Are you ready for an insane number? Google handles 63,000 searches a second - that's 3.8 million searches a minute! Pretty crazy, huh? With all the importance of search rankings, you need to make sure that your website is listed and most importantly, ranks well. But how do you make sure that your site gets to the top of the list? The secret is structured data. Today we'll talk about how you can create better content, improve your search engine ranking AND gain a competitive edge.
Why Structured Data Is Important To SEO
So what is structured data? Google refers to structured data as "explicit clues". These "clues" let Google know the actual content of a web page. We all know that the company works diligently to build bots to better understand the web. But when it comes down to it, there is no substitute for human contribution. Take that, robots! ;)
According to Google...
“Structured data is a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.
“Google uses structured data that it finds on the web to understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web and the world in general.
“Because the structured data labels each individual element of the recipe, users can search for your recipe by ingredient, calorie count, cook time, and so on.”
It's obvious from the search above, that there are a lot of rich snippets. Anyone searching for avocado toast isn't just directed to a website anymore. Instead, they are given a description of what it is and a plethora of recipes.
This is known as Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Every SERP is unique, ever for search queries that are performed on the same engine - using the same keywords or search queries. The area on the right-hand side is called the "Knowledge Panel". This is where information for businesses such as opening hours, locations and phone numbers can be shown.
How Can I Use Structured Data?
Structured data uses HTML code, so it is necessary to be somewhat familiar with code in order to enable its feature. If you aren't familiar with HTML, don't worry just yet. There are a lot of third-party tools that you can use - even if your budget is tight. Google also makes the process for implementing structured data freely available.
The code you use for structured data ensures that your back-end code includes a number of relevant content signals to Google that includes:
But there is no magic button when it comes to turning on rich snippets. You really have to work hard on your site's infrastructure. Even then search engines aren't obligated to use them. This is why it's incredibly important to remember that not all of your results will be displayed using rich snippets. And unfortunately, what is shown will vary from time to time.
Google really is the decider when it comes to rich snippets. Thankfully this is where Schema.org comes into play. According to Schema.org...
“(they) Provide(s) a collection of shared vocabularies webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways that can be understood by the major search engines: Google, Microsoft, Yandex and Yahoo!”
So if you're looking for the language and code needed to instruct Google to highlight and feature information that's relevant to your business, Schema.org has your back. The Schema suite even includes a number of tools for testing and implementation, as well as a Wordpress plugin.
Why Should You Use It?
There are a lot of reasons as to why you should be using structured data. Instead of trying to convince you, just check out what Google says about it...
“When you use structured data to mark up content, you help Google better understand its context for display in Search, and you achieve better distribution of your content to users from Search. You do this by marking up content properties and enabling actions where relevant. This makes it eligible for inclusion in rich results.”
Keep in mind that there has been a lot of speculation in regards to whether or not structured data will factor into its ranking. Either way, Google has made it very clear that rich snippets currently don't play a part in its search engine results. BUT the rich data does give brands the chance to create authority on any given subject. After all, this could greatly affect on-page data, such as bounce rate and click through rate.
Before you click on a site, a search has already pre-vet the content. They know exactly which content is relevant, which means you're more likely click the link and stay on that site. Both of these factors play a huge role in search ranking. Therefore pre-vetting information gives you the upper hand with authority.
This can also improve clicks...
Honestly, any rich data has the ability to improve click-through rates. According to research conducted by Blue Nile studied the importance of being numero uno in the search results. Turns out being number one didn't always results in more clicks. As you can see above, ranking number two actually had more clicks. This 61% capture rate refers to content with rich snippets. When you compare it to position 1 with no rich snippets, it goes down by 26%. That might not seem like a big deal, but when you're competing for clicks - it really is.
What About SERPs?
Even those at the top of rankings aren't necessarily doing all that they should be. The argument is that users of search engines expect more. For example, when users search for a hotel they expect to see a star rating or at least a price while on the search page.
“Ranking high on SERPs is no longer enough to get people to visit your website. While it’s still generally a good idea to get your link on the first page, you’ll now need to make sure that you also provide useful enough content right on the SERP to set yourself apart from all the other search results."
And when it comes down to it, this is precisely what people online use to gauge how relevant you are to them. After all, this dictates whether or not they'll click on your link or not.
How Does Structured Data Support SEO?
Some of the benefits include enhancements to search results and content-specific features, such as:
- Breadcrumbs: these guys help in your search result
- Knowledge Graph: information about a brand or company
- Enriched search results: this includes immersive and interactive features
- Rich search results: this includes images, styling, and other visual enhancements
- Carousels: simply a collection of a variety of rich results presented in a carousel style
- Rich cards: a variation of rich search results, like rich snippets, that are designed for mobile users
- Rich results for AMP: the Accelerated Mobile pages are what shows up in carousels - complete with rich results - you also need to make sure to include structured data
These enhanced search results can improve your click-through rate (CTR) as well as drive additional traffic. This works because they are more visually appealing and provide additional information to its searchers. Another benefit is that an improved CTR can also indirectly improve your rankings!
Whenever you implement structured data on your site, it's a great way to prepare for the future of search. In particular, Google continues to move in the direction of hyper-personalization focused on solving problems and directly answering questions.
The Future of Structured Data
So what's the future of structured data? You might get an indication if you consider the fact that Google has developed its own structured data testing tool. They also have Structured Data, Data Highlighter, and Rich Cards modules. This feature lets webmasters use the Schema tools on their website. Granted it's hard to see Google taking these steps without making structured data a part of its overall ranking criteria. But what does that mean for companies? If you've already taken steps towards site optimization than your site will have the advantage.
Resources for Structured Data
If you are looking for some resources to help you get started, be sure to check the following out:
- Google’s Overview of Structured Data for SEO: Information from Google about how they recommend approaching structured data for SEO and AMP.
- Google's Structured Data Markup Helper: This tool can guide you through creating the code for various common use cases.
- Structured Data Testing Tool – Google: This tool from Google allows you to test whether your markup is working correctly.
- Bing Guide to Marking Up Your Site: More information about how Bing supports structured data.
- Structured Data Validator – Yandex: A tool from Yandex to test how they see your structured data markup.
- Schema.org: The official Schema.org website. Here you’ll find information about the latest updates, FAQs, and a guide to adding Schema.org markup to your site.
Is structured data right for you?
Implementing structured data for SEO is worthwhile for most brands. However, it DOES require a little effort and a variety of resources. Below are some indicators that it's a good idea to prioritize structured data for SEO:
- Search is the main source that drives value for your brand.
- Your site's recent basic optimization audit has shown you that you've achieved a competitive baseline with keyword targeting. As well as backlinks profile, technical setup and site structure.
- You really need your results to stand out in the SERPs.
- Interested in the use AMP (accelerated mobile pages) as a way to show up in featured areas of the SERP, including carousels.
- Your brand has a lot of content that is article-style and related to key head terms (ex. 12 burger recipes) and you want a way to display multiple results in the SERP.
- You already rank fairly well (positive 15 or higher) for terms with significant search volume (5,000-50,000 searches a month).
- You have development resources available and can quickly implement with minimal time and financial investment.
- Your brand is a local business, handles creative production, e-commerce, publishing company, educational products, movie/TV/book reviews, local business, deals with job listings, or events/ticketing.
So how do you feel about structured data? Is it something that you think you'll look into? Or is it something that you'll pass on? Let us know in the comments below, so we can discuss!