The term structured data has been used in the SEO community in recent years, but there are still many misconceptions about what the concept means for search. Structured data can play a critical role in how search engines understand the content on a website, but not many marketers use it to their advantage.
How Structured Data Helps SEO
Structured data in an SEO context typically refers to using some form of markup on a web page that will provide additional details about the content on that page. Direct search engines to items that contain valuable information about the web page’s content.
The search engine can pull rich snippets and rich data for the page, such as images, reviews, and hours of operation, to be displayed on results pages.
Structured data is helpful for companies that have offices in various locations and use structured information specific to each site. Companies that sell multiple products online can also benefit by using structured data to identify what makes each product unique (color, size, manufacturer, etc.).
Search engines cannot understand language as effectively as humans. Structured data can be used to assist SEO professionals in improving the language understanding of search engines.
Search engines can extract new insights from highly organized or meaningful data.
Structured Data and Semantic Search
When looking for ways to optimize using structured data, marketers often talk about “semantic search” or the “semantic web.” So what exactly does this mean?
Standardizing Structured Data
Of course, standardization is essential as search engines and human web users must consistently understand structured data markup.
In 2011, the world’s most prolific search engines—Google, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo—collaborated and agreed to create a standardized list of structured data markup attributes and entities. This initiative has become known as Schema.org, which has become the most widely used approach to structured data markup for SEO.
Schema.org provides a collection of collaborative dictionaries actively developed by the community. SEO professionals can use these dictionaries to mark website pages easier to understand by significant search engines.
Reports have shown that Schema.org has surprisingly slow adoption, with a usage rate of only 17%. But despite this, it should be noted that more than 10 million sites today use Schema.org to mark their website pages.
The Schema.org dictionary can be used with various encodings, including three popular formats: RDFa, Microdata, and JSON–LD. In addition, Google supports structured data in all three of these formats.
RDFa: An HTML extension designed to help flag things like people, places, events, recipes, and Reviews. RDFa supports linked data by presenting HTML tag attributes corresponding to the site content you want to disclose to search engines.
Key Benefits of Using Structured Data
Over the years, Google has improved its search engine results pages to the point where they show informative results. For example, instead of a page of straight links, it comes with search results, images, related news, contact information, and opening hours for businesses sought.
Therefore, if your website is not taking advantage of search features like this, you may lose many valuable clicks.
Search engines offer advantages to SEOs who apply structured data correctly. In particular, Google uses structured data to enable custom search result enhancements such as:
- Infographic Information
- Breadcrumbs in Search Results
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Improved Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
- Multiple Rich Results Appear in a Rotating Style
Rich Data Snippets and Rich Cards:
Structured data markup allows SEOs to provide additional context for ratings and reviews, video content, articles, products, and recipes. For example, a site will appear in search engine results with structured data as a rich snippet or rich card, images, videos, and star ratings.
Accelerated Mobile Pages:
If a site uses AMP, it’s essential to include structured data markup to make AMP pages appear in rich results.
You can edit the infographic box, which is the information that appears to the right of the search engine results for Branded searches. Google uses structured data to fill this box.
These results run horizontally at the top of a Google search engine results page when users search for something locally. If a website has several items matching the query, it may display multiple rich results in a carousel–style search engine results.