Structured data has been a hot topic in SEO circles for several years now, yet many marketers still don’t have a clear understanding of what it is and how it relates to optimization. We hope this newsletter helps shed some light on this topic.
In its most basic sense, structured data refers to any set of organized data or data that has been given structure.
For instance, “John called to confirm your 3pm business meeting on Wednesday at the coffee shop” and “Don’t forget to meet Mary at her office for brunch, 10am this Friday,” are both examples of unstructured data. Labeling the details within these messages and arranging them according to categories such as date, time, people, and type of meeting translates to ‘organizing’ them into a more ‘structured’ presentation.
Structured data is useful in a lot of ways, such as in utilizing Open Graph markup for specifying Facebook titles and descriptions, or in using SQL or explore relational database.
In SEO, structured data refers to the implementation of a certain type of webpage markup so as to provide detail around the content of a page. This strategy can improve a search engine’s understanding of that particular page’s content, thus increasing relevancy signals and enabling your website to take advantage of enhanced results in the SERPs (such as carousels, rich cards, rich snippets, knowledge boxes, and similar types).
Structured data as a markup needs to be consistently parsed and understood by humans and search engines. This has led to standardized implementations or formats and syntaxes, as well as the classification of relationships, concepts, and terms, or vocabularies that must be used to ensure correctness.
The three syntaxes search engines typically support are Microdata, Microformats, and JSON-LD. These syntaxes are commonly used with vocabularies such as Schema.org and Microformats.org. In SEO, the most commonly used structured data markup (although not the only one) is Schema.org.
How is structured data used in SEO?
Search engines such as Google and Bing encourage sites to make use of structured data. They even incentivize its use by offering benefits to websites that correctly implement it. These benefits typically include search result advantages and enhancements, along with other content specific features like:
- Rich search results or snippets, which can include images, styling, and similar visual enhancements to help you provide additional context for different types of content such as articles, products, videos, star ratings, product reviews, etc.
- Rich cards, which are a variation on rich snippets, designed for mobile audiences
- Enriched search results, which can include immersive or interactive features
- Knowledge graphs, which contain information about brands or entities. Search engines like Google use structured data in order to populate their knowledge graph boxes with the appropriate information
- Breadcrumbs in search results
- Carousels, which are collections of several rich results, presented in carousel style
- Rich results for accelerated mobile pages (AMP)
- AdWords through structured snippet extensions, which allow you to add information in your ad copy so people can better understand your products and services.
All of these search result enhancements require the use of structured data as a markup approach. Not only can these search result enhancements help propel your pages to higher rankings—they can also help improve overall click through rates, thus attracting more traffic to your site. This is possible because enhanced search results are generally more visually appealing. They also provide more useful information to searchers. Not only can enhanced click through rates indirectly improve search rankings—they can likewise be considered as user behavior signals.
Implementing structured data is one way to future-proof your SEO, as search engines continue to improve in favor of hyper-personalization and move towards better problem solving by attempting to answer queries directly.
SEOValley can help you implement structured data. Get in touch today!