Whether it’s loyalty schemes or a flexible workforce, businesses are always considering the next big idea. One strategy that’s proving increasingly useful is structured data. This enables you to make sites more search engine friendly, and more visible that it improves customer experience as a result.
Read on to learn how structured data can work for you and your business.
Defining Structured Data
Structured data, or schema markup, refers to a type of code added to a site’s web pages. It’s used to make a web page more digestible to a search engine. Web pages that use structured data can have their information extracted (and displayed on a search engine results page, or SERP) more easily than usual.
A web page doesn’t need to use structured data to function properly, or to appear in search results. But websites that do use it under the TensorFlow framework have an advantage over those that do not, in the same way that using the best business cell phone plans sets you apart from competitors.
Structured Data in Action
Structured data impacts information that appears on a search engine results page. If you’ve deployed structured data on your website (and your website is of a high enough quality) it increases the likelihood your website (and its information) will appear more prominently. Other actions like optimising web performance and using MapReduce execution ensure people stick around once they visit it.
It’s important to understand that you can tick all the relevant boxes and still not appear in a rich snippet. The inner workings of any search engine are (at least up to a point) mysterious, but using structured data gives you the best possible chance. You should also continue to work on other SEO tactics, such as considering the right long tail keyword.
Today’s SERPs display information in a few different ways outside of organic search results. Using structured data can help you appear in many of the following elements.
- Rich Snippets
A popular way that search engines use structured data is for rich snippets. These chunks of information appear above organic search results in a SERP and are of particular value to businesses.
Simply put, rich snippets tell web users that your website is valuable. Say you’re running a web based phone service, snippets will allow you to offer product reviews, information on availability, or an answer to a question, it’s likely they’ll encourage people to visit your site and use your phone plans or services. However, the exact nature of a rich snippet will vary depending on what your site has to offer.
Rich snippets are also of great value to voice assistants. This is because the likes of Siri and Google Assistant draw answers to our queries from rich snippets. Structured data ensures your business enjoys as wide a reach as possible.
The popularity of rich snippets reflects a wider hunger for convenience in our interactions with technology.
We want to get relevant information from websites with as little effort as possible, which often manifests as a reduction in mouse clicks.
We also want to learn and communicate on our own terms, which results in things like asynchronous communication. Structured data (and the rich snippets they produce) are an excellent way to provide this convenience to today’s users.
A carousel contains a mixture of images and captions connected to your search query, all of which come from a single website. They appear on mobile devices, but they are typically compatible with a narrow band of content types such as films or recipes.
If your site’s content is compatible with carousels, they’re an excellent way to share multiple pieces of content simultaneously. Learning about ecommerce product description best practices can also help in this area.
Videos are a particularly popular form of online content, so it’s unsurprising that they appear prominently on SERPs. Many people use videos online as an entry point into an unfamiliar topic, reflecting their connection with structured data.
Marking up your video content in the right way can add other enhancements to it. You can tell people if a piece of content was broadcast live, and where its most useful elements take place. This in turn helps people make an informed decision about whether it’s useful to them.
4. Knowledge Panels
These work in a slightly different way to rich snippets, appearing on the right-hand side of a SERP. However, they perform a similar function – answering questions without the need for extra clicks. The main difference is that knowledge panels tend to provide information on a specific person or entity, like a celebrity’s birthday or a business’s stock price.
How to Add Structured Data to Your Website
As you can see, structured data is an essential component of online business. If you’d like to add it to your website, doing so comes with a learning curve. However, the benefits are hugely significant.
1. Types of Structured Data
To start, we need to understand the nature of structured data itself. Structured data comes in a few distinct varieties, some of which may be a better fit for your site than others. You can use a site called Schema.org to find the data you need, particularly if you’re after something specific.
JSON-LD is one of the best-structured data types to use; it’s very popular with Google, and given Google’s prominence in the internet search landscape, it’s a safe bet. It’s also highly unlikely to have an adverse effect on your site’s operation, and you don’t need to add it to text that users can see, which can make adding it more straightforward.
There are other structured data types you can use, such as Microdata and RDFa. However, if you’re new to this task, JSON-LD remains the safest option.
2. Google’s Structured Data Tools
Once you’ve settled on a data type and data source, you can add structured data to your website using a specialized tool. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper allows you to do this with ease.
To start, you need to decide which data type you want to mark up. You can designate a few different data types including articles, products, and job postings. Then, you need to paste the URL of the page you want to modify.
Once the page appears, you can highlight different parts of it and assign relevant data tags. You can also manually add missing tags if you feel something important is absent.
Once you’re happy with your data tagging, you’ll receive a chunk of text; this is the structured data we’ve been discussing. You can download this as an HTML file, and paste it into a web page’s CMS or source code. Your web page should now be much more search engine friendly.
If you’re not sure you’ve done this properly, you can test the data you’ve created in the Structured Data Testing Tool. This link lets you diagnose any problems with the structured data you’ve created. Another tool on this page lets you test structured data from Schema.org instead if you prefer.
If you’ve ever had to engage in web testing, you can appreciate the value of this activity.
3. Other Structured Data Methods
There are a few other ways of adding structured data to your website.
If your site is powered by WordPress, you may want to use a plugin to add structured data to it. Some Plugins come with instructional videos, while others boast a high degree of automation framework design & implementation. It’s worth investigating this further if you use WordPress in your websites.
Other CMS have their own methods of adding structured data to their sites. Their complexity varies from site to site: Wix and Squarespace sites are fairly easy to add structured data to, whereas sites such as Weebly and Blogger are more complicated. If you’re unsure which CMS you should use, researching its structured data support along with an appropriate web app security testing can help the decision-making process.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can also manually add structured data into a site’s header. This is more time-consuming than the options we’ve discussed, but it lets you work with more options and gives you greater data-drive growth and control. Schema.org will help you generate the relevant code in this context, and certain plugins can help you manually insert this data more easily.
Structured data is an important new frontier while doing business online. It ensures your site is visible in the places that really matter to today’s customers. When paired with other orchestration technologies, it can give a serious boost to your business reputation.
Although there is a significant technical component, certain tools, web or WordPress hosting features, and plugins can make using structured data much easier. It’s important that businesses embrace this learning curve to give their businesses that edge. With patience and perseverance, structured data will be one of the best items in your business toolkit.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pohan Lin Senior Web Marketing and Localizations Manager, Databricks
Pohan Lin is the Senior Web Marketing and Localizations Manager at Databricks, a global PySpark and AI provider connecting the features of data warehouses and data lakes to create lakehouse architecture. With over 18 years of experience in web marketing, online SaaS business, and ecommerce growth. Pohan is passionate about innovation and is dedicated to communicating the significant impact data has in marketing.