What is Structured Data and Why is it Important for SEO?

by | Nov 18, 2019

Have you ever needed to find something important in a messy room? Maybe you temporarily misplaced your keys, and now you’re digging through cluttered drawers and piles of paperwork to find them. We’ve all had those moments, and they make us appreciate the benefits of organization that much more.

In the digital world, the same principle holds true. Businesses that utilize structured data find that powerful search engines like Google are able to easily find and classify their websites; and this, in turn, results in a higher traffic share for those companies. That’s where structured data comes in.

You’re probably wondering: What is structured data? Why is it important for SEO? How can you start implementing it? Let’s dive in to get these and other important questions answered.

What is Structured Data?

However, when referring to SEO best practices, structured data can be defined as “code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it.” In fact, not only do search engines understand the data, but they “use it to display search results in a specific and much richer way.”

Here are a few examples of how website developers and marketers can utilize structured data:

  • Structured data can tell Google what to display as part of a search result. As an example, a web page’s structured data may tell Google to display an aggregate star rating underneath its search result.
  • It can give searchers a “richer,” more specific description of the website’s content. For instance, a search result for a pasta recipe could contain information about how long it takes to cook the meal, how many calories the dish contains, and the different ingredients that make up the recipe.
  • Structured data also helps Google to more accurately classify the website in question. A footwear company that specializes in snowshoes, for example, will achieve more focused search results if its structured data contains details about the niche in which the business resides.

Why is Structured Data Important?

While many marketers view structured data as a nice but ultimately irrelevant addition to a website, research indicates that structured data yields several key benefits to companies that implement it. A few of these benefits include:

  • An improved clickthrough rate (CTR). While the jury is still out on the level of correlation between structured data and CTR, early returns have indicated that adding structured data markup to a website can cause a significant boost in clickthrough rate, with one test achieving a 43% increase of clicks within one quarter.
  • An increase in impressions. The same test mentioned in the previous point yielded a 1% increase in impressions, just by adding structured data markup.
  • Better odds of getting a featured snippet. The featured snippet (or the very first search result, before Google’s organic listings) is the crown jewel of search engine optimization. Structured data markup can help your website to grab that top spot.
  • Enhanced voice search optimization. Voice search results are pulled from featured snippets. That means if your site owns one of those top spots (thanks in part to structured data), then your company will have a monopoly on a certain set of voice queries.

Different Types of Structured Data

There are a few variations on structured data implementation in the realm of SEO. Websites support 3 distinct structured data syntaxes and 2 common vocabularies that are compatible with these syntaxes. The 3 syntaxes are:

  • Microdata
  • JSON-LD
  • Microformats


The two common vocabularies used are:

  • Schema.org
  • Microformats.org

 
Schema is compatible with both Microdata and JSON-LD, whereas the Microformats vocabulary and syntax work together. Schema is the most common approach to structured data markup.

What You Need to Get Started

The next question you may ask is: “How can I start adding structured data to my website?” There are a couple of options available for beginners in this field:

  • Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper allows you to generate your own code in a fairly straightforward way.
  • Companies like Yoast offer plugins to automatically add important structured data for your site.
  • Once you’ve added some structured data, there are also testing and validation tools available from Google to help ensure that your markup is working correctly.

 
Of course, as with all new things, there is a learning curve that you’ll have to navigate if you want to go it alone. On the other hand, if you feel that you don’t have the time or resources to commit to such a project, or just want the reassurance that comes from partnering with professional developers, then reach out to us to learn how we can assist. Our team of experts can help you to organize your digital space so that search engines and customers alike will find what they’re looking for.

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A little about the author...

Stephen Brent May

Stephen is a lover of all things marketing – especially marketing technology and agile implementation for marketing teams. He regularly speaks on these topics and every presentation includes one slide featuring Beyoncé. He doesn't listen to podcasts.

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