Every business investing in search engine optimization does so to rank high in SERPs and get noticed by potential customers. But are your SEO efforts giving you the value that you desire? Search engines strive to understand the content of your web pages. By providing clear signals about the meaning of the content on your pages, you will help search engines understand it better.
Structured data, or schema markup, is a standardized format that provides information about a page andits context and purpose. For example, if you’ve written about a recipe, structured data will classify the content into sections like ingredients, cooking time, temperature, and calories.
It can also boost the appearance of your search results by adding stars, price, rating, and number of reviews which helps generate more clicks. Therefore, structured data describes your site to make it easier for search engines to understand.
What Is Structured Data?
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Structured data is made up of code or rich snippets that provide search engines with a clear understanding of the content of your page.But, it is only visible to search engines, not your website visitors. When you use structured data on your site, you enable rich results. Rich results contain additional information besides the standard URL, title, and page description.
They include visual enhancements and interactive features such as customer data like images, ratings, reviews, prices, star ratings, text links, etc. These search results are more engaging and may encourage users to interact more with your website.
In SEO, structured data is the code or markup used by search engines to interpret and display your content, advancing you in the SERPs. It helps search engines identify the content of your individual web pages and give a good user experience by providing additional relevant information. This information may include a product’s price, rating, or number of reviews.
Structured data is a critical element of on-page SEO. Its structure is tabular, with columns and rows defining all its attributes. It is found in fixed fields within relational databases and is organized and stored according to standard parameters.It consists of specific, well-defined models and is stored in data warehouses that contain rigid schemas and are easily accessible.
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Although many businesses have adopted structured data in their SEO efforts, around 50 % of Fortune 500 brands are still not using it. As a crucial part of technical SEO efforts, these companies are not utilizing this opportunity. You can easily use structured data by generating schema markups using tools like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. If you need to test your structured data after implementation, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.
Types of Structured Data
There are various types of data structure schema markups for SEO. They include:
1. Local Business
This schema markup helps prospective customers find your business. It shares company hours, business reviews, and more.
2. Frequently Asked Questions
It answers the most common questions your business will likely receive from prospective customers, such as its return policy, within search results.
It helps share your video in search results by giving out your video thumbnail, description, and duration.
4. Job Posting
It enhances your listing’s appearance in search results and shares information such as your company’s reviews, logo, contacts, etc.
It provides useful event information such as venue, date, location, time, and ticket sales and helps you appear in search results and Google Maps.
It shares useful information about your products and enterprise data like price, rating, and inventory status.
Importance of Structured Data in SEO
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Structured data is very important to on-page SEO because it can significantly improve the ranking of a website in search results.So here’s how it helps:
1. Increased Dwell Time
Google watches the dwell time of your website. It wants to see how long people tarry on your website before abandoning it. Sometimes, users click on a search result, realize it is not helpful, and immediately return to the search results to check out another result.
Structured data helps provide users with helpful information that will make them click on your page and dwell for a while.It presents the right information that attracts the right users that probably want to visit your page. For example, a user looking for a hard-to-find item may bounce between pages. But using structured data lets them know beforehand that the item is in stock, making them go through your page and stay longer.
2. Boosts Click-Through-Rates (CTR)
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Structured data uses rich snippets displayed within the SERPs to increase your website’s Click-Through-Rate. As a web crawler visits a web page, it looks for any structured data that can be used to enhance snippets of that page in the search results.
3. Rich Results and Site Indexing
When the search engines have the full structured dataand details of your website’s content, they understand whatyou are putting out. The structured data produce rich results, including additional information besides the title and description. The additional information may include images, reviews, and ratings.
Structured data helps websites appear in featured snippets that briefly answer search queries on top of search results. Featured snippets increase your website’s visibility and credibility and drive more traffic to your website.
Due to the rich results of structured data, website users find it more attractive and visually appealing than regular search snippets.
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4. Local SEO
Structured data is useful for local SEO as it helps businesses rank well in local search results.Businesses can improve their visibility and drive traffic from local search queries by using structured data to mark up information such as business hours, reviews, and local stores.
Structured vs. Unstructured Data
Both semi-structured data and unstructured data formats have gone beyond Search Engine Optimization and have other implications, such as data storage, text messages, and contact lists.
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Unstructured data is raw, and conventional relational database structures do not restrict it. However, it still has powerful effects on your marketing efforts. After all, search engine crawlers must review the page content, analyze unstructured data and make the most effective guesses about the content. However, the lack of standardization in unstructured data requires more work to use it correctly.
Examples of unstructured data include text, email, social media posts, chat data, blog post text, electronic data interchange, image, audio, video formats,and Internet of Things sensor data.
The difference between structured and unstructured data is that structured data consists of clearly defined data types that make them easily searchable. In contrast, unstructured data has no such predefined data model or format, making it difficult to collect, analyze, and process.
Some examples of schema markups include recipe schema markup, product schema markup, article schema markup, breadcrumbs, FAQs, person schema markup, and business intelligence organization schema markup.
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Each schema markup has specific requirements regarding whatneeds to be structured and how to structure it. From an SEO point of view, unstructured data is quicker and easier to create for a business but more complex for search engines to interpret.
How to Use Google Structured Data
Google’s status as a popular search engine, and as such, it dictates how structured data is used in SEO. Google uses structured data in various ways. They include:
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These are additional sublinks that appear within SERPs for sites.
Carousels are list-like rich results that contain captions populated by structured data. They display multiple cards from the same site and can be clicked through to give new SERP results.
When you use the correct structured query language for data, relevant videos will be pulled to the top of SERPS during a relevant query.
4. Featured snippets
These are forms of tables, quotes, lists, and cards that are populated and generally stored by Google based on structured data.
Using structured data, Google will offer answered FAQ modules in SERPs.
6. Knowledge panels
Google uses structured data to answer questions within the knowledge panels located at the right of a SERP.
If you use the right structured data model and your content educates users using a how-to format, Google may populate your written steps in a SERP and include a link to your content.
Drawbacks of Structured Data
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While structured data has great SEO benefits and boosts traffic, it has concerns that should be looked into. Some of the most common drawbacks include:
Using structured data requires technical know-how and a good understanding of SEO best practices. Businesses must ensure they have the skills required to implement structured data effectively. It may help if they work with technical experts to ensure that the structured data is stored and added correctly and does not interfere with website performance.
If structured data is added incorrectly, it can lead to issues with search engines. This can negatively affect search rankings and click-through rates. To avoid such errors, test and validate structured data using tools such as Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool before and after implementation.
3. Changes in Search Engine Algorithms
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The algorithms of Search engines are constantly changing and can affect structured data’s effectiveness. Updating yourself on the latest SEO trends, data analysis, and best practices constantly will help you implement structured data in correspondence to the current algorithms.
4. Structured Data Misuse
Search engines will penalize you if you misuse structured data. Ensure you use it accurately and responsibly to avoid negatively impacting your ranking. Avoid things like hiding keywords, keyword stuffing, or marking up content that is not actually on the page.
How to Add Structured Data to Your Website
You will need to use schema markup on your website to get started with structured data. Follow these four easy steps:
1. Choose a Page
Before adding any structured data, choose the page that will benefit from it. Use the correct markup schema for the content on that page. For example, if that page has a how-to article that the readers can benefit from, use a how-to markup schema, and if you have a compilation of many organization events on one page, don’t add any structured data.
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Keep track of your structured data efforts so you can see their performance. You can do this by creating a Google Sheets document and then listing the URL, schema markup added, and the date added.
Once you have selected the page to include structured data, select the structure you will use. Check all available structured data types in the Google search gallery, then make your choice.
3. Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper
After selecting your pages and the desired structured data, start coding it. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper makes this work easy. Open it and follow these steps:
- Select your chosen data type, e.g., product, event, etc
- Add your page URL
- Click “Start Tagging”
- Wait for the page to load
- Highlight the appropriate text
- Select a relevant tag
- Select “Add missing tags” to insert tags that you cannot select manually
- Select “Create HTML”
Google will load the schema using either JSON-LD or Microdata format. Sticking to Google’s preferred standardized format and default option, JSON-LD, is advisable.
- Select “Finish” or “Download”
4. Test the Structured Data
The final step is to test your configured structured data to ensure it works correctly. This is the most important part because if your structured data is formatted incorrectly, search engines will struggle to understand the information on your pages. This will harm your organic traffic and generate incorrect snippets in search results.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool or any other testing tool available. To use Google’s testing tool, follow these steps:
- Open the testing tool
- Key in your page URL or structured data code snippet
- Select “ Run Test”
You will get a comparison of your page. One side will feature your structured data code snippet, and the other side will include the errors, warnings, and items. It will also show you the detected structured data snippets like recipes or products.
Structured data is crucial in your SEO efforts. It helps increase traffic, boost click-through- rates, and improve user experience. Through its featured snippets and the rich results that it produces, customers find it more valuable.
Customers will prefer to click on the featured snippet instead of the first search result, which can considerably increase the website click-through rate in search results.If you are still considering using structured data in your SEO efforts, this is the time to start.
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