What is structured data?
Structured data is a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web. Wait! Huh?! In more basic terms, structured data is predictable on-page markup that helps search engines better understand the information on your website and more accurately assess your site for search result purposes. In turn the search engines often use this information to display rich snippets (see star rating below), to improve your website’s search results listing and to serve the user with the most relevant content they are looking for.
Data that can be coded with this type of on-page markup includes but is not limited to your businesses NAP (Name, Address, Phone number), reviews, hours of operation, events, physical location etc. To have these rich snippets display, developers typically use Schema.org, a specific on-page markup vocabulary that is widely used to code this type of information.
Schema.org is a result of open industry collaboration among Bing, Google, Yahoo and Yandex. This collaboration has resulted in a more universal and agreed upon set of definitions for micro tags; a consistent way for all search engines to understand similar information across websites.
When you add Schema mark-up to your content, it gets indexed and returned in search results differently than if you didn’t use Schema. How? Because the mark-up tells the search engine what the content means, not simply that there is content. For example, let’s say the phrase ‘Jayson DeMers’ appears on an article. The search engine sees this and will produce a SERP on ‘Jayson DeMers’. However, if I put the right Schema mark-up around ‘Jayson DeMers’, we’ve told the search engine that ‘Jayson DeMers’ is the author of the article, not just a couple of random words strung together. The search engine will then display better information for the user searching ‘Jayson DeMers’.
Note, that there are different types of structured data and Schema mark-up, so be sure to find the one that best suits your business. Other popular structured data languages include but are not limited to, Microformats, RDF and Microdata.
Why is Structured Data Important?
Incorporating structured data into your website is essential in the ever changing playing field of online marketing. Two ways that structured data helps with SEO are first, by helping search engines identify the type of content provided on your website and second, by creating better visibility in the SERPs with rich snippets. In turn this can result in higher click-through-rates and better positioning in the results. Structured data allows you more influence over what search engines understand and get from your website.
Creating Structured Data
Generating Schema.org code for your website is made easier using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Not sure if what you created is correct, test the code. Although these tools are helpful having the expertise of an experienced developer to assist with creation and implementation of structured data is recommended. As helpful as structured data can be to your website and its visibility across the web, done improperly structured data errors can adversely affect you as well.
In the end…
You’re asking yourself are these small adjustments to my website’s content really going to help? The answer is….YES! The implementation of structured data is the future and few websites are taking advantage of it. The effort it requires will be well worth it when your search engine visibility increases and your business achieves its goals.