Structured data is any markup that defines rich information for the search engines. Rich information is anything that goes beyond that in a normal search result. These normal factors include the title, the URL, and the meta description.

This will make more sense with an example. We will look at rich snippets, or the lines of text that add some facts that usually comes from structured data. Take a look at the two search results below for the same product:

Structured Data Example 1

Structured Data Example 2

Before even visiting a page, which looks like the best website for buying a helmet? The first listing includes a 4.8 out of 5-star rating, how many people have reviewed it, the price, and whether or not it is in stock. It shows breadcrumbs instead of a plain URL. It takes up more space as you browse the options.

These factors should boost the clickthrough rate. It also helps the user judge the relevancy of the page. For instance, the price may be too high to consider. This means more qualified traffic, which may lead to more conversions.

Things to Consider

Sometimes this data can confuse users. For example, in the best search result above, the review stars refer to how users rated the product on the page. Some may think that the star rating is what users think of the page itself, not the product.

It may also show that a product is in stock, only for a visitor to find out it is not. Make sure the structured data depicts reality. Otherwise, you may have to deal with frustrated customers.

Other structured data includes that added to the Knowledge Graph, the information added to the right sidebar of a search engine results page. Google relies upon different sources for this data. Wikipedia gives a source along with a lesser-known site called Freebase. Even without adding structured data, the search engines still may add rich information. Large brands will often have their data shown without any markup added.

Using structured data does not promise that rich information will be shown. The search engines will determine if you deserve it. It seems a website needs to grow popular enough before showing some types of rich information, but adding the markup will never bring any harm.

Having a Google+ local page along with publisher markup added to the Google+ social media icon will give Google its local business information. Franchises can benefit from having this for all of their location pages. It will add a location and any reviews to the rich information offered.

Implementation

Google gives the best documentation on structured data. It is scattered and hard to find though. Pieced together, they give the best information, which have been added throughout this guide.

You can add structured data in the following ways:

  1. Learn the HTML markup. This is the best method as it is universal and may have a higher rate of implementation. You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper or the Schema Creator from Raven Tools to help you get started. A web developer will then have to add this to the page.
  2. Use Data Highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools. You can reach this under the Search Appearance dropdown by clicking Data Highlighter. Select what information you want to highlight for an example URL and Google will find other pages like it. This will only affect Google as it does not change the HTML. Though less technical, I have seen fewer results with this method and it offers less rich information options.

HTML Options

If choosing to use HTML, take these steps:

  1. Pick a markup format. There are a bunch of different markup formats. Microdata or RDFa must match with the text viewed on the page by the visitor. RDFa is not suggested though. For Microdata, Schema.org gives the preferred option for markup. It is the result of teamwork between Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex. It works best for rich snippets. JSON-LD is contextual, meaning you can just throw a script anywhere in the HTML for a page. It works best for rich information beyond rich snippets. You can check if it works through JSON-LD Playground.
  2. Mark up the content with these options:
  3. Test markup with the structured data testing tool. Google Webmaster Tools can also show where the markup is and if it works. Go to the Search Appearance menu and click Structured Data.

Other Features

Here are some of the other features that may suit a website:

Measuring the Success of Structured Data

You can measure the clickthrough rates in Google Webmaster Tools after the structured data is added. On the left-hand dropdown menu, click Search Traffic, and then click Search Queries. This will show keywords that get rich snippets for a relevant page.

Conclusion

Structured data is important for search engine optimization. It resides in a grey area between search engine marketing and web development though due to relying on HTML. With the tools given though, digital marketers can pick the code for web developers to add easily.

Rich information will only grow in use and diversity in the future. Perhaps a more advanced version of Data Highlighter will come about to make structured data even simpler. For now though, understanding HTML is the best option to increase the odds of more rich information showing for your website.

Use this article to get started with adding your own structured data. You could also use a digital marketing agency that can choose and add these for you while also giving other custom strategies. To learn more, get in touch with Wakefly today!