Search engines have become more human-focused. Seemingly every day they get better and better at interpreting human language and intent. And SERPs are changing just as quickly.
All these changes can be overwhelming and leave you concerned about standing out even when you rank at the top of search results. After all, does being number one really matter when your competitor is featured in the Answer Box and the News carousel?
In this article, we will look at the data that powers the semantic web (the concept behind all of these enriched SERP features) and how to use the technology behind it to improve your pages’ appearance in search results.
Using Structured Data for SEO
All of these new search engine features are created with the goal of providing users with more relevant and useful search results. Search engines deliver these results on the back of structured data.
You can think of Structured data as rules that help standardize the content of the web page.
Data is structured by adding markup around page text. This markup tells machines how the words on the page relate to concepts (known as entities).
Most websites contain free-form text that humans can understand easily, but computers cannot. Using taxonomies like those defined by Schema.org gives Google the ability to understand the context of the marked up content on the page.
Structuring data in this way is the core of the semantic web. Structuring data in your content makes it more easily read and interpreted by machines.
For your website to perform well in the era of semantic search, Google needs to be able to extract structured data.
Structured Data in Search Results
Structured data might make more sense with a real-world example.
Say, for instance, a user searches for a particular person like “Weird Al” Yankovic, schema markup will “tell” the search engine that the structured data on the indexed page is about the person, not just a set of letters that happens to correspond to “Weird Al Yankovic”.
Google’s Knowledge Graph collects this structured data into one place:
To help standardize a way to use structured data, search engines created Schema.org to help website owners use consistent taxonomies on their sites.
And the most important part: adding structured data works.
A study by Searchmetrics revealed that pages that integrated Schema.org markup ranked 4 times better on search engine results.
Where Do You Add Structured Data?
Add structured data around the information that is most important to your website and your page. Let’s suppose you have an e-commerce site. You’ll want to add structured data around your content to provide context about your products:
- Model name/number
- Customer ratings
Google will then be able to use this data to make your page’s search snippet more informative and valuable to their users. And your page will stand out more in the SERP.
Good for you, good for Google and good for the user. Win-win-win.
You can also add structured data to things other than products to make your search snippets more useful for searchers.
Here are some examples of structured data you can implement for each page:
Now it might seem counterintuitive to give people information in SERPs. It discourages them from clicking through your site. But remember: Google users want their information right in the SERPs. They’re an impatient bunch.
If your site can deliver the desired information in the shortest time and path possible, users will appreciate it. You will see an increase in traffic and a decrease in bounce rates.
How do You Add Structured Data?
So how to add structured data to your site? You have three options, depending on your technical skill level:
- Do it yourself
- Get a developer to do it
- Use a tool to do it for you
Unless you’re a seasoned developer with lots of time on your hand to write structured data yourself, we strongly recommend you use a tool for this.
One of the best tools we know for creating structured data is WordLift. WordLift is a great tool (currently a WordPress plugin) that will create structured data markup around your content as you publish it, streamlining the whole process.
If you don’t have a WordPress site, you can use a structured data tool like WooRank’s Metadata Tool to create some JSON-LD code that annotates your content. This tool just requires you to fill in a few blanks, click submit and then copy and paste the code over to your site.
Then, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your markup.
Quick programming note: We strongly recommend using JSON-LD over microdata or RDFa formats for a very good reason. You can rely on Google Tag Manager to quickly and easily add your structured data to the relevant pages.
Structured Data Improves the Search Experience
Website visitors will (ideally) never see a single line of structured data markup and using it won’t really impact the user’s on-page experience. What it will do is enhance their experience in Google search results. Obviously, this is great for Google (which is why they’re doing this). But making Google’s life easier is a great way to improve your SERP performance.
Using structured data also means delivering more relevant content to your audience and a more relevant audience for your website. This will ultimately positively impact your conversions and ROI.
Contributed by: Greg Snow-Wasserman
Greg is the Content Maestro at WooRank. He has more than 7 years experience as a reporter, market researcher and digital marketer.