Structured data allows search engines to not only crawl your site, but to truly understand it. Yes, even search engines can have a tough time deciphering web page content. Some elements that seem perfectly obvious to us humans are meaningless to web crawlers.
That’s where structured data comes in to play. Structured data is added directly to a page’s HTML markup. Search engines use structured data to generate rich snippets, which are small pieces of information that will then appear in search results.
So, what exactly does structured data look like in search engine listings? Structured data is the “extra” information that you see next to a website and meta description. For example, if you are searching for a restaurant, you will see not only the restaurant’s name, but also additional information such as hours, pricing and stars to indicate positive reviews.
If your website is not using structured data as a part of your SEO strategy, then your business is missing out on an important opportunity to rank higher in SERP. Wondering how your business can get started using structured data? Below, we’ve answered four of the most frequently asked questions about structured data:
#1: What is structured data?
Many websites are generated from data that is stored databases; when this data is formatted into HTML code, it can be difficult for web crawlers to effectively interpret this information. Structured data is on-page markup that enables search engines to better understand the information currently on your business’s web page, and then use this information to improve your business’s search results listing. For example, structured data makes it easier for web crawlers to determine company basics, such as NAP (name, address, place) data, as well as more complex information such articles, events, products, recipes, etc. on your web site.
#2: How does my business get started with structured data and SEO?
Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is one of the most useful free tools to help your business get started with structured data. This markup tool help enhance Google’s understanding of the content on your website. This content is then used not only for your search engine results, but may also be incorporated into Knowledge Graph panels or Google Now cards, increasing your business’s online reach. Embedding structured data directly into your website ensures this information is available to everyone. To do so with Google’s Structure Data Markup Helper, submit a web page to the helper and use your mouse to “tag” different page elements. When you are finished tagging, the Data Markup Helper will generate sample HTML code with microdata marked up. You can then download this code and incorporate it into your website.
#3: Do I need a web developer to manage structured data and SEO for me?
First, the bad news: structured data uses HTML code, so some familiarity with coding can be beneficial. Now, for the good news: thanks to third party services like schema.org, as well as Bing and Google webmaster tools (like Google’s Structured Data Helper, discussed above), you do not need to be a coding expert – or even rely on a web developer – in order to incorporate structured data into your website. Schema.org provides a collection of html tags that webmasters can use to mark up their pages for easy search engine recognition. Google’s Structured Data Helper also provides microdata markup for easily incorporating into your website. However, if you have limited back-end web experience, your business may benefit from a developer’s expert assistance. Odds are that your time is better spent growing your business rather than trying to figure out the intricacies of microdata implementation.
#4: What about keywords – do they still matter?
As Google and other search engines weave increasingly complex layers of implicit intent into search results, keywords are fading in importance. For example, consider Google’s new “conversational search” feature, which automatically weaves information such as (1) where you are, (2) what you’ve searched for in the past and (3) who you are into their search query. Localization and personalization of search results make semantic SEO and structured data increasingly important. At the same time, mobile is driving the semantic revolution. As users transition from PC-based searches to mobile searches, structured data and SEO, rather than keywords, will have a greater impact on search engine results. Keywords may never entirely die off, but according to marketing analytics firm Moz, the days of keyword domination are over.
The Bottom Line
Structured data is the future of search engine marketing. Gone are the days when magical keyword counts or backlinks guaranteed search engine rank success. Instead, a business’ ability to effectively use structured data will increasingly dictate whether their website will favorably appear in SERP. Don’t let old school SEO tactics leave your business behind!