Structured data is an important part of how search engines crawl your website. Think of it as a way to organize some of the information on your site to make it easier for search engines to understand.
The most common form of markup used today is through schema.org format, but there are other options as well. Schema offers a vocabulary to identify and markup different elements on a website for major search engines like Google, using code within your website.
Types of Markup
Structured data can work to identify and organize several types of information on a website. There are a few common areas that site owners may want to markup the information they have:
- People: For example, doctors at a practice, staff members, etc.
- Recipes: You can markup different elements of a recipe, making it clear what section is ingredients, reviews, cooking time, and more.
- Products: You can help organize several elements about any given product on your website.
- Reviews: This applies to everything from recipe reviews, reviews about your business, tp specific product reviews, and any other star-rating system you may have.
- Videos: You can identify a video description, length of the video, author, and more.
Structured Data & Rich Search Results
Structured data markup is encouraged by search engines, and so using it on your website gives you the potential to show up in search results differently. There are several kinds of rich results that show up for websites, and they stand out, which can drive more traffic to your website. Furthermore, many of these rich results stand at the top of the page, garnering a lot of attention.
For example, you might be able to have further stylized results showing in your metadata, like this:
Notice that instead of the plain text that you would see in a normal search result, this one shows a featured image, a star rating for the reviews on this recipe, time needed for the recipe, and a snippet of the directions for the recipe. It also shows a breadcrumb string in the search results, letting users know where the content is located on your site.
Another type of rich search result is a featured snippet. Featured snippets show up in search results when a user types in a question, and Google is able to locate what they think is the right answer to that question. Here is an example:
Notice that it gives a lot of information here to try an answer the question, but a searcher would still need to click on the result to get the full recipe, driving a lot of traffic to this featured site. There are a lot of kinds of featured snippets, but many will encourage searchers to continue onto the website itself.
BONUS TIP: Notice that the title of this recipe ties directly into the question we typed in the search bar. Consider framing some of your keyword research around common questions that your target audience might be looking for, and tailor some content around answering those questions!
While you can’t actually control when search engines will display rich results, you CAN use structured data to organize items like reviews, ingredients, featured images, etc, which makes it easier to crawl and organize your information, giving your site the opportunity to appear with rich results.
How does structured data affect your SEO?
Something to keep in mind when it comes to structured data and your SEO efforts is that it is not directly a keyword ranking factor. The job of markup is to help search engines understand the content of websites, but having it or not having it isn’t necessarily going to directly affect your rankings for search terms.
That being said, there is no need to focus heavily on keywording your markup in any way, but instead you just want to keep the information accurate and helpful. There is a lot of info out there about how to implement structured data, and we recommend you focus on the important elements of your website that actually describe your set of information.