Leverage Structured Data & Get Google Results

Structured data — it may sound like drab geek speak, but when local marketers learn the extent to which structured data can increase traffic, improve visibility in search, and make websites more attractive to Google, the term suddenly becomes a lot sexier.

By definition, structured data refers to any data that resides in a fixed field within a record or file. This includes data contained in relational databases and spreadsheets.  It’s not now — nor was it ever — required by major search engines.  However, it’s a new and highly recommended method of labeling data to help data visibility.

How Does Structured Data Work?

Structured data has been a hot topic recently amongst web developers and SEO professionals.  Frankly, the mechanics of it are boring — the really sexy stuff is what it can do for your website’s search engine visibility. Colloquially referred to as schema, it’s a specific vocabulary of tags you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is represented in SERPS. If applied correctly, your search engine result will be much more attractive and detailed, therefore increasing your CTR.

Microdata & JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) are two forms of structured data application that work with HTML5.  Schema.org is a project accepted by all the major search engines that provides a particular set of agreed upon definitions for microdata tags.

For many years, Google claimed that structured data did not benefit search engine rankings.  However, in late 2015, Google representative John Mueller said that “over time, I think it

[structured markup] is something that might go into the rankings as well.”  Given the advanced updates in the Google search algorithms, webmasters cannot ignore structured data application.

Rich snippets, a preview of specific web properties on a website, are one of the better-known outcomes of properly applied structured data.

Example of a review rich snippet
Example of a review rich snippet
Google formally announced that rich snippets would go international on April 26th, 2010.  Since then, savvy SEO professionals have been grasping for strategies to obtain a coveted rich snippet to differentiate their organic listings in the SERPS.  A rich snippet can significantly impact Click-Through Rates (some studies claim up to 30%). There is also evidence that schema can enhance the Google Knowledge Graph (read more about this).

The Benefits of Structured Data

So why does the extremely powerful (and virtually artificially intelligent) Google search engine algorithm still need boring structured data markup to better comprehend websites?  Are web developers only going to later discover that they are just wasting their time with schematic application when Google decides to update their algorithm making structured data unnecessary?

The answer is clearly no. Google specifically stated the following about structured data in their Google Developers guide:

“Structured data markup” is a standard way to annotate your content so machines can understand it. When your web pages include structured data markup, Google (and other search engines) can use that data to index your content better, present it more prominently in search results, and surface it in new experiences like voice answers, Maps, and Google Now.

Let’s put it another way and say you have a garage full of boxes.  Some of the boxes are transparent, while others are your standard cardboard boxes.  Being a homeowner, you have a good idea of what’s what, but you may not remember every detail about your belongings.  If you decide to have a garage sale or need pull out contents for a celebration, it would be much easier if each box was labeled and organized – especially if you sent someone else in to find an item in one of those boxes.

The labels themselves have no special value, as structured data only exists for the search engine crawlers.  However, that structured data is the label maker for your website properties.  Labeling your site’s data enables Google and other major search engines to quickly and easy find what to put on display.

Before Structured Data

Before Structured Data

After Structured Data

After Structured Data

After Structured Data

Best Practices for Local SEO Marketing Success with Structured Data

1.  Make sure your landing pages have all necessary local SEO properties prior to implementation.

You cannot apply structured data to properties that do not exist, and if you do, it can be considered spamming.  Make sure your landing pages contain the full NAP (Name Address Phone Number), substantial content, breadcrumb navigation, map, etc. prior to implementing structured data.

2. Avoid old school structured data implementation (Microdata/RDFa).

Older techniques such as Microdata structured data implementation require direct application of coding markup as opposed to external files such as the newer JSON-LD technique.  Besides the complication of applying direct coding via Microdata, these older methods are more prone to causing code breakage and errors.

3. Make sure to apply structured data to media properties and special offers.

Does your website offer promotional videos or special offers?  Applying structured data to these properties can substantially increase the possibility of achieving a rich snippet.  Make sure to apply the proper structured data for these properties.

Examples of Offer Structured Data

Examples of Offer Structured Data

Examples of Offer Structured Data

4. Use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to double check all updates.

Google provides a comprehensive structured data testing tool that highlights errors with structured data. It is also imperative to test each updates to avoid breakages mistakes. Structured data is also reported in the Google Search Console.

Structured Data Testing Tool

Google Structured Data Testing Tool
Google Search Console Structured Data Reports

Google Search Console Structured Data Reports


5. Keep up to date with Schema.org.

Schema.org is a collaborative community with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data.  The schema vocabulary is constantly being updated.  For example, the category Pet Store (https://schema.org/PetStore) was created only in the last couple of years. Prior to this new category, a pet store owner had to apply structured data from general categories https://schema.org/Store or https://schema.org/LocalBusiness.  Having schema applied from the new category schema.org/PetStore is a far more accurate and beneficial.  Savvy webmasters must keep up to date on these schema updates.

Conclusion

There is absolutely no drawback to implementing proper structured data.  If you’re looking to promote your web property online, make sure your web developer applies structured data to the most important properties.  This includes phone numbers, addresses, geo coordinates, etc. for local SEO.

Structured data sure doesn’t have the sexiest name, but applying these best practices and implementing it correctly can make your search results much more attractive to the engines and potential customers alike.


Get an SEO audit to see if your website is utilizing the proper structured data.

Looking to learn more local SEO tools and strategies to drive results? View the takeaways from our latest webinar with Digital Marketing Depot: “Local Strategies to Capitalize on Voice Search”

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