Structured data is probably the most significant SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) technique you can use on your website today! I’m not discarding speed and mobile compatibility, but structured data (Schema.org Markup) is EXTREMELY important.
SEO (optimising your website for search engines) has always been about getting search engines to understand your website better. Using structured data (Schema.org Markup) is explicitly telling search engines what information your website contains – there is nothing better.
If you can only do one thing (looking at hundreds of improvements), structured data should be it.
On a high-quality website, speed and mobile compatibility should already be baked in. Even on a medium quality site, these shouldn’t be a problem. It’s only really a problem on websites that were designed to the lowest quality standards.
Yes, I understand page speed is VERY important too, especially with the July 2018 speed update around the corner. However, being relevant is still better than being fast – although being fast and relevant is even better still.
What is structured data?
Structured data (Schema.org Markup) is microdata that you can use to help search engines parse and understand your page’s information more effectively. Structured data is one of the latest additions to SEO. This form of optimisation is one of the most powerful (but least-utilised) forms of SEO available today.
If all web pages were using structured data correctly, we would have much less competition in search engine results pages. Many of the search results aren’t really relevant to what the searcher is searching for. This means there probably are more relevant results hidden deeper in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Once you understand the significance of structured data, you will want to implement schema markup on your website.
Structuring your data can significantly increase your website’s visibility in the search engine results. Properly adding structured data to your web pages can make your site really stand out from the other results.
From the search engine results below, the third result looks much more appealing – doesn’t it? It also probably receives a lot more traffic for this specific query, even though it isn’t the first listing.
How does structured data help?
Search engines can already tell what data (text & images) the page contains. However, the search engine lacks information regarding the context of the data (or content). Structured data helps solve this problem and helps search engines deliver more relevant search results.
You can help the search engine understand what the page is about and what the page should be used for. The search engine can then make a better decision about when to show the page as a search result.
What is Schema.org Markup?
Schema.org Markup is a vocabulary that search engines can easily understand. Collectively, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Yandex developed Schema.org. The goal is to have a way to structure your data so that all search engines can understand your page’s content.
Will structured data increase my SERP position (or ranking)?
No, not necessarily – it’s not meant for that. Structured data is a technical SEO technique used to add context to your content, not for adding content to your page. Just because a page is created well from a technical perspective, doesn’t necessarily make it more relevant to the query.
Search engines (like Google) display results of content that is relevant to what the searcher is searching for. Structured data adds context to the content, helping the search engine figure out if the content is relevant or not.
Therefore, you should add proper context (structured data) to all your pages, but especially to complicated pages. It will probably help a page rank better for search queries where the page is really a relevant search result. This helps both you and the searcher. The searcher get’s what they want and you get searchers who are really looking for what you have.
However, the page might drop in ranking for queries that aren’t really relevant – which is also what you want. You don’t want searchers who are really looking for something else to visit your page, do you? It just messes up your analytics and decreases your conversion rate.
A big part of why some websites have a 1% conversion rate is because they are attracting the wrong visitors. If they only attracted visitors who are looking for what they have, their conversion rate should be much higher.
Why should you add structured data to your website?
Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page by including structured data on the page. Structured data is a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page’s content.
For example: On a recipe page, list the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on. Because the structured data labels each individual element of the recipe, users can search for your recipe by ingredient, calorie count, cooking time, etc.
The text above was taken from Google’s Introduction to Structured Data page.
Example: Pizza recipe or Pizza restaurant?
If a search engine (like Google) crawls a page, it has to determine what the page is about. At times, this can be difficult or confusing. Imagine the following scenario.
A search engine comes across two pages with roughly the same information. Both of them contain information about the same type of pizza. They both list the same pizza, the same ingredients, a measure of time, and a price. What makes them different and which searchers should see which page?
The problem – unclear data:
Website A contains the following words: Monday Pizza, Bacon, Olives, Garlic, Tomato, Green Peppers, Mozzarella Cheese, R150, 20 Minutes.
Website B, on the other hand, contains the following words: Lazy Pizza, Bacon, Olives, Garlic, Tomato, Green Peppers, Mozzarella Cheese, R140, 25 Minutes.
What are these two websites up to? Are they both selling the same pizza for roughly the same price? Is the one more expensive because it is quicker than the other? How would you make sense of this information?
The solution – structuring the data:
When you implement structured data (Schema.org Markup), you paint the picture much clearer. You do this so that the search engine can understand what exactly is going on.
Website A will markup the information as a product. The product (Monday pizza) contains the listed ingredients and they sell it for R150. It also requires 20 minutes to prepare.
On the other hand, Website B will markup the information as a recipe. The recipe is for Lazy pizza (the dish) and requires the same ingredients. The listed ingredients will cost roughly R140 and the dish takes about 25 minutes to prepare.
Now it is easy to help searchers find the right answer. If the searcher is looking for a recipe, show Website B. It doesn’t matter where the searcher is located, because the recipe isn’t relevant to a location.
However, if the searcher was trying to order pizza, Website A might be a better result. But, only if the searcher is close enough to the restaurant. There is no point in showing a pizza restaurant in Cape Town to a searcher in Johannesburg.
The end result:
Google is really good at understanding the searcher’s intent. It just needs a little help understanding what all these billions of web pages are about. Google already knows what the searcher is after. If Google knows exactly what the web pages are about, it is much easier to give more relevant search results.
A searcher that wants to order pizza is happy when they know where to order from, and get contact details. Google is happy when the searcher is happy. The restaurant is very happy if the searcher orders a pizza. Everybody wins!
Is it difficult to implement structured data on a website?
Not at all. On websites that consist of only HTML files, you can use the Markup helper to get started. If you use a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress or Joomla, you might want to use a plugin. There are many plugins (WordPress) or extensions (Joomla) to help you out.
WordPress users & developers
If you are using WordPress, I suggest taking a look at the WP SEO Structured Data Schema WordPress plugin. Whilst being very easy to use, it provides a lot of options regarding which structured data you want to apply.
Joomla users & developers
The extension is extremely easy to use. It also provides you with fine-grained control of the structured data you want to add to a page. You can even add multiple schemas of the same type, which the other extensions simply can’t do. This is extremely handy when, for example, you are adding more than one product to a page.
Need someone to add structured data to your website for you?
Many website owners want to add structured data to their website, but they don’t want to do it themselves. Many times they don’t have a website developer, or they made the website themselves.
Sometimes their current developer doesn’t know how to add structured data or the structured data doesn’t validate. Having no structured data on a page might be better than having structured data that gives errors.
How can I test my markup for errors?
You can test your markup with the Structured Data Testing Tool from Google to verify if your markup is correct or not. The tool will let you know about warnings or errors, which you can then correct accordingly.