What is Structured Data?
Structured data is a standardized language that search engines use to identify, understand and classify content on a given webpage.
Not only does structured data help Google read and understand different types of content, but, more importantly, it allows Google to use that content to display special results in Search.
Here are some examples of different results that can appear with structured data:
This image shows three different types of Google’s special display results.
Clockwise from the top left we have an overview of restaurants, displaying ratings and locations on the map; a knowledge panel featuring actress Michelle Yeoh, including pictures and a snippet of her biography; and information regarding the movie The Prestige, including cast list and streaming sites on where the film can be watched.
As you can see, these special search result features stand out from the ordinary website listings that appear on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Early results from Google’s May 2022 algorithm update have found that as Google continues to improve its search algorithm, more structured data-enabled results are showing up for a wide variety of searches.
This makes using structured data on your website more important than ever.
What Is Schema Markup?
Schema markup is the most commonly used form of structured data. Developed by Google, Yandex, Microsoft and Yahoo, there are nearly 800 types of schema markup you can add to your website.
Different types of content and information have their own schema markup that you can add to your website. It is important to note that while schema markup is the most popular form of structured data, it is not the only one you can use.
Benefits of Adding Structured Data to Your Website
Structured data, whether through schema markup or other forms, helps Google better understand a webpage’s content.
Adding structured data to your website will make it eligible to be displayed as a special search result for relevant searches regarding your brand.
These results provide more information from your content and are designed to stand out on the SERP. For these reasons, search results from structured data are more likely to drive traffic, draw attention and crowd out competitors in the SERP.
Improve Your Traffic
A plethora of data shows that adding structured data can drive traffic to your website.
When websites are chosen for special search results, the results drive qualified traffic to the website, especially for keywords with a higher search volume.
This can be an easy way to improve lead generation and conversions if your website is already performing well for your important keywords.
A SERP study looking at 4.5 million search queries found that FAQ results from structured data recorded an average click-through rate (CTR) of 87%, compared to an average of 3% to 5% for ordinary organic results.
Special search results with videos recorded an average CTR of roughly 60%, and all special search results recorded an average CTR of 58% compared to 40% for other search results (search ads and organic listings).
Rakuten owns and operates a huge cash-back shopping website. They have tons of content on a wide range of products and services, including an extensive catalogue of recipes.
After deciding to add structured data to their recipe blogs, they recorded a nearly 3% increase in search traffic for those recipes.
In the summer of 2017, Eventbrite recorded an astonishing 100% year-over-year increase in organic traffic to their event listing pages by adding “event” structured data across their website.
We all know that the websites that rank on page one of Google get the vast majority of the clicks, even more so for websites in the top 1-3 ranking spots.
One study found that nearly a third of all clicks go to the website ranking first, with the top three results receiving 75% of all clicks combined.
Some special search results, like featured snippets and rich results, will appear above all organic search results, effectively adding a new organic listing at the top of the SERP.
These special search results conspicuously stand out from ordinary search listings, drawing attention and, more importantly, more clicks and traffic.
Crowd Out Competitor
You can also claim multiple spots on the first page of Google with structured data on your site, driving even more traffic to your website.
Getting chosen for special search features will not remove your website from its current spot, but it will “add” another listing for your website on the SERP.
With Google now showing indented searches more frequently, your website could take up three or more spots on page one of Google.
Not only can you get multiple listings on the 1st page of Google, but you will crowd out our competitors and push them further down the SERP, increasing your traffic and visibility while decreasing theirs.
As mentioned, Google has added more special search result features for various queries over time. As this has happened, the number of organic listings showing up on the first page has been slowly declining.
Years ago, you could expect every search to display ten organic listings.
But as Google started creating special search result features and implementing them in SERPs, organic listings have been increasingly pushed down the page, and the amount that is actually being displayed on page one has slowly declined.
Today, at least from this writer’s perspective, most SERPs for competitive keywords will only display 8-9 organic listings on page one.
With organic listings on the first page less visible and numerous than ever, your use of structured data is especially critical. It is vital not only to gain an edge over your competitors and crowd them out of the first page but to maintain your website’s own visibility.
Does Structured Data improve your ranking on Google?
Despite what you may have heard, structured data will not help your website rank higher.
There is no evidence that structured data is a ranking factor for SEO.
The purpose of structured data is not to help rank websites higher but to help Google understand the content and the brand behind it and match it with relevant queries it is already ranking for.
How does Structured Data help Google?
Structured data helps Google better understand on-page content, allowing it to find and display highly specific answers to queries in SERPs.
It gives Google crucial context about the information on a given page and the relationship between different types of content. This helps them show more accurate and relevant answers to questions people are asking online.
Instead of simply showing a list of websites that should answer the question being searched, users get more specific answers to their queries through special search features in SERPs based on the structured data of a given webpage.
Most of these special search features will be displayed at or near the top of the SERP, above most organic search results.
They are placed there to quickly capture the user’s attention and help answer their search query without the user having to read through lots of content.
Not only does this help Google achieve their mission of providing relevant and accurate answers to search queries, and keeps users on the search engine longer, which allows Google to generate more revenue.
Structured Data Examples:
Here are some examples of common structured data types online and how they may look when displayed as special search results:
We will explore these different structured data types in-depth in another article coming soon.
Different Structured Data Coding Languages
If you want to add any kind of structured data to your website, you will need to use 1 of these three different coding languages:
JSON-LD is the preferred language for Google, but the other two work just as well.
Choosing a format/vocabulary/language for your structured data is not something you need to worry about.
Make sure that you only have one set of structured data for each element you want to classify and that language/format is used uniformly throughout your website.
How to Add Structured Data to Your Website
First, you must find the content you want to make eligible for special search results.
Next, you want to find the appropriate structured data to add to your website by going on Schema.org or Google’s page on special search features in their developer portal.
On Google and Schema.org you will find feature guides that provide the structured data required for any kind of content and brand in 2022.
Where you will add the structured data to your website’s code will depend on the coding language you choose.
JSON-LD will be embedded in the <script> tag of the webpage’s body or header, whereas Microdata and RFa will be added to the HTML of the webpage in question.
You must add all the required properties for each structured data type, as specified on Google or Schema.org. Even missing one property can render your structured data moot, so double-check and test your web pages.
You must also follow Google’s structured data guidelines, which you can read here. The guidelines apply to all structured data types, but each type will also have its own specific rules that must be followed as well.
If you have trouble adding structured data to your website, you can learn the step-by-step process with Google Codelab.
How to Test Your Structured Data
Once your schema has been added to your webpage, copy the URL and paste it into Google’s Rich Result Test Tool or use the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console.
These tools will scan your structured data and notify you of any errors in the code that need rectifying or if there is any missing information that should be included.
Update and test until all errors are gone.
Do you have to add Structured Data on every page?
You do not need to add structured data on every page of your website, especially if you have a smaller website or are just starting.
Structured data needs to be added to high-quality content to be effective.
Even then, it will only provide results if your webpage currently ranks in, or near, the top ten organic search results for a given keyword.
Only websites ranking on or near Google’s first page for a given keyword are eligible to be selected for special search result features.
So, if you have pages ranking on, or near, page one, it makes sense to add structured data to those pages, especially if those keywords have high search volume or value for your industry.
While you can add structured data to every page on your website, it will be a waste of time unless you are doing other SEO optimizations that you think will push those pages into the top ten organic search results.
A good rule of thumb is to first focus on improving your on-page content and getting quality backlinks to help you rank higher; then, once your pages rank on page one, you should add structured data.
If you are interested in learning more about how structured data works or getting structured data added to your website, give us a call at (416) 410-7090 or reach out over the web.
TechWyse has worked with thousands of businesses to help them grow online and drive results as one of Canada’s oldest and largest digital marketing agencies.
We have many clients who depend on us to manage and optimize their structured data to achieve their goals. Contact us to learn more about how we can help get your website displayed for special search results.