What is Structured Data? Why Does It Matter in SEO?
August 6th 2020 | By Emma Grant
Yes there’s a bit of a science to it, but any London SEO consultant will tell you that structured data is a vital element in any search engine optimisation strategy. Here’s the lowdown on what structured data is, and why it matters so much for SEO.
Structured data is any data that is sorted logically. Here’s an example. You’ve got a bunch of order tickets, all with different requests, deadlines and customer details. You decide to organise them into a spreadsheet with headed columns and rows so you can see at a glance who wants what by when. This is you structuring your data.
Structured data has many different uses. But what we’re interested in right now is how it’s used in the context of search engine optimisation, or SEO.
Structured data and SEO
In terms of SEO, structured data involves adding details to a web page to show what that page is about. It’s known as a ‘markup’. This markup, or code, helps the search engines better understand the content of a web page, allowing them to check relevancy in connection with the search query. Now for the science bit.
Structured data markup has to be given to the search engines in a certain way so that not only do they understand it in their code-driven way, but so that it also translates well for web users. So, there’s a set of standard formats (Microdata, RDFa, JSON-LD and microformats), as well as two common vocabularies (Schema.org and Microformats.org).
Microformats is often used for marking up the likes of product reviews, and also for defining a physical location. Schema though is generally the most popular approach to structured data markup for SEO. More than 10 million websites use Schema.org to markup their pages. And a huge number of applications use its vocabularies to drive rich user experiences, including Google, Microsoft, Pinterest and Yandex.
Schemas use a set of ‘types’, of which there are over 800. These include creative works such as recipes, books, movies and TV series; embedded objects such as audios, videos and images; events; local businesses; places; products and reviews, to name just a few. Any of these types can be used as flags to show the search engines what your website is about.
So that’s what structured data is, in a nutshell. Now, more importantly, we’ll look at why any London SEO consultant will emphasise its importance when it comes to search engine optimisation.
How does a London SEO consultant use structured data?
When you add structured data to a website, the search engines read it, and can make use of it to display search results in a much more enriched way. Any SEO expert London wide will tell you that Google in particular is, as ever, focused on delivering an enhanced user experience. And this is one of the ways in which it does just that.
These rich results include engaging and immersive features. These include the likes of video overviews; related searches; search categories; editorial and user reviews; featured snippets; carousels and knowledge graphs.
Take a look at these results for the search ‘places to visit in London’ for example.
Rather than just a simple list of websites, here you have a rich set of engaging results.
SEO specialists will use structured data to inform the search engines about the finer detail of your web pages. Google will take all the information and, if it so decides, show it in the search listings as rich results. The very results that web users love.
Why is structured data important for SEO?
Because the search engines better understand your content, they are more likely to reward it with enhanced results in the search engine results pages.
These enhanced results, being more visually appealing and engaging and delivering more specific information that’s in line with search intent, have the potential to improve click-through rates to your website by anything from 5 to 30 per cent, as well as drive more traffic. And more traffic means more leads, which can result in increased sales.
Conversely, an improved click through rate can also lead to improved search rankings. So it all works hand in hand.
Structured data and SEO: Truth or fiction?
Whilst structured data has the genuine potential to make waves in terms of SEO, there are a few home truths that must be understood.
Home truth #1: Rich snippets aren’t necessarily guaranteed
It’s true that structured data is absolutely crucial if you’re going to be in a position to win rich snippets in the search results. Without it you are not in the running. But the truth is that there is no guarantee the markup will land you the snippets. All you can do is add the code, and let Google decide.
Home truth #2: Structured data isn’t a ranking signal
Using structured data will help search engines better understand what a website is all about, potentially leading to a stronger relevancy signal. Research also reveals that rich snippets can boost click through rate, which can indirectly improve rankings because this is a behavioural signal. However, the use of structured data is not a ranking signal in its own right. In other words, just because you use it, doesn’t mean your rankings will improve as a direct result.
Home truth #3: Google needs structured data
Google may be gaining intelligence at speed. It may be a dab hand at understanding the context of content. But if you want to give it your best shot; if you want Google to understand the deep-down specifics of your content, then you really do need to be using the right markup. Not only will it boost your chances of achieving those featured snippets, it will also make sure that your site is nicely structured. In other words, the well-organised spreadsheet rather than the scattered order tickets.
Structured data made easy with help from your favoured London SEO consultant
At Figment, we’ve been helping local businesses enhance their online visibility through results-driven SEO strategies for many years. We are experts in structured data markup, using it as one of our core tactics to help boost our clients’ online profiles.
If you’ve been looking for an SEO agency London businesses are more than happy to highly recommend, look to Figment. We welcome you to get in touch to discuss how we can make a difference to your business growth.