The Strategic Value of Structured Data Implementation
Structured data implementation promises to enhance your website’s SEO value and attract new customers. It is no longer a practice that can be ignored as businesses become savvier every day when it comes to the latest trends in digital marketing. It continues to evolve the way we search for information and access information by identifying key snippets of information on a page for our knowledge.
If you are unfamiliar with structured data, also referred to as schema, we’re here to get you up to speed. This article will help you to understand what structured data is, the importance of schema markup in SEO, the implementation of data structures, and how to identify any schema errors currently on your web pages.
What is Structured Data?
Structured data is any information that is structured or organized to help search engine crawlers understand the data. By using the appropriate schema markups, Google can immediately identify business information, product information, people, addresses, contact details, and more. Using structured data correctly will also illustrate how all of that information relates to one another in a hierarchical structure.
You will often hear structured data and schema markup used interchangeably, although they are not the same thing. When we use the term schema markup, we are referring to the process of using a markup language in our HTML to appropriately tag and organize all of the content on a web page. This process makes our data structured for better visibility.
Like any programming language, there are strict rules for us to follow. Schema.org is the official organization that determines and creates the rules that all webmasters must follow when properly implementing structured data. Google then uses those rules to create a format for the appropriate tags to use and when to use them for you to enhance the appearance of your search result on one of their search engine results pages.
Why Should I Implement Structured Data on My Site?
Before you find yourself scared off by the technical aspects, know that the importance of schema markup in SEO cannot be understated. Structured data benefits all parties involved by making it easier to identify and read key elements of information that you offer on every webpage. If you’re unsure of what this means, take a look at this search result:
Before we click on a webpage, we can already learn a significant amount of information just from the snippet. We see how this page relates to the navigational hierarchy of the website, it is marked up with a review schema, and it also features schema markup that shows pricing and inventory information.
Your average search result usually contains only a title and a meta description. This enhanced search result is known as a rich snippet or a rich result and exists because of the structured data implementation. Not only does it potentially save us a click by giving us the key details, but it also tells Google’s search crawler how to understand and classify that information for us. The better Google can understand your website, the more trust it has in it, which can ultimately boost your rankings.
In addition to this, a rich result is larger, contains more valuable information, and offers better visibility than your average search listing. The traffic that enters your website from a rich result is also likely to be of higher quality as they’ve already gained additional information to help them determine their level of interest in your content.
Structured Data Can Also Provide Knowledge Graphs
While rich results will benefit every website owner, structured data implementation can also help Google create knowledge graphs for higher-ranking results. Whenever you search for a keyword or business on Google, the top results generally feature what’s known as a knowledge graph on the right side of the page. This provides a massive preview of the site along with relevant information.
This can provide your audience with the knowledge they need including a brief about blurb, contact information, social media profile links, your home page link, and much more. Google will also try to provide them with related businesses that users search for to help audiences better understand where your brand lies in the industry.
In summary, structured data implementation makes the internet a more organized, informative place. By helping Google understand your site, you significantly improve your SEO value and stand out significantly among your competitors. Your audience will thank you for the easily accessible information, as well.
Who Can Benefit from Structured Data?
Every business or website owner will unquestionably benefit from enhancing their pages with rich results. If you take several search results across a variety of topics on Google, you are guaranteed to see rich results near the top of every search engine results page. While those webmasters are certainly implementing a variety of SEO practices to enhance their ranking, the evidence is clear that Google’s algorithm highly favors those who properly utilize schema markup according to their structured data guidelines.
While structured data implementation should be a core component of everyone’s SEO strategy, it can potentially be more beneficial for small-to-medium-sized businesses that may or may not have the ability to correctly perform their schema markup. This can be due to lack of knowledge or ability, lack of time or resources, or lack of budget to hire a search engine optimization expert. This provides the perfect window for you to take advantage of the competition’s weaknesses.
A smaller business with a lower profile will stand out significantly with an excellent SEO strategy and rich results on every website page. It lends an air of professionalism, trustworthiness, and authority that provides an excellent first impression to first-time visitors. In addition to this, these happen to be the components Google’s search algorithm looks for when choosing the results to rank highest.
If you are on the fence as to whether or not implementing structured data is worthwhile, or SEO in general for that matter, it’s time to take the leap. SEO services are affordable and undoubtedly one of the most worthwhile investments you can make to improve your business’s online presence. Studies support this claim with rich results pages boasting higher clickthrough rates than those without.
Where Can I Learn How to Implement Structured Data?
Schema.org offers a “Getting Started” page that educates you on the basic principles of schema markups and microdata. This includes descriptions of the alternative formats as well as the vocabulary used to tag key information. This document is not for those who are completely unfamiliar with coding and assumes that you have some basic knowledge of HTML as a website owner and operator.
From there, you can utilize their document library to understand the preferred hierarchy model and the full list of schema vocabulary you can use to mark up a webpage. You can also quickly search for specific articles to immediately identify how to mark up that specific article of information.
There are three formats for implementing structured data: microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa. While you can learn about each on the website, know that Google’s preferred format is JSON-LD, which greatly simplifies the process of marking up a page. You can essentially apply your markup language anywhere in the HTML of a page without much issue.
Choosing the Right Structured Data for the Page
If you’ve had an opportunity to take a peek at the list of schema vocabulary, you may be overwhelmed. While it’s easy to go overboard with the intent of marking up every piece of content, it’s better to focus on the primary goal for the page.
When beginning structured data implementation, start with the primary reason that the webpage exists. If you are marking up a product page for example, then the “Product” schema is the most important factor for this page. Remember that Google’s search crawler uses this language to determine what content exists on a page. If you get carried away with markups that are not focused on the product, you may confuse the algorithm. This can harm your rankings.
When you need to use more markup tags, remember to follow the recommended hierarchy. If you think about how other search results appear when using structured data, the hierarchy generally might look something like this:
- Educational Organization
- College or University
- Educational Organization
For a product schema, it may look something like this:
- Product Name
- Product Image
- Aggregate Rating
You can use the Schema link provided above and follow the links to see how a hierarchy should follow. The final link then takes you to all of the available attributes that you may potentially use to markup a page based on the primary topic you selected.
The exact structured data you should use depends entirely on the page’s subject matter. You will need to research the required and recommended attributes before beginning the markup process. Countless types of pages could exist depending on the focus including Product, Review, Article, Offer, Business, Place, Person, Creative Work, Event, and much more.
If you are struggling with how to approach implementing structured data markup, Google once again simplifies the process by offering its Structured Data Markup Helper. You simply select the primary data type of the page, enter your URL, and click Start Tagging.
Your webpage will appear along with a column listing the potential items available for tagging on the right side. Click the content you want to tag, choose the appropriate tag, and repeat this process for all items you wish to markup. When you are finished, simply select Create HTML to have this tool generate your code for you. You will then need to add this HTML code to the existing code on the webpage.
How Do I Know If I Used Structured Data Correctly?
If you utilize the documentation made available by Schema.org, you should already be off to a great start. However, Google Search Console simplifies the process of identifying markup errors. Log in to your Google Search Console account and navigate to Search Appearance. This will show you your total number of results along with the current number of errors.
You can then sort through every error by page and view a description of each schema markup error that is present. You should then continue to follow through by selecting Test Live Data, which will take you to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. This then provides an in-depth examination of your schema markup code and pinpoints the problems exactly.
The test will flag errors in either red or orange. Red indicates any markup tags that are required or are present with existing issues. This is usually caused by an incorrect entry somewhere in the markup tag. Flagged items in orange do not represent vital errors, but rather recommendations to enhance the appearance of your rich results.
Any time that you remedy existing errors or otherwise change the schema markup of a webpage, be sure to resubmit your website for indexing through the Search Console. This advises Google to crawl your website once again and update search engine results pages with the fixes to your HTML and snippet appearance.
Additional Schema Markup Tips to Know
Now that you’ve grasped the essentials of schema markup and structured data implementation, there are a few things to keep in mind. You should only apply schema markup tags to content that users see and interact with on the web page. You do not need to and should not tag elements that exist only in the HTML code.
However, you may tag hidden content that exists on a webpage. While this won’t apply to many users, there are niche scenarios in which hiding content is necessary to improve the user experience. An example of this is minimizing the amount of content shown on screen when a user visits a page from a mobile phone with a small screen. Developers may choose to hide some of the content behind a “Read More” button to improve the user experience. Because the content is not being hidden for malicious or unethical purposes, it is acceptable to tag this content for your SEO. However, know that it is never acceptable to hide irrelevant content to mislead consumers or manipulate the search algorithm.
An additional tip to note is that your schema markup should always be a true representation of the content. We raise this point as there may be scenarios in which a page on your website ranks highly for a term that is separate from the page’s focus.
An example of this is ranking for a product on your home page, which focuses on your business. While it may occur to you to use a product markup to further boost this ranking, it goes against Google’s guidelines. You would still need to utilize the local business markup to represent the on-page content. If your pages are ranking for keywords unintentionally, you will need to address this in your SEO strategy.
Finally, be sure to implement the same schema markup language on all versions of your site including Accelerated Mobile Pages. This will ensure that the benefits gained from structured data are consistent and present a better browsing experience for your mobile audience.
Tracking Your Rich Results Performance
After marking up your website pages and remedying any errors, you can easily keep track of the benefits gained from your efforts by using Google Search Console. By navigating to Performance > Search Appearance, you can view clicks, impressions, and Google ranking positions for each rich result. Use your tracked dates to compare newer figures to previous ones without schema markup language.
Google Search Console will further segment your rich results by general search queries, product snippets, review snippets, and videos. You should expect to see an increase in all metrics over time.
Conclusion – The Strategic Value of Structured Data Implementation is Significant
Effectively organizing the content throughout your website benefits your online presence in myriad ways. Google’s search crawler has a significantly easier time classifying and presenting data to search engine users when using schema markup tags. This results in rich results that present your audience with key information that not only drives your clickthrough rate but the quality of your website traffic.
Utilizing structured data is also an effective way to immediately make your local business stand out significantly from the competition. Maximizing the impressions gained by demonstrating organization, trustworthiness, and professionalism will help you stand among even larger online businesses.
All of these benefits work together to ultimately boost your overall search rankings. Your average search engine results page demonstrates that pages with rich results take priority over those without. Combine this with a consistent SEO strategy and regular content marketing and your website ranking will climb noticeably over time.