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Tips For Leveraging The Power Of Voice Search Optimization

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Tips For Leveraging The Power Of Voice Search Optimization

Imagine two businesses competing for the same customers.

Let’s call them Store A and Store B.

They are identical except for one thing: Store A has a location that’s easier for 7 out of 10 customers to access.

Which company will do more business?

You don’t need an MBA to figure this out – Store A offers more convenience and will therefore grab more market share.

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Now, consider one convenience you can add to your website that will make a similar impact: voice search.

According to Statista, there will be 8 billion voice assistants in use worldwide by 2024.

That’s a lot of people speaking into their phones or smart speakers.

And if you’re not optimizing your web content to account for it, you’re leaving a lot of opportunities on the table.

Why are so many people using this functionality? Why is it important for search engine optimization? And more importantly, how do you claim your share?

Read on for answers to these questions and more.

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How Popular Is Voice Search?

We’ve already established how many people prefer to use the voice search capabilities on their devices, but let’s look at some other relevant statistics, just to drill home the importance of taking advantage of this trend:

  • In 2022, 35% of Americans over 18 own a smart speaker (up from 32% in 2021).
  • 62% of Americans over 18 use voice assistants on their devices.
  • One of the top three reasons consumers want a smart speaker is to ask questions without needing to type.
  • 80% of smart speaker owners find it easier to use to discover new content and events.
  • 57% of voice assistant users use it at least once per day.

As you can see, smart speaker and voice assistant usage is growing more popular in the competition for search traffic, and is only expected to rise.

And there are two key things that we haven’t even mentioned yet – accessibility and UX (user experience).

Voice Search Improves Accessibility

The US Department of Justice has been clear: Websites fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

And non-compliance can cost you more than potential traffic – you can be fined as much as $75,000 for a first offense.

Voice search plays a big role in ensuring your website can be accessible to everyone.

This includes those with physical limitations that restrict them from using the keyboard and mouse, those with repeated stress injuries who need to limit their time using keyboards and mouses, and people with cognitive issues who prefer to use voice search.

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A lot of this functionality relies on speech recognition technology, but you may not realize the way your website is coded can also have a big impact.

According to the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative), there are several best practices your site should adhere to in order to ensure accessibility, including reading order corresponding with code order, the use of alt tags for images, and adding markup to convey meaning and context.

For a complete list of the WAI’s recommendations and information on implementing them, click here.

Voice Search UX Outcomes For Users

The link between good UX and improved search engine results has been well demonstrated. And the growth of voice search means designing your UX around voice interaction is becoming more important.

How your brand interacts with different voice search-enabled devices can significantly determine whether users have a positive or negative experience.

But before addressing this, you need to understand how people use voice search.

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One of its main uses is informational.

Say you’re elbow deep in pasta dough, making tortellini while a red sauce simmers away in a pot on the stove.

You can’t remember how long the sauce is supposed to be on, so without taking the time to wash and dry your hands, you call out to your smart speaker, “Hey Google, how long should tomato sauce cook?”

Or you’re hanging out with some friends when one of your buddies refuses to believe Willie Mays ever played for the Mets.

A quick voice search can help you, once again, demonstrate your superior baseball knowledge.

In addition to settling arguments, many people also use it to check the news and weather.

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Another common use is “near me” searches.

For example, you’re on a road trip in a state you’ve never been to. Your car is running on fumes, and you must find a gas station as soon as possible.

Without ever taking your eyes off the road, voice search can direct you to the nearest place to fill your tank.

And of course, there’s voice shopping, which was briefly touched on earlier.

From making shopping lists to ordering pizza to purchasing products with voice alone, more and more people are initiating and completing purchases without ever looking at a screen.

The uses for voice search are growing right alongside its increasing popularity.

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So, that raises the question: how do you get in on it?

Prioritize Your Voice Search Efforts By Channel And Audience

When developing your voice SEO strategy, you must understand the capabilities and limitations of the platform you’re designing for. There are two approaches here:

  • Screen-first devices like smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.
  • Voice-first devices like smart speakers.

Each of these offers different strengths.

Screen-first devices (when the screen is being utilized) offer an efficient output for information.

Visual scanning is faster than listening and can be used to convey more info in less time. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Voice-first devices, on the other hand, provide an efficient input.

Users can give commands quickly and easily on their own terms.

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Of course, this relies on the device understanding natural language, a technology that has vastly improved since voice commands were in their infancy.

Depending on your website’s content, your user demographics, and a host of other factors, your users may be more inclined to prefer one type of device over the other.

You also need to understand at which stage of the buyer journey voice search is used.

More people are using voice assistants to research products than buy them, with 44.4% of U.S. consumers using them to browse new products, but only 24.2% using them to complete a purchase.

Most of these purchases are small items that don’t require being looked at, such as toilet paper or dog food.

Take all these factors into account, then tailor your voice strategy to your specific audience and channel.

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Once you have that done, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of optimizing your content.

Optimizing Your Content For Voice Search

If you don’t have much experience designing vocal user experiences or VUI (vocal user interfaces), don’t worry – this is fairly new ground.

While these are different from GUIs (graphical user interfaces), the UX/UI principles still apply, as does the effect user experience has on your search ranking.

Here are some important elements to consider when designing your VUI or converting over existing content to optimize it for voice search:

Start With A Plan

Rather than tackling your VUI and/or voice search optimization piecemeal, you should spend time developing a flowchart explaining how voice search users will navigate through your site.

Doing some upfront planning will save you lots of headaches, hassle, and duplicate work on the backside.

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Make Interaction Natural

Voice searchers use natural language to find things, often using more words.

Whereas a desktop searcher might type [Chinese delivery nearby], someone using voice search is more likely to say, “Where’s a good Chinese delivery place near me?”

The same long-tail keywords used for ordinary SEO purposes will come into play in voice search.

Try to use full phrases and queries, which are even better than long-tail keywords. And make sure you’re always thinking about user intent.

Design For Flow

Earlier, we mentioned how your HTML, CSS, and other code should be structured the same way a person would read your site so it tells the same story in voice search.

You also need to take this sequential approach to structure your content.

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Make sure the content follows a logical course.

Create verbal tags that can be easily navigated by voice alone (e.g., “select option #2″).

Improve Your Domain Authority

Here’s where your regular SEO efforts can pay dividends for voice SEO.

Voice search almost always selects the first search result to answer a query.

That makes it crucial to have your site fully optimized for ordinary search.

Check your backlinks, maximize your keywords, boost your local search, and do all the other tasks that come with SEO, and it will also reap rewards in voice search.

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Grab Featured Snippets

Featured snippets aren’t just great for mobile and desktop search – they’re also used to answer voice search results.

In fact, 60% of all voice search answers come from featured snippets.

So, if your content claims this valuable real estate for a query, you will get the lion’s share of voice traffic.

Get Local

Because so many voice searchers are looking for local answers, your content needs to be optimized for it.

If you’re not already, get listed in Google’s local rankings.

If you’re already there, work to improve your results.

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The goal is to be the answer when someone searches Google to answer queries like, [Where can I get a dress altered near me?]

Voice Search Is Only Going To Grow

Some technologies burn bright for a few years and then completely fade away – remember HD DVD?

Voice search is unlikely to be one of them.

Instead, it’s finding new uses and an even larger niche as technology becomes more advanced.

If anything, it’s the keyboard and mouse model we’ve grown to know and love that is more likely to become obsolete, especially should Elon Musk’s futuristic Neuralink catch on.

The most important thing in this sci-fi-come-to-life world will be user experience.

It’s not farfetched to imagine AI-powered search learning our likes and dislikes and providing answers customized to our unique intent.

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The best way to ensure you’re prepared for this brave new world is to harness the existing cutting-edge technologies to ensure you’ve future-proofed your position as much as possible.

And that means leveraging the power of voice search.

It’s the foundation upon which much of the future of search will be built, which makes it crucial that you get on board.

Your targets are speaking. Make sure your website is listening.

More resources:


Featured Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

The world of search has seen massive change recently. Whether you’re still in the planning stages for this year or underway with your 2024 strategy, you need to know the new SEO trends to stay ahead of seismic search industry shifts.

It’s time to chart a course for SEO success in this changing landscape.

Watch this on-demand webinar as we explore exclusive survey data from today’s top SEO professionals and digital marketers to inform your strategy this year. You’ll also learn how to navigate SEO in the era of AI, and how to gain an advantage with these new tools.

You’ll hear:

  • The top SEO priorities and challenges for 2024.
  • The role of AI in SEO – how to get ahead of the anticipated disruption of SGE and AI overall, plus SGE-specific SEO priorities.
  • Winning SEO resourcing strategies and reporting insights to fuel success.

With Shannon Vize and Ryan Maloney, we’ll take a deep dive into the top trends, priorities, and challenges shaping the future of SEO.

Discover timely insights and unlock new SEO growth potential in 2024.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

10 Successful Ways To Improve Your SERP Rankings [With Ahrefs]

Reserve your spot and discover 10 quick and easy SEO wins to boost your site’s rankings.

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E-E-A-T’s Google Ranking Influence Decoded

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E-E-A-T's Google Ranking Influence Decoded

The idea that something is not a ranking factor that nevertheless plays a role in ranking websites seems to be logically irreconcilable. Despite seeming like a paradox that cancels itself out, SearchLiaison recently tweeted some comments that go a long way to understanding how to think about E-E-A-T and apply it to SEO.

What A Googler Said About E-E-A-T

Marie Haynes published a video excerpt on YouTube from an event at which a Googler spoke, essentially doubling down on the importance of E-A-T.

This is what he said:

“You know this hasn’t always been there in Google and it’s something that we developed about ten to twelve or thirteen years ago. And it really is there to make sure that along the lines of what we talked about earlier is that it really is there to ensure that the content that people consume is going to be… it’s not going to be harmful and it’s going to be useful to the user. These are principles that we live by every single day.

And E-A-T, that template of how we rate an individual site based off of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, we do it to every single query and every single result. So it’s actually very pervasive throughout everything that we do .

I will say that the YMYL queries, the Your Money or Your Life Queries, such as you know when I’m looking for a mortgage or when I’m looking for the local ER,  those we have a particular eye on and we pay a bit more attention to those queries because clearly they’re some of the most important decisions that people can make.

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So I would say that E-A-T has a bit more of an impact there but again, I will say that E-A-T applies to everything, every single query that we actually look at.”

How can something be a part of every single search query and not be a ranking factor, right?

Background, Experience & Expertise In Google Circa 2012

Something to consider is that in 2012 Google’s senior engineer at the time, Matt Cutts, said that experience and expertise brings a measure of quality to content and makes it worthy of ranking.

Matt Cutts’ remarks on experience and expertise were made in an interview with Eric Enge.

Discussing whether the website of a hypothetical person named “Jane” deserves to rank with articles that are original variations of what’s already in the SERPs.

Matt Cutts observed:

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“While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.

Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.

They need to ask themselves what really is their value add? …they need to figure out what… makes them special.

…if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion.”

Matt then cites the example of Pulitzer Prize-Winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert as a person with the background, experience and expertise that makes his opinion valuable to readers and the content worthy of ranking.

Matt didn’t say that a webpage author’s background, experience and expertise were ranking factors. But he did say that these are the kinds of things that can differentiate one webpage from another and align it to what Google wants to rank.

He specifically said that Google’s algorithm detects if there is something different about it that makes it stand out. That was in 2012 but not much has changed because Google’s John Mueller says the same thing.

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For example, in 2020 John Mueller said that differentiation and being compelling is important for getting Google to notice and rank a webpage.

“So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.

…And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.

You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”

In 2021, in regard to getting Google to index a webpage, Mueller also said:

“Is it something the web has been waiting for? Or is it just another red widget?”

This thing about being compelling and different than other sites, it’s something that’s been a part of Google’s algorithm awhile, just like the Googler in the video said, just like Matt Cutts said and exactly like what Mueller has said as well.

Are they talking about signals?

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E-EA-T Algorithm Signals

We know there’s something in the algorithm that relates to someone’s expertise and background that Google’s looking for. The table is set and we can dig into the next step of what it all means.

A while back back I remember reading something that Marie Haynes said about E-A-T, she called it a framework. And I thought, now that’s an interesting thing she just did, she’s conceptualizing E-A-T.

When SEOs discussed E-A-T it was always in the context of what to do in order to demonstrate E-A-T. So they looked at the Quality Raters Guide for guidance, which kind of makes sense since it’s a guide, right?

But what I’m proposing is that the answer isn’t really in the guidelines or anything that the quality raters are looking for.

The best way to explain it is to ask you to think about the biggest part of Google’s algorithm, relevance.

What’s relevance? Is it something you have to do? It used to be about keywords and that’s easy for SEOs to understand. But it’s not about keywords anymore because Google’s algorithm has natural language understanding (NLU). NLU is what enables machines to understand language in the way that it’s actually spoken (natural language).

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So, relevance is just something that’s related or connected to something else. So, if I ask, how do I satiate my thirst? The answer can be water, because water quenches the thirst.

How is a site relevant to the search query: “how do I satiate my thirst?”

An SEO would answer the problem of relevance by saying that the webpage has to have the keywords that match the search query, which would be the words “satiate” and “thirst.”

The next step the SEO would take is to extract the related entities for “satiate” and “thirst” because every SEO “knows” they need to do entity research to understand how to make a webpage that answers the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

Hypothetical Related entities:

  • Thirst: Water, dehydration, drink,
  • Satiate: Food, satisfaction, quench, fulfillment, appease

Now that the SEO has their entities and their keywords they put it all together and write a 600 word essay that uses all their keywords and entities so that their webpage is relevant for the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

I think we can stop now and see how silly that is, right? If someone asked you, “How do I satiate my thirst?” You’d answer, “With water” or “a cold refreshing beer” because that’s what it means to be relevant.

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Relevance is just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with entities or keywords in today’s search algorithms because the machine is understanding search queries as natural language, even more so with AI search engines.

Similarly, E-E-A-T is also just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with author bios, LinkedIn profiles, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with making your content say that you handled the product that’s being reviewed.

Here’s what SearchLiaison recently said about an E-E-A-T, SEO and Ranking:

“….just making a claim and talking about a ‘rigorous testing process’ and following an ‘E-E-A-T checklist’ doesn’t guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better.”

Here’s the part where SearchLiaison ties a bow around the gift of E-E-A-T knowledge:

“We talk about E-E-A-T because it’s a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content.”

E-E-A-T Can’t Be Itemized On A Checklist

Remember how we established that relevance is a concept and not a bunch of keywords and entities? Relevance is just answering the question.

E-E-A-T is the same thing. It’s not something that you do. It’s closer to something that you are.

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SearchLiaison elaborated:

“…our automated systems don’t look at a page and see a claim like “I tested this!” and think it’s better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals.”

A Better Understanding Of E-E-A-T

I think it’s clear now how E-E-A-T isn’t something that’s added to a webpage or is something that is demonstrated on the webpage. It’s a concept, just like relevance.

A good way to think o fit is if someone asks you a question about your family and you answer it. Most people are pretty expert and experienced enough to answer that question. That’s what E-E-A-T is and how it should be treated when publishing content, regardless if it’s YMYL content or a product review, the expertise is just like answering a question about your family, it’s just a concept.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

Google announced a new carousel rich result that can be used for local businesses, products, and events which will show a scrolling horizontal carousel displaying all of the items in the list. It’s very flexible and can even be used to create a top things to do in a city list that combines hotels, restaurants, and events. This new feature is in beta, which means it’s being tested.

The new carousel rich result is for displaying lists in a carousel format. According to the announcement the rich results is limited to the following types:

LocalBusiness and its subtypes, for example:
– Restaurant
– Hotel
– VacationRental
– Product
– Event

An example of subtypes is Lodgings, which is a subset of LocalBusiness.

Here is the Schema.org hierarchical structure that shows the LodgingBusiness type as being a subset of the LocalBusiness type.

  • Thing > Organization > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness
  • Thing > Place > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness

ItemList Structured Data

The carousel displays “tiles” that contain information from the webpage that’s about the price, ratings and images. The order of what’s in the ItemList structured data is the order that they will be displayed in the carousel.

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Publishers must use the ItemList structured data in order to become eligible for the new rich result

All information in the ItemList structured data must be on the webpage. Just like any other structured data, you can’t stuff the structured data with information that is not visible on the webpage itself.

There are two important rules when using this structured data:

  1. 1. The ItemList type must be the top level container for the structured data.
  2. 2. All the URLs of in the list must point to different webpages on the same domain.

The part about the ItemList being the top level container means that the structured data cannot be merged together with another structured data where the top-level container is something other than ItemList.

For example, the structured data must begin like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1,

A useful quality of this new carousel rich result is that publishers can mix and match the different entities as long as they’re within the eligible structured data types.

Eligible Structured Data Types

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  • LocalBusiness and its subtypes
  • Product
  • Event

Google’s announcement explains how to mix and match the different structured data types:

“You can mix and match different types of entities (for example, hotels, restaurants), if needed for your scenario. For example, if you have a page that has both local events and local businesses.”

Here is an example of a ListItem structured data that can be used in a webpage about Things To Do In Paris.

The following structured data is for two events and a local business (the Eiffel Tower):

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Paris Seine River Dinner Cruise", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 45.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.2, "reviewCount": 690 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location1" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 2, "item": { "@type": "LocalBusiness", "name": "Notre-Dame Cathedral", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "priceRange": "$", "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.8, "reviewCount": 4220 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/localbusiness-location" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 3, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Eiffel Tower With Host Summit Tour", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 59.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.9, "reviewCount": 652 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location2" } } ] } </script>

Be As Specific As Possible

Google’s guidelines recommends being as specific as possible but that if there isn’t a structured data type that closely matches with the type of business then it’s okay to use the more generic LocalBusiness structured data type.

“Depending on your scenario, you may choose the best type to use. For example, if you have a list of hotels and vacation rentals on your page, use both Hotel and VacationRental types. While it’s ideal to use the type that’s closest to your scenario, you can choose to use a more generic type (for example, LocalBusiness).”

Can Be Used For Products

A super interesting use case for this structured data is for displaying a list of products in a carousel rich result.

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The structured data for that begins as a ItemList structured data type like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Product",

The structured data can list images, ratings, reviewCount, and currency just like any other product listing, but doing it like this will make the webpage eligible for the carousel rich results.

Google has a list of recommended recommended properties that can be used with the Products version, such as offers, offers.highPrice, and offers.lowPrice.

Good For Local Businesses and Merchants

This new structured data is a good opportunity for local businesses and publishers that list events, restaurants and lodgings to get in on a new kind of rich result.

Using this structured data doesn’t guarantee that it will display as a rich result, it only makes it eligible for it.

This new feature is in beta, meaning that it’s a test.

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Read the new developer page for this new rich result type:

Structured data carousels (beta)

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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