gary Barretts suggestions here.

  3. FiresitBy Firesit on 1 March, 2010

    You have to check up these Google Analytics tips

  4. TheoBy Theo on 2 March, 2010

    The right post at the right time.

    Thanks

  5. RyanBy Ryan on 2 March, 2010

    Thanks Joost,

    I’ve been thinking of creating a table of content for a few of my articles (they are quite long) and this just motivated me to stop being lazy and go ahead and make them. However, do you think that having the TOC right at the beginning of the article can negatively impact SEO since Google does give more weight to the text at the beginning of the article. Would you recommend beginning the article with a couple of paragraphs as in your WordPress SEO article before listing out the TOC?

    Also, as an unrelated question, in your opinion, would having breadcrumbs (I am using your plugin) displayed at the page bottom instead of the top have any negative impact on SEO? I would prefer not to have it at the top as the Breadcrumb plugin lists the page/post title and then right after that the title is again repeated as an H1 element. I don’t like the back to back duplicate text and I have a feeling that the search engines would probably also dislike that. I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts on that.

    Thanks for the great articles. I’ve referred to the WP SEO article a gazillion times now :)

    Cheers

  6. Christophe BENOITBy Christophe BENOIT on 2 March, 2010

    Yes, there is a wordpress plugin to automatically build a table of content : here it is : http://bravenewworld.fr/referencement-seo/enrichir-vos-snippets-grace-aux-sommaires-736/
    Made by a french guy, the plugin is in a beta version

  7. Jerry OkorieBy Jerry Okorie on 2 March, 2010

    I’ve been looking for a similar thing, that would arrange my table of content . Highly recommended piece.

    Thanks

    Jerry

  8. Bogan MarketingBy Bogan Marketing on 2 March, 2010

    I am implementing this over the coming weeks for sure, this is very cool for long posts, I am still trying to figure a few things out, so thanks for putting me on the right track.

  9. Mohan Arun L (@marun2 on Twitter)By Mohan Arun L (@marun2 on Twitter) on 2 March, 2010

    Thanks for the clarification and the write-up. I have been wanting to put these site links or internal jump to links in some of my client sites also, and now I have two points to go by – 1) have table of contents inside a html list; 2) split up large posts into multiple sections with semantically named anchors.

  10. CraigBy Craig on 2 March, 2010

    Yoast,
    1.
    from a “Direct Response marketing” perspective I agree that having the content the person came for easy to find would increase conversions.

    2. Re: “back to top links” threadlet above. I noticed the wikipedia example above does have the table of contents viewable when I scroll up the page. Not sure that I understood the basic problem “back to top links” are solving beyond improved navigability.

    3.If someone does build/improve a TOC plugin [hint ;)] it would ideally have a tickbox saying >By default show/hide…this way long form direct response webpages may be able to benefit from this new Google search functionality.

    • CraigBy Craig on 2 March, 2010

      4. I also just did some experimenting. I saw that you too have also created a TOC for this article. But a search in Google does not give the same jump-to tags under the SERP. Obviously Wikipedia has 1000′s more inbound page and site links. So I’m guessing critical mass would be at play here. Question is, at what point would these #links start showing

  11. Glenn KilpatrickBy Glenn Kilpatrick on 7 March, 2010

    Could I use jumpto snippets on a category/archive page ?? If I listed a set of popular category tags across the top of the archive page. Is this a good or a bad idea.

  12. TonyBy Tony on 8 March, 2010

    Brilliantly simple to implement but this ought to hopefully help to bring in some more traffic to the right articles. It definitely helps to create a lot more links to a page.

  13. SharonBy Sharon on 8 March, 2010

    I am so glad I followed the newsletter link and read this post.
    I have for some time a table of contents in one of my blogs, but the jump-to links refused to appear in the SERP.
    I thing I know now why – the items are not in a list markup format !
    I will change that and see how it goes..
    Thanks again, you have a great blog here :)

    • SharonBy Sharon on 8 March, 2010

      BTW, did you notice that only the first 4 links are displayed in the SERP?
      What do you think about that?

  14. DavidBy David on 15 March, 2010

    Thanks Joost! I just found your blog two days ago and I love your yoast.com a lot

  15. JonBy Jon on 22 March, 2010

    I just noticed that if you do a Google search for “credit cards” the domain creditcards DOT com has “jump to” snippets in it’s result. If you go to the site and look, it’s merely an unordered list with links to other pages on their site. That’s interesting…

  16. RilwisBy Rilwis on 26 March, 2010

    Nice article. I love the idea of creating table of contents. It’s really helpful.

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