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LET'S TALK

Get smarter digital strategy, expert research tailored to grow your KPIs.

Driving online growth that exceeds expectations is a massive challenge and requires a made-to-order approach.

  • Search & KPI dashboards
  • Search template optimization
  • Enterprise SEO audit

+1 866 324 8899

contact@veloxmedia.com

January 10, 2020

What is Structured Data and How Can My Website Utilize It?

In a perfect world, your site would dominate search engine results pages (SERPs) with quality content alone. Website visitors can read and understand the meaning of your content, and search engines are getting better at interpreting semantic connections between topics, searches, and websites. Search engines, however, don’t have the same reasoning power as humans. Their algorithms need specific clues, presented in specific ways, to properly understand the context and meaning of a page.

The variety of benefits, including enhanced SERP visibility, make structured data worth the time to learn.

Structured data tells search engines not only what the content is, but also what it means and its purpose. By using structured data, you’re speaking directly to search engines, allowing them to interpret your pages and display them in results more accurately.

Implementing structured data site-wide is a tedious process that takes equal amounts of strategy and technical work, but the benefits to your visibility in SERPs are absolutely worth it. The following is an overview of structured data. We’ll also cover which markup formats Google prefers, along with why you should include structured data in your broad SEO strategy.

What Is Structured Data?

The term “structured data” refers to any data that is organized and structured. In terms of SEO, it refers to particular types of standardized data formats, classified under broad vocabularies, which are used to communicate with search engines. That code is used to define and describe the content on a page, helping search engines understand how it relates to your site, and how it relates to user search queries.

In SEO, you’ll most commonly see three formats used to create structured data markups: Microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa. Those formats are grouped under a common vocabulary: schema.org. More on SEO structured data formats and vocabularies.

When you write high-quality content on your site, you’re letting users know what your website and products are about. This is a key component of a content strategy that engages users and prioritizes conversions. Plain English is easy for users to understand, but search engines might need additional instructions. You use structured data to create a “markup” on a page, which is a set of tags that define and categorize each element. When you implement structured data markups on a page, you’re speaking Google’s language, and Google uses that information to deliver more accurate search results to users.

With structured data, you can:

  • Indicate to Google and other search engines what to display about your page and how to organize it in SERPs
  • Define elements of your page like business type, business name, contact information, product information, and so on
  • Direct search engine crawlers to specific details about your product like price, ratings, features, and product-specific details
  • Allow Google to deliver much more precise results to searchers and provide more reason for them to click through to your site

Also, structured data allows you to go beyond the title and URL of the page and can provide essential information in the form of rich snippets in SERPs that could compel users to click more often.

Rich Snippets Help You Stand Out

LD-JSON

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context" : "http://schema.org",
  "@type" : "Organization",
  "name" : "VELOX Media",
  "telephone" : "+1-866-324-8899",
  "email" : "contact@veloxmedia.com",
  "address" : {
    "@type" : "PostalAddress",
    "streetAddress" : "816 W Bannock St. Suite 306",
    "addressLocality" : "Boise",
    "addressRegion" : "ID",
    "postalCode" : "83702"
  }
}
</script>

Microdata

<div itemscope itemtype ="http://schema.org/Organization">
  <h1 itemprop="name">VELOX Media</h1>
  <span itemprop="email"> contact@veloxmedia.com</span>
  <span itemprop="telephone">+1-866-324-8899</span>
<div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
    <span itemprop="streetAddress">
      816 W Bannock St. Suite 306
    </span>
    <span itemprop="addressLocality">Boise</span>,
    <span itemprop="addressRegion">ID</span>
    <span itemprop="postalCode">83702</span>
  </div>
</div>

Google uses structured data to “enable special search result features and enhancements“ called rich results, such as graphical results, review snippets, and carousel placements. These don’t necessarily increase rankings on their own, but they are powerful tools for enticing clicks and positive user behavior, which can have a considerable impact on an SEO campaign.

Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs on Google display a page’s location in a site’s hierarchy, leaving a breadcrumb trail that can be followed back up to other areas of the site. They appear right underneath the main hyperlink. Google can use breadcrumbs to categorize the information on a page to provide context to the user’s query. For example, if a user searches for a book by its title, a breadcrumb enabled result might display Books>Authors>Name>Title underneath the main result link. Breadcrumbs can display in basic results that don’t have other rich elements, and so are very common.

Rich Result: A result with styling, images, and other features is considered “rich.” If your site features certain content types with appropriate markups, including products, books, recipes, or job postings, rich results can provide users with additional information and take up more SERP real estate. Rich results can show users an image, a brief description, user ratings, nutritional information like calories, and other information depending on the type of content you create markups for.

Enriched Search Result: This is a type of result that is more immersive or interactive than others. Often, enriched search results will feature a popup or advanced interaction feature. You’ll be able to create structured data markups for enriched search results to enhance job postings, recipes, or events. If they’re displayed, they’ll provide users with more information, and allow them to perform actions within the search results.

Knowledge Graph Result: Knowledge graphs and rich results have a similar format, although knowledge graphs specifically provide users with information about a person, place, or thing. They might include biographic information for a person, or the logo and social media profiles of a business. The panel is automatically generated from data coming from a variety of sources, so if you notice incorrect or missing information, you’ll need to suggest a change to Google. Knowledge graph results are useful for displaying information about your brand or yourself when users search for you and can use structured data from any formats under schema.org.

Carousel: Using carousel markups makes your content eligible for a list-like display that appears on mobile devices. Carousels only support recipes and articles, appearing at the top of a SERP with a sideways-scrollable list of cards displaying individual results with images. A carousel might draw from a single website, or multiple sources. If you run a site with recipes or you post articles frequently, this feature can be useful in capturing mobile traffic.

While there’s no guarantee that Google will always display your rich snippets in search, using structured data markups is a vital best practice that can boost user interactions and engagement. In combination with a site optimized for on-page SEO and user experience, they can be of great benefit to an SEO campaign.

Structured Data Optimizes Your Site for Voice Search

Voice search is big and only getting bigger. Amazon and Google created voice assistant devices and voice search features, and they both continue to support and develop voice-first technology. Google’s statistics about voice device use show that people are adjusting quickly to having smart assistants in their lives. These are clear signals that optimizing for voice is an increasingly vital strategy for staying competitive in organic search.

If you run a cooking site and someone asks their smart speaker or virtual assistant, “what ingredients are in tiramisu?”, you want to ensure you’ve optimized your recipe page to answer their question. Structured data allows the voice feature to return a concise, relevant answer. It will deliver the user information categorized under the structured data markup for ingredients on the page. The same can be said for product information, contact information, and other queries a user might make with a voice device.

Where You Can Find Approved Structured Data Formats

Implementing structured data markups onto your site isn’t dissimilar to other coding efforts. You need a set of code you can adapt to fit your page and content. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Yandex founded schema.org, which is a vocabulary common to their applications and many others. Most major search engines, including Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!, use this common vocabulary. There are other vocabularies and formats, but to be eligible for rich search results in Google, you should use Google’s three supported formats: JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa.

On schema.org, you’ll find structured data templates categorized by type of content. Simply navigate the site to find the markup relating to your page and determine which one best suits your needs. From there, you can copy it and adapt it with the specific details of your content.

To be eligible for rich search results in Google, you should use Google’s three supported formats: JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa.

As of March 2019, Google has confirmed they prefer one schema markup over the rest: JSON-LD.

Using Google’s Preferred Schema Markup

In a Webmaster Hangout in early 2019, Google’s own John Mueller was asked which schema markup he prefers. The answer was JSON-LD, and this is also confirmed in their documentation about rich search results. JSON-LD (an abbreviation for JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) is particularly easy for developers to implement and change, which is why it’s great news that Google prefers it. Google can still read and interpret the other formats under schema.org, but using their preference is the path of least resistance.

Google offers a useful Structured Data Markup Helper that walks you through the process of applying structured data, starting with your URL or HTML code. You can quickly select page elements with your cursor, select the type of markup you want to use, and it will generate the code for you.

You can check to see how well your structured data works with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Either enter your URL if you have the markups implemented or paste a code snippet that you’re working on. The tool will alert you of any problems that you should correct. If you get the all-clear, then your page is ready for a live test. Monitor the page’s clickthrough rate to understand the impact of rich search results.

Summarizing the Benefits of Implementing Structured Data on Your Site

While implementing structured data on your site doesn’t send direct ranking signals, the increased utility of each page helps search engines understand and deliver your content to users. The variety of benefits, including enhanced SERP visibility, make structured data worth the time to learn. If you need help, a full-service search marketing agency like VELOX Media will implement it for you as part of a campaign. While rich snippet results are not guaranteed to display every time, by implementing structured data as part of an SEO strategy, you can expect:

  • Increased relevancy within SERPs
  • Your content will be easier to interact with on mobile and voice-first devices
  • More information displayed in SERPs for users to see at a glance
  • Higher clickthrough rates via rich snippets
  • More “online real estate” as snippets give your site more space and visual prominence in SERPs
  • More clicks will add momentum to your overall search strategy and assist in improving keyword rankings

VELOX Media is an award-winning, ROI-focused digital marketing agency that specializes in strategy, organic search marketing optimization, paid management, and web development.

We specifically target a 400%-800% monthly ROI above spend and are ranked among the top 3% of agencies in the world by Google.

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