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  • Structured Data: Why it's Important for SEO and How to Implement Proper Data Markup

    Structured Data: Why it’s Important for SEO and How to Implement Proper Data Markup

    Structured Data, like any other markup language, is important to the presentation of your content, in particular, your products and other information.

    It also has a variety of uses that improve your SEO.

    Structured data isn’t just about making your products look nice and orderly.

    It is now the only way to stay on top of your SEO.

    Structured data impacts user experience, click through rate and on-page dwell time and more.

    Unlike unstructured data, which often fails to delineate and demystify what a particular piece of content is about (text, image, motion graphics, etc.), structured data provides clear feedback, giving search engines the information they need to properly categorize web pages and their respective content.

    But, let’s dig in a bit deeper.

    Why You Need Structured Data

    Google doesn’t recognize structured data by itself as a Google ranking factor, it’s how you manipulate that structured data and what you do with it that affects your SEO and in turn your site traffic, ranking, and conversion rate.

    Without delving into the specifics of data structures and how coding languages facilitate site structure and layout, your structured data makes Google understand your content, therefore, it is one of the keys to how well you are defined by search engines and how users can find you and your products.

    In particular, e-commerce sites benefit greatly from using structured data along with your unstructured data to improve their ranking and presentation to better the user experience.

    If you want to compete in the marketplace effectively, building out product details to create robust and informative rich snippets that tell users everything they need to know before they even click on a web page.

    The overall benefits of structured data exceed far beyond ecommerce and rich snippets though.

    Structured data can impact your SEO negatively if you use it wrong, but if you take advantage of all that data in the right way, you can essentially teach Google how to interpret your content and improve your ranking with the data that you already have.

    The Critical Nature of Structured Data

    Google Structured Data Testing Tool

    Structured data is in everything you do on your site.

    From customer information to search queries to click-through-rates. Maximizing the potential of this data is how you will stay competitive in your space.

    Managing your site traffic, click-through-rate, and bounce rate will help control your site ranking. Additionally, making more attractive content will cause users to stay on sites longer and prompt return visits. This is all done by manipulating your structured data.

    User experience is the second part of structured data and how it affects your SEO and ultimately your site rank. Using the information you gain and then making changes as you gain more and more information allows you to not only tailor a customized user experience but to continue learning.

    Not only that, user experience data relates to Google and improves your site authority. Plus, the structured data helps Google understand your site, so the more often you’re managing your data and making changes that they become relevant to user experiences, such as changing product details or prices, the more Google learns about your business. The more Google learns about your business, the better it can identify you in relevant searches which equals higher rankings.

    How Schema Markup Improves Your SEO

    The data you have available to you is the best tool in the box for improving your search results. This includes using structured data to improve how your site presents in search engines.

    One of the most common uses of this is showing positive reviews in your search results. This shows that your business is trustworthy and immediately tells potential traffic about your good reputation. Schema markup is the use of structured data as code to tell the search engine about your site. Sometimes this is little things, like where to place a box for product images, the price, and other criteria, but it can be used for practical purposes, both on your site and in your search results.

    Like we talked about above, structured data is the information that Google uses to figure out your business. From a practical standpoint, what it is, is code. Code that points out specific information that you can move, manipulate, and display however you choose.

    Marking up your site, search results, and your content is the best way to enhance your SEO using structured data. It is nothing short of essential to stay competitive and to rank higher.

    We’ll break down some of the ways to enhance your SEO and how to implement valid structured data.

    Types of Structured Data and What it Influences

    One of the main places that structured data is used on web pages that display product or service information.

    But there are key differences between the types of data generally stored on your website:

    • Structured data: files and text that is clearly defined with the right tags and meta to ensure bots can understand what it’s all about. Various types of structured query language provide the details needed to make sense of content on the internet. While it may go without saying, structure data provides a well defined structure for otherwise dispersed and jumbled storage space on our server.
    • Semi-structured data: data that has some meta included, but does not clearly delineate or clarify to crawlers and bots what is included in the data.
    • Unstructured data: raw data created by internal and external users or bots/computers that remains without the right identifying meta that clarifies what the data is actually about. Unfortunately, most enterprise data remains unstructured. The reality is, your data itself can delineate as search engines get smarter with business intelligence and machine learning tools, but most site owners can and should contain and implement both structured and unstructured data.

    Schema.org (and its associated WordPress plugin) allows you to manipulate the code to markup certain information. In essence, this information is highlighted by the search engine and allows it to better match search queries with your business.

    Businesses can use structured data to highlight information for rich snippets to improve search ranking, but also to focus search engines on what their business does.

    Title Markups

    Title markups tell Google specific information so that it can match it with relevant search entries. This type of data can be things like location data, dates and times, and other information.

    This helps with specific search queries by identifying those factors when someone searches for a particular location or, for instance, the start date and time of an event that your business is hosting. This is of particular use to places like concert venues and similar businesses

    This data can be indexed for reference or in some cases, it can be used to create a rich snippet which creates Google rich results. In the case of an event venue, the snipped would show users upcoming events when they Google a relevant search. This organically improves click-through rates by making interested users want to click on your site to see more.

    Markups in eCommerce

    Structured Markups in eCommerce

    One of the main places that structured data is used to gain a competitive edge is in eCommerce SEO. That’s because shoppers that have additional data before they click are more likely to follow through and shop.

    The great thing about structured data for SEO in eCommerce is that you can be selective to highlight particular products at a particular time.

    As an example, a fashion site can use structured data to highlight items that are going on sale, provide clarity to sensor data and implement a data model that clarifies what might be housed in a data warehouse with thousands of SKUs. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that this newly structured data will be tagged as more relevant when users search.

    You can then add that structured data to your snippet including the sale price versus the original price and the available sizes, colors, etc. This is all part of a successful marketing and SEO strategy.

    Body Content Markups

    This is typically done as microdata and shows Google (and other search engines) what a piece of content is about so that it can index the content better for search results. It’s important to markup your body content though to allow it to be found by as many searchers as possible. This includes the titles, tags, and bulk content.

    Whereas keywords help with search relevance once a piece is identified, microdata helps categorize content so that it can be identified in the first place. You can even layer structured data markups so that your content can apply to multiple queries in the same space.

    This is a great way to highlight parts of long-form content so that it shows up better, as the more complex that content is, the more difficult it can be to rank for keywords as a result.

    You can think of body structured data content markups as a supplement to your Titles and snippets that points the search engine and ultimately users in the right direction.

    As a point of reference, you can tell Google that every time you use the word “Happy” in a post, you’re referencing a particular product, or a separate blog, or any other thing like that. It tells Google “hey, this isn’t just a random keyword, it’s related to this other thing too.”

    That way Google has more information than it did before and can now display more accurate results. We know this gets a bit complicated if you’re not used to structured data and code, but it’s an important part of your overall SEO.

    How to Implement Structured Data to Improve Your SEO

    The process of implementing structured data markups involves some coding and using a tool called Schema. This is a development tool from Google that allows you to markup elements on your web page and create Schema or code that tells Google what you want it to know and how to present the information

    If you have an understanding of coding HTML you can manipulate the elements in almost any way imaginable to customize your website’s presentation and tell Google exactly what you want it to know about your business.

    Schema Markup

    Schema Markup

    Google uses code called Schema Markup from Schema.org to interpret the identity of your site. You can use this code in a variety of ways to markup your site, products, and content to enhance your SEO.

    We’ve covered the basics of this so far, but now we’ll break down how to do it with as little complicated jargon as we can.

    Luckily, all you need to know is some HTML, if you designed your site then you’re already on your way, if you don’t, you can find specific information to help you, and then all you’ll need is some specific schema language to help tell it what to do.

    Structured Data Implementation Basics

    Ok, now down to the meat of the issue. Don’t be too scared if you’ve never used structured data markups before, the process isn’t that complicated.

    1. Go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper

    Googles Structured Data Markup Helper

    This is a built-in function that Google has to help users markup their webpages or HTML Code. The first thing you’ll see is a list of data types. The list isn’t very long but covers most types available from t.v. shows to articles, to local businesses, and more.

    Start by selecting the type of structured data (or even semi structured data) you want. Then paste in the URL of your website, or the HTML code if that’s what you’re working with.

    This will load your page up in the structured data markup tool. The structured data tool will help combine and further clarify unstructured data and semi structured data by adding structure to the existing data items that are available.

    2. Select Elements and Begin the Structured Data Process

    Depending on the type of content you chose, you’ll see elements that you can highlight as data items.

    For example, if you chose a product page, you can highlight the name of the product with structured data and then click name, and it will identify that element on the page as the name of the product.

    You can continue adding structured data for as many elements on your page as you want and placing them in the particular data items that you want them in.

    Don’t worry about marking every element, decide what’s important and mark it up as best you can, unless you’re an expert, it will be difficult to hit all of the elements on a page.

    4. Create the HTML Code

    If this isn’t your forte, don’t be scared, there’s a button that adds structured data for you, with the correct “markup language” already in place. The next step is to go into your content management system (CMS), or your source code and insert the structured data marked snippets into the correct spots.

    The code snippets are highlighted to make it easier and you merely paste them into your existing code where they go. Just to give you an idea of what they look like we’ll provide an example

    <products =”https://schema.org/ Products”id=”product-86721” class=”products-86721”…

    The highlighted piece is the section you would paste into your code. As an easier alternative, you can take the fully generated HTML code file and copy-paste that into your source code or CMS.

    Once you click finish you can move on to the next, and most important step.

    5. Test your structured data

    Google provides a structured data testing tool to allow you to see what the structured data will look like on your web page. You can find the tool under webmaster tools and can paste in either the site URL or the HTML code that was generated.

    The tool even allows you to inspect individual elements to see how they look. You can even edit the code manually from here if you need to.

    Once you’re finished testing your structured data, you can follow out the rest of the final steps provided and you’re good to go.

    Improve SEO With Structured Data & Schema Markup

    Once you know the procedure, you can start fine-tuning your structured data to make your SEO even better.

    The best resource for schema markups is schema.org. They have tools for data analysis as well as lists available to show you the most commonly used structured data for different content types. You can narrow this down even further by figuring out the most useful and relevant markups for your Rich Snippets, search tags, and details.

    You can then peruse the Type Hierarchy to show you the full list of structured data types to get a better idea of all the available structured data.

    A general rule to follow is the more structured data the better. Like we’ve tried to focus on with this article, structured data mean more info for Google. More info for Google improves Google’s understanding of your business, your relevance, and your ranking.

    You can even use structured data to help identify your business in voice recognition programs like Alexa. This can increase your overall market in ways you might not have considered.

    Structured data is another important tool in the SEO toolbox to make your business more successful on the web.

    Let Us Help Implement & Add Structured Data!

    SEO is not just about link building. Those are the basics of using structured data to demystify your data warehouses and ultimately improve your SEO.

    We’ve also provided a few steps on how to add structured data to your website.

    But, don’t let the coding language and jargon surrounding structured data intimidate you.

    The process of adding structured is fairly straightforward and simple and the benefits can be great for your site and business, especially when it comes to ranking in search engines.

    Our team of SEO gurus and software developers can help with your structured data markup implementation. Get in touch! 

    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter