Structured Data SEO
FUTURE-PROOF YOUR SEARCH INVESTMENT
"WE'RE SAYING IT IS CHANGING FUNDAMENTALLY"
In 2013, a Google Product Manager named Jason Douglas declared, “This is our flagship product used by billions of people, and yet we’re saying it is changing fundamentally”. He meant structured data in the rise of semantic web SEO. Structured data changes web pages from isolated islands into a linked archipelago connected by billions of bridges. Increasingly, search can add value by optimizing for these connections.
The primary way for search engines to unambiguously understand your "entities" (the word of art for "things") is for you to declare what your entities are in a standardized way and then provide information about them. Structured data markup does that.
The semantic web incorporates a large number of complex technologies that business owners are not required to know in order to leverage structured data SEO. Currently, websites are mostly, a collection of documents in webpages. Semantic markup helps search engines understand meaning in part, by adding clarity for words that may have multiple meanings. The semantic web vision is to move from documents toward data. If this level of detail is more than interests you, a more general take is here.
WHY DOES STRUCTURED DATA SEO MATTER TO MARKETERS?
The business case for implementing structured data (which usually takes less than an hour per page) is compelling, if only verified by the major search engines earlier in 2015. Successful semantic SEO, (which I call structured data SEO) should result in increased organic traffic from search. Even if that were not the case, the quality of your search traffic should improve dramatically because structured data helps search engines match user queries to the specific goods and services present on your site.
This means you can expect higher conversion rates, lower bounce rates, active engagement and increased return visits. There’s more. The leading SEO blogs report over a 5% improvement in click-through rates on rich snippets (which are the search results you’ll see highlighted in a separate box positioned above most other results). Over time, this positive activity influences your site’s overall trust rank and search position...increasing organic search, which still accounts for 94% of clicks.
Sites with structured data appear in more types of search results, have SERP rank better than non-structured web pages and have greater visibility both in linked and "direct answer" verticals. This means you’ll appear not just for “coffeepot”, but “coffeepot recommendations”, “good coffeepots under $100” and “coffeepot under 14 inches tall”. You’ll see sophisticated queries that include signals you send to the search engine, like “coffeepots recommended by my friends”. You’re likely to get better insight analytics on page performance, too.
A DETAILED TAKE ON STRUCTURED DATA
The Internet is more powerful than ever. That said, it is still mostly a collection of documents with search engines that are still crawling strings of text. Keywords, which are strings of text, will continue to be central to search. However, text strings are not adequate for the dynamic world of “things”, especially at Internet scale.
The problem search engines are trying to solve gives context to “entities” (also called “things”). In practice, entities are declared by supplying is a unique URL. Site owners can dramatically improve the context and meaning of search on their sites by using verified social tools (like Google +) to map entities and then express the relationship between the two things creating a third expression about the connections. Structured data does that.
Microdata, which nests metadata within existing content, has been part of search for a really long time and is foundational to the semantic web. Recently, an international working committee (which included the major search engines) agreed to standardized terms thereby extending the vocabulary of what can be structured. Now, more people, places and things can display additional structured details. You can find this enhanced microdata mark-up at www.Schema.org.
Semantic SEO optimizes for the interrelationships and values between things. Sites that identify and interlink things (entities), in the form of URLs will find themselves favored both in linked search results and rich snippets. Snippets use your page as a source of information extracted by Google and presented in response to direct search queries.
Google confesses that it uses over 500 algorithms to create its master search. Pete Myers of Moz recently identified 85 different type of "rich SERPs,". The Internet is gearing up for fully semantic search. Are you?
WHAT ELSE CAN STRUCTURED DATA DO?
Just recently, Google published their quality evaluation guidelines (a first) and several things stood out in regard to structured data, here:
Google rewards sites that have Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, (E. A. T.). This is especially true for health and wealth sites, which get extra scrutiny. E-Commerce sites get extra scrutiny, too. These areas are called out because bad information from an untrustworthy site could really hurt someone. Google intentionally buries low trust sites deep in search. Structured data is understood as a strong quality signal, which gets you noticed sooner.
DOES STRUCTURED DATA MATTER IN SOCIAL MEDIA?
Once your computer can understand what a person, place or event is, you can interact with it more powerfully. Enter Pinterest Rich Pins, Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graph. These tools give brands greater visibility and control over how their information is displayed. They also increase the chance of a product sale dramatically.
REASONS TO IMPLEMENT SEMANTIC SEO
SEO is embedded with the ground rules to be found online. If this innovation is like other quality signals, it will be a search engine requirement soon enough. Doing it now future-proofs your SEO investment.
HOW DO YOU IMPLEMENT STRUCTURED DATA?
I use JSON-LD because it is easier for me to control as a non-engineer. It is also more likely to be successful on a wide variety of CMSs. Google now displays rich snippets from pages structured in JSON-LD for most categories, with the full capabilities to follow.