What is structured data, and how does it boost SEO?

posted by Patrick Chemoul10/12/2020

You might have heard about the terms structured data and schema markups and their importance for SEO.

But are you wondering what these terms refer to? And how structured data works in SEO?

Then this article will bring you the answers you need!

Structured data is an important concept to understand for SEO, and we will make it as clear as possible for you in the following sections.

Let’s see why structured data plays an important role in SEO!

Structured data, referred to as schema markup in an SEO context, can give an SEO boost to your website and help your pages rank higher on search engine results.

Understanding how structured data works is important before implementing any markups on your website.

In this article, we’ll review together everything you should know about structured data, how it works, and what impact it has on SEO:

What is Structured Data?

Structured data refers to any data that’s organized, in a table for example.

When we talk about SEO, structured data means implementing code in a specific format on your website pages to help search engines read your content. This code is referred to as structure data markup.

The markup provides additional detail to web crawlers about the context of your content and how to read it.

It makes sure that search engines have explicit cues about the meaning of your pages’ content to understand and index them relevantly. Markups also help web crawlers to provide relevant, and useful information on SERPs for web users.

Structured data, therefore, play an informational role that has an important impact on SEO.

According to Google: “Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

Structured Data vs Schema.org: What’s The Difference?

In general, structured data for SEO refers to a particular vocabulary known as “Schema.org”.

Schema.org is the result of a collaborative effort in 2011 between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex to create a standardized vocabulary of structured data terms, that all major search engines can understand.

To summarize, Schema.org is a vocabulary that includes markups (standardized structured data) for different aspects of your content: location, product description, reviews, and people...etc.

According to Google, most Search structured data uses Schema.org vocabulary. So how does Schema.org work on your website?

Schema markups can be implemented into your website’s code to provide clear details to search engine crawlers about the content of your pages.

The information you provide to search engines will be used to index and display your pages in search results.

For example, let’s say that you added Schema markups about the dates of upcoming live shows at your restaurant. Search engines might use this information to display the dates of the live shows in your page description in search results.

How Does Google Read Structured Data?

In this section, we’ll review how Google reads and uses structured data for search results display, pages indexation, and many more!

Google crawlers read the information from structured data to understand the content of web pages and to collect information about the web in general.

The structured data markups on your website help Google display your pages with interesting and interactive search elements for web users.

Let’s see a few ways Google displays your page in search results:

• Rich search results: This is when your pages appear with visual enhancements on search results, like images, text styling, and carousels.

For example, if a user is looking for the “best lasagna recipe”, Google will display pages that have reviews markups and that have the highest reviews for their lasagna recipe.

In the example provided right below, Google uses the schema markup for reviews to create a carousel of lasagna recipes choices for the user.

Similarly, your pages might be displayed with visual enhancements in rich cards, that show previews of your content for mobile users.

• Rich results for AMP: If you want your AMP pages to appear in Google rich mobile search results, you will need to implement structured data markups on your website.

Your pages can appear in the Top stories carousel or host carousel on search results for example.

• Breadcrumbs in search results: Google will also use the BreadcrumbList schema on your website pages to generate breadcrumb rich snippets in search results.

For example, let’s say that you marked up your recipes category on your website. If a user is looking for cupcakes recipes, Google might display those breadcrumbs like this:

In this example, we see both breadcrumbs and reviews for the recipe being displayed.

• Knowledge graph: Google also uses the information you markup to display information about your business when a user is looking up your company’s name.

For example, if you marked up a description of the company, as well as your location, Google might display this information in an engaging way to web users.

In the example below, Google takes different pieces of information about the company Patagonia: a description from Wikipedia, their customer service phone number, their most popular clothing categories..etc.

Why Should You Use Structured Data For SEO?

Structured data help search engines to better understand your content and index your pages. Web crawlers are simply able to efficiently match your pages to user search results.

It can, therefore, boost your online visibility on search engine results and give web users an opportunity to discover your website.

Structured data also help search engines display your pages in a more engaging way on search results. And this in return can boost your click-through-rate on your pages.

In fact, a page that includes visual and interactive elements on search results is more likely to receive more clicks from web users.

These elements ( images, reviews, prices, and location...etc.) also make the user’s search easier, since all the important information about your page is already displayed. Your page might seem more appealing because it seems to perfectly fit the user’s search.

Improving your click-through-rate also significantly increases your search engine traffic. And this is a great indicator for search engines that your page content is popular amongst users.

Therefore, your page might rank higher overtime for certain keywords combinations.

Implementing Structured Data: Google Guidelines

Google offers several important guidelines as to how to use structured data markups. Let’s review some of the most important ones together:

• The structured data needs to be representative of the main content of the page:

It is important that you provide relevant information about your content because search engine crawlers will use this information to read your pages and to index them.

So you’ll want to make sure that the crawler can understand exactly the topic of your page and all the important details about your content. This way, search engines can show your pages to users who are researching a specific topic in their results pages.

• Provide structured data information that is up to date:

If your content changes, you will need to modify your markups as well to reflect up-to-date information.

Google doesn’t show pages that have time-sensitive content that hasn’t been updated.

• The content marked up should always be visible to users of the page:

You should also always mark up content that is displayed to web users on your page. Your markup description should match the body of your content as well.

For example, if the JSON-LD markup describes a travel destination, the HTML body should describe that same travel destination

• The page should always follow Google webmaster guidelines:

In general, your page should always follow the Google general webmaster quality guidelines.

Google provides a lot of useful guidelines on how to help its crawlers find and understand the content of your pages, including specific guidelines on markups. We highly recommend regularly going through these guidelines.

You can review the list of structured data formats that Google supports and recommends to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Conclusion: Why Does Structured Data Matter For SEO?

To summarize, structured data is code in a standardized format that you can implement to your website. The most popular vocabulary format is Schema.org for SEO purposes.

Structured data plays an important role in search engine content categorization and page indexation. It boosts your website’s SEO because it allows search engines to match better your pages with users' search queries.

With the detailed information provided by structured data, search engines can display your pages more engagingly on search results.

They can show to web users useful information about your content such as preview images, reviews, location, and contact information.

This helps you increase your pages click-through-rate and in turn your search engine traffic. And the more your pages gain in popularity on search engine results, the more likely they are to rank higher for certain keywords combination.

Our team of SEO professionals would be happy to implement structured data for you on your website!

We provide professional SEO consulting services and we give personalized advice to our clients on the best SEO techniques to implement for their business, such as Schema markups and content optimization.

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