Structuring your data, or having structured data, is just about the most confusing thing to happen to SEO since the inception of SEO itself. If you have trouble wrapping your mind around basic SEO like meta tags and canonicalization, then schema markup via Microdata or JSON-JD is likely going to sound like quantum physics; and it sort of is.
It is the content going on behind the content you read.
While what you read and understand words on this post, search engines use structured data to understand the content as well as a human would. This allows search results returned in a query to be very precise. It also is what helps suggest searches and even questions.
The problem with older search engines
I remember when looking for Portland, Oregon-based services and products on Google used to return me results containing websites with a location in Portland, Maine. It was a common problem, and location differentiation was tough for a word-based search engine. That is unless the user gave a more specified query.
For SEOs, this caused profitable traffic to be diluted amongst many keywords, while the struggle still was to have top rankings for more heady terms. This was around the time of the birth of the idea of the “low hanging fruit” long tail keywords promised.
This is all around the time of the Panda 3.0 rollouts, and around the first Penguin algorithm update in 2012, if you know your algorithm update history.
Nowadays, this problem is largely taken care of by many factors like the user’s location, device type, prior browser history and other factors outside of your control. One non-ranking search factor, that has proven to increase click-through rate at least, is structured data.
Structured data defined
Google defines structured data as that which refers to kinds of data that has a high level of organization, such as information in a relational database. When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.
I that’s kind of confusing, right?
This relational database they speak of is the widely used Schema.org, where a group of database experts have amassed a large breakdown of how you define data, or content, to more simplified. By having a “guide” per say, we are able to explain the context behind the content.
Google goes on stating that search engines can further organize and display information in creative ways. A few creative ways include:
These are the easiest to attain I would say if a search result page does not contain a list, and logically should somehow, then you can try creating content that incorporates a list. You can, of course, wrap your content in ItemList schema to really spell it out for search engines.
If you do not already have your business NAP (name, address, phone) information in the footer of your website, I suggest doing so. Then, of course, wrapping it in Organization schema.
Organizational information displayed when googling Google
These are tricky, let me tell you, but when you get them right you too can get stars on not just your map or AdWord ads, but your organic listings too. It is a matter of using AggregateReview schema and properly showing a feed or location where reviews can be verified.
Kissmetrics has this sweet Answer Box when searching for, “what is schema markup“, one of the more highly searched phrases around the subject. I can only imagine how much traffic this page gets!
Below that you can see that Google is trying further to help you find what you might be looking for by askig related questions in a “People also ask” snippet, which is part of the Knowledge Graph, and I suspect RankBrain, which we will discuss in a bit.
If you are in a band, own or manage a concert venue, are hosting an event, sell tickets, or do almost anything event related, you will want to know more about event schema and its many branches. Having upcoming events in the SERPs is clearly going to help spread the awareness and create conversions quicker putting upcoming events in front of curious searchers.
I love Deftones, and whoever helps manage their site does awesome making sure events are always up to date and that proper JSON-LD is presenting the right information in the SERPs. Here is an example of what you find just looking up who Deftones are.
and Maps, of course
This is one of Google latest additions to the overall algorithm, and only still one piece of the puzzle, so do not get too overworked over this. Below is an Answer Box for a misspelling of RankBrain as a two-word search that may or may not be intentional on the Montfort team’s part to gain an Answer Box… 🤔 sneaky, sneaky!
What it all really means, is that Google is artificially learning (or teaching itself?) what, when, where and who things are, relative to time, proximity, and more. It is connecting and grouping relative ideas of things, like science buckets, history buckets, but even at a deeper level than that. It’s sort of like playing Six Degree of Kevin Bacon, but with every idea known to man… or atleast what they put on the internet, which is still more vast than you might think.
If you think about it, by giving context to content thru schema, Google can further interpret information better. It can then serve up the best results for the query you search, whether very broad or very specific. We obviously see what ways are available for us now, but with IoT, Google Home, personalization and more, the possibilities for schema and structured data have only been scratched!
What amazing things have you been doing with schema and structured data? I’d love to hear your stories in comments!!