Article Read Time Rich Snippets Appearing in Google Search Results?

Winston OngSEO Blog0 Comments

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Winston Ong

I'm a Sydney based SEO consultant and search marketer. I blog about unique SEO topics the main sites don't talk about, and like fiddling around with real world SEO experiments that shed light on the limits of Googlebot.
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Is Google testing a ‘reading time’ metric to display as a search result rich snippet?

Spotted this today:

google serp read time

Screenshot taken 20 March 2015

Here’s a closer look:

read time

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If you are wondering, it’s just coincidence that I happened to be performing research on schema, though this fact might have made it more likely I’d notice what is a fairly subtle display of SERP rich snippets.

What is interesting is that ‘Read time’ is not an article schema property that exists. Here are the structured data elements extracted from Google’s rich snippet testing tool for the SEO Skeptic article:

rich snippet tester

 

ga code

 I noted that the SEO Skeptic site uses Google Analytics (checked source for GA JavaScript code).

Is Google pulling the information from its own analytics platform using the average time on page metric?

 This seems an unlikely scenario as it could breach Google Analytics Privacy Policies on Data Confidentiality (Data cannot be shared without customer consent) and I can imagine GA users being a little concerned competitors having some access to their data insights at a page level (even if its just a sliver of information).

Of course, there are many other ways for Google to track this sort of engagement level data without traceable signs. Perhaps the number is only based on the word count and reading level difficulty (which we know is assessed) to produce the figure, and not actual user level data that has historically been collected.

We also know the search engine has not been shy in experimenting with other labels to give users a ‘sneak peak’ into the experience they can expect before they click on a search result link.

Mobile Friendliness Tag

mobile friendly tag

Slow Website Speed Tag

slow website speed tag

I have not been able to replicate the rich snippet on a seperate device, or seen any very recent Google updates about this label, so it is very likely just in testing phase at the moment. Nonetheless, it presents some interesting questions, like, would a shorter listed reading time improve SERP CTR? I guess it depends on differing user intents behind the search query. Does Google attempt to adjust for time spent reading comments below the article? Or is that lumped into the total reading time? Are they also testing this label for non-blog/article type content?

Have you seen this label in the wild? Let me know in the comments below.

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