What is Structured Data?
Structured Data is the umbrella term that covers different types of mark up within your websites code that defines the type of data on your pages. Implementing structured data is often a job for your developers as it can be technically challenging but there are numerous benefits from incorporating this into your site. Not only helps search engines better understand the type of data on the page but can influence how your listing looks when it appears in the search engine results pages.
An example of a listing with structured data implemented compared to one that doesn’t.
Implementing structured data generates Rich Snippets that display more information in your listing on the results page. In this example you’ll see the first listing includes not only Review Average Rating but also Price and Availability. The screen shots below demonstrates that while both pages contain Review Ratings, Price and Availability information only one is taking advantage of actually displaying this information in the search results listings.
Benefits of Structured Data and Rich Snippets
- Ensure your listing stands out on the search results page
- Offer searchers relevant additional information that encourages them to click your listing
- Display social proof through the use of product review ratings
- Inform search engines as to the type of data on your pages. The better a search engine understands the information illustrated on your website, the better it can provide the consumer with relevant information in regards to their specific search query
A 2014 study by SearchMetrics suggests that less than 1% of websites integrate Structured Data within their website. Their study also suggested that sites that utilised Structured Data to generate Rich Snippets in their listings ranked on average four places higher in the search results page. Whilst this figure should be taken with a pinch of salt, (sites implementing Structured Data are also those who are most likely to be well optimised) what is undeniable is that Rich Snippets not only ensure your listing stands out against those that don’t have but they also offer searchers more information and encouragement to click your listing over those that don’t.
Microdata, Microformats & RDFa
There are a number of formats you can use to tag the data on your website. These include RDFa, Microformats and Microdata. Essentially these three methods achieve the same results but just use a different format and language to tag data. In 2011 the big three search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo, came together to launch the schema.org initiative in 2001. Schema was devised to create a common vocabulary for structured data mark-up on web pages using the Microdata format. As schema is has been devised and is supported by the major search engines we would recommend that all your Structured Data is implemented following this format.
Types of Schema
There’s a vast array of Schema Structured Data mark ups that can be utilised throughout a website not only just on product pages. Commonly used Schema types include Event, Organisation, Person, Place, Local Business, Restaurant, Product, Offer, Review and Aggregate Rating. Within each category you have different elements of data you are able to mark if you include the information on your website.
Not all categories or elements apply to each website or web page so we suggest browsing the categories at www.schema.org to familiarise yourself with the available mark -ups and opportunities on your site where they can be implemented.
How to Implement Structured Data
Structured Data can be implemented in a number of ways. It’s likely that your web developer will already have a good understanding of Structured Data but either hasn’t implemented it to its full extent or at all because it’s something you have never requested or discussed. Talk to them and find out what they know and what opportunities currently exist and what data would need to be included on the website to take advantage of other opportunities for implementing Structured Data.
If you wish to include Structured Data on a page template that is used across a number of pages on your site then this is a job for your web developer. However there is an easy way for none web developers to mark-up data on their site without having to edit the sites code. To simplify the process, Google has developed the Data Highlighter Tool which can be found in your Webmaster Tools account.
Data Highlighter is a point and click tool that lets you tell Google about the data on a page or a group of pages without the need to modify the sites code. It is worth noting that only Google can read and understand elements marked up using Data Highlighter so Rich Snippets will not appear in any other search engine results pages. However the ease and speed at which Data Highlighter allows you to mark up data without the need for a developer makes it an extremely useful tool if your focus is primarily on Google traffic.
Just sign into your Google Webmaster Tools account, select the Search Appearance drop down menu on the left hand side and click Data Highlighter.
Once you’ve watched the video and read through the information click the Start Highlighting button. You’ll be prompted to enter a URL for a typical page on your site and the type of information you’d like to highlight. The range of data you can mark up using the Data Highlighter Tool is more limited (than if you were editing the code) but it does allow you to choose from some of the most common types of page such as Articles, Events, Local Businesses and Products.
Just as you would on a Word document, highlight elements of your page that match with the categories in the menu on the right hand side. When you’ve highlighted a piece of data the drop down menu pops up so you can select the type of data it is you’ve highlighted.
In the example above we’ve highlighted the product name, selected the right element from the drop down menu and Google adds it to your right hand panel.
Once you’ve marked up each available item on the page, hit Publish and next time Google crawls your site it should be able to detect the data elements you’ve marked up and display this as part of your listing on the results page.