Google’s John Mueller on Troubleshooting Rich Results

Google’s John Mueller goes over three possible reasons why a website’s structured data is not generating rich results in search.

This topic is discussed in detail during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on February 26.

Stefan Pioso, global SEO lead for Amazon Music, joins the hangout to ask Mueller about breadcrumb structured data.

Pioso is experiencing difficulty getting breadcrumbs to display in search results.

It’s noted that Search Console is picking up on the breadcrumb structured data, but it’s not being rendered in search results.

What can he do about his breadcrumb problem?

Here’s what Mueller advises.

Google’s John Mueller on Structured Data

When structured data isn’t generating rich results in Google Search, there could be one of three possible explanations:

  • The markup isn’t valid
  • The specific use case doesn’t comply with Google’s policies
  • The website lost its rich results privileges due to a prior quality violation

Mueller admits it’s unlikely that breadcrumb structured data would be violating any of Google’s policies. And whether the markup is valid can be quickly determined with Google’s testing tools.

“When it comes to structured data and rich results in general we try to look at it on several different levels. I don’t know if that applies so much to breadcrumbs.

The first things are, from a technical point of view, a valid markup. It sounds like that’s the case, you can test that with the testing tool.

The second one is, does it comply with our policies? Which, probably for breadcrumbs is less of an issue. Because, I don’t know, breadcrumbs are breadcrumbs. It’s hard to do them in a bad way I guess.”

If everything is correct from a technical perspective, and the markup in question isn’t violating Google’s policies, then Google’s quality algorithm could be a factor.

If a site has previously violated Google’s guidelines with incorrect use of structured data, then it’s possible the site no longer has rich results privileges.

Here’s how Mueller explains it:

“The last one is more of a general, usually site wide signal that is about the quality of the site overall. Like can we trust this site to provide something reasonable with structured data that we can show in the rich results?

And usually what happens when everything from a technical point of view is set up correctly, and we’ve had enough time to process it for indexing, and it’s still not shown, then that’s usually a sign that our quality algorithms around the rich results in general are not 100% happy with your website. I don’t know if that’s the case here.”

There’s an easy way for site owners to determine whether Google’s quality algorithm is preventing rich results from being displayed in search.

Do a ‘site:’ query for your website. If rich results are shown there, but not shown in normal queries, then that’s an indication Google isn’t completely happy with your site. Mueller explains:

“One way to roughly estimate if that’s the case is to do a ‘site:’ query for your website and to see if the rich results are shown there. If the rich results are shown there, but they’re not shown for normal queries, then that’s a pretty strong signal from a quality point of view that we’re not completely happy with your site. Or, at least the structured data algorithm there.

If, in the ‘site:’ query, you also don’t see the rich results types then that’s more of a sign that, for whatever reason, we haven’t gotten around to processing them completely. So that’s something you might want to double-check there.”

If all else fails, head to the Google support forums.

“What I would otherwise do is, if you continue to see this over a longer period of time – like you give it a couple of weeks and it still doesn’t show up – I would definitely post in the help forum and get input from other people there with specific queries you’re using and specific URLs you’re looking at.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below: