Structured Data for SEO 101

Jul 31, 2018

Structured data, easily crawlable link structures and XML sitemaps are just three of the more complicated aspects of technical SEO.

The technical side of SEO is still an aspect of search engine optimization that many digital marketers don’t fully understand or prioritize. We hope that this blog can break the ice for people who are just starting to learn about aspects of technical SEO, such as structured data, and want to learn more.

First, we want you to have a broad understanding of what structured data is and why it’s necessary if you want enhanced search results for your website.

Structured Data: Defined

Essentially, structured data is a search engine’s way of deducing meaning from the keywords and websites in a logical way.

Search engine bots can display search results in a more coherent and visually appealing way when they have clear instructions on how to show enhanced (or “rich”) snippets on their search engine results pages (SERPs).

The idea behind structured data is simple: it improves a bot’s process of crawling, deciphering, and displaying a website’s content.

The main point of structuring your data is to improve communication with search engine bots (like the Google Bot) that are determining your website’s rank on their SERPs.

Demystifying Structured Data

Structured data is an area that some digital marketers shy away from because of the technicalities and jargon involved. We want to assure you that even though implementing structured data can be complicated, it’s not as daunting as you might assume.

Let’s focus on Google. In Google’s Introduction to Structured Data, they explain structured data as “…a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page’s content.”

So basically, structured data gives Google another dimension of context for deciding how to crawl and rank your website’s content.

Google suggests adding structured data markups mainly on 2 things:

1) Content items on your site
2) Lists of items on your site

In its Introduction to Structured Data, Google provided an example of a webpage with a recipe. On that webpage, the recipe is made up of smaller elements: the ingredients, cooking time, temperature, and nutrition facts are examples of different parts of the page.

When you implement structured data, you each individual element of the recipe gets labelled so that users can search for the recipe by ingredient, time required to cook, etc.

When the data is structured, it’s a no brainer for search engine bots to identify the different elements of a site to make them more easily searchable.

Structured Data Markup

Data structuring refers to implementing markup on a webpage for SEO purposes. Online content creators tag content on their sites using a markup language on their webpages to provide more detail about each page’s content.

As we can see by the recipe example, an aspiring chef would benefit from implementing structured data markup on their recipes.

According to TechTerms, a markup language is a programming language that,
“…uses tags to define elements within a document. It is human-readable, meaning markup files contain standard words, rather than typical programming syntax.”

Markup language must be understandable by all search engines from Yahoo! to Google. So, there are standardized formats, syntaxes and vocabularies that must be used. These syntaxes and vocabularies serve as the building blocks of structured data.

The 3 main syntaxes are:
1) Microdata
2) JSON-LD
3) microformats

The 2 vocabularies that are usually used with these syntaxes are:
1) Schema.org
2) Microformats.org

Schema.org (often called just Schema for short) can be used with the “Microdata” and “JSON-LD” syntaxes. However, the “microformats” syntax must be used with the microformats.org vocabulary.

Since Schema is so frequently used, let’s talk more about what you need to know about this vocabulary.

Intro to Schema.org

Schema is a shared markup vocabulary that supports the markup of structured data in HTML documents. It was created in 2011 by some of the world’s most prominent search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo! to help with structured data efforts.

Essentially, Schema is a semantic vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines crawl and display your page on SERPs. Calling Schema a “semantic vocabulary of tags” is just a fancy way of saying that Schema makes web page content more easily recognizable for search engine bots, because when content is tagged, it’s easier for search engines to know specifically what the content is about to make it easier to find.

The more in-depth of an understanding that a search engine has about a webpage’s content, the better. When search engines have this extra dimension of context, it’s more likely for a webpage to be enhanced with “rich snippets” and “rich cards” on search engine results pages (SERPs).

According to schema.org, the schemas are a set of “types” (each associated with a set of properties), and the core vocabulary currently consists of 598 Types. Here are examples of commonly used types, as explained by schema.org:

Structured Data Chainlink Relationship Marketing

Rich Snippets and Cards

If you have the right structured data code in place, key information from your website will most likely be displayed in the SERP in a favorable, visually appearing format.

“Rich snippets” and “rich cards” refer to search results that are enriched with images or displayed in a visually appealing card format to grab searchers’ attention.

Google does a great job of explaining the different qualifying content types for enhanced, “rich” display on their SERPs. They provide the table below to show the features that are supported for each content “type”. 

Consider our previous example of a recipe. For this, you would use the schema.org type “CreativeWork”. CreativeWork applies to qualifying content produced for reading, viewing, listening or other consumption, such as news articles, recipes, and videos.

Google Structured Data Chainlink Relationship Marketing

To Wrap It Up…

At Chainlink, we understand our clients’ priorities. Most people want to produce the highest marketing ROI without having to be an expert in technical SEO.

This introduction to structured data only brushes the surface of this subject area. However, we hope that it’s a solid starting point for you to learn more about the many aspects of technical SEO.

Our Chainlink team can take care of all technical optimization tasks to ensure your website architecture sets you up for success. We can also help explain the nuances of technical SEO for your particular website, and train you on the basics.

If you want to ensure that your technical SEO is where it needs to be, Chainlink Relationship Marketing can help you. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help your business grow online using cutting edge digital marketing tactics.

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