As a website owner, having your site optimized for search engines is very important if you want your site to be discovered on search engine result pages or SERPs. Search engine optimization or SEO is a vast field, and it has various ways you can ensure the visibility of your website. One of the many ways of optimizing your data is through the use of structured data on your website.
What is Structured Data?
So what is structured data? Before explaining what this is, have you ever searched for say, a recipe for a meal and you get the steps for preparing the meal right in the SERP? What you noticed there is the result of making use of structured data.
Structured data is a way of explicitly laying out information about a webpage in a standardized format. Making use of structured data makes it easy for search engines to classify the kind of information on your page easily search engines like Google can make use of this data to display information on your page in various formats on their SERPs. Things like events, article snippets, books, recipes, TV series, etc. are displayed differently on the SERP.
How It Works
So how does this work? For Google(as an example) to present these specially formatted results or rich results as they are called on its webpage, it has to parse the structured data from the web pages. The structured data is included in the webpage using in-page markup. There are standard formats for the various types of structured data available.
The most common and easy to use format for structured data is the JSON-LD format, which looks more or less like regular JSON. This can be included in your HTML code in a script tag. So whenever the Google search engine serves up your webpage in the SERP, it is able to add more information about your webpage as rich results on the SERP.
You can check out the structured data format for various categories here. There are structured data formats for books, articles, critic reviews, events, and much more. Asides, the format contained in the link above, there is an open source platform that includes all supported structured data called schema.org. This platform is maintained by most of the popular search engines.
Asides JSON-LD, there are other ways of providing structured data. One of them is called Microdata. This was used before the advent of structured data. It involved the use of HTML tag attributes to name the properties to be exposed as structured data. There’s RDFa which also makes use of HTML tag attributes.
Importance in SEO
You have learnt what structured data is and how it works. Let’s talk about its importance in SEO. Here are some of the reasons why structured data is important in SEO:
- Makes it easier to understand the content of a page: The goal of SEO is to make your website more visible to your user through search engines. If the search engines don’t understand the content on your webpage or website, it doesn’t get ranked. Structured data allows you to explicitly state what your webpage or website is about, making it easy for search engines to understand and classify accordingly.
- Improved click-through-rate(CTR): The use of structured data also leads to an increase in the click-through-rate or CTR of a webpage. This, in turn, leads to more conversion of customers or users as the case may be. This is mostly due to the rich results displayed by the search engines by parsing structured data on the displayed sites.
- Gives an edge to users of structured data: It also gives such a webpage an advantage over another that doesn’t use structured data on the SERP, as search results of web pages with structured data contain more information than regular search results. This makes such a webpage more likely to be visited by a user or customer.
Structured Data Testing Tool
To ensure that there are no errors in your structured data, Google created a tool where you can input the URL to your website, or the structured data code snippet for analysis. The platform then goes through the structured data in your webpage for errors. If it notices any, it points you to it, and then you can check out the problem and fix it. Here is a link to the tool.
There’s also a Rich Result Status Report that tells you which of your rich results isn’t being shown and helps you with troubleshooting. It has some similarities with the structured data testing tool above. This was created by Google as well. You can find the website here.
Misuse of Structured Data
Like a lot of SEO techniques, structured data sometimes get misused. Some website owners sometimes put in fake information in their structured data. Sometimes on SERPs, you see some sites with legitimate looking reviews, but on visiting the site, you find something different.
Various rules guide the use of structured data with search engines. If you violate them, you get penalized. This could hurt the SEO of your page. So it is essential to abide by the rules for making use of structured data.
To get started with structured data on your webpage or website, you can visit this website. You don’t want to miss out on the advantage it gives your website and your business or organization as a whole.