Whilst search engines are getting increasingly smarter and efficient at finding the right information on your site, there are still things they can’t do. This is where we use something called structured data. In essence, it is a snippet of code that points search engines to bits of information you think are most important and relevant to your site.
A brief history…
Structured data rose to popularity in early 2011 amongst webmasters and search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. A collaboration was formed amongst the search engines which formed schema.org which is now used as a standard for most structured data. It has been written and preferred in many different formats since the beginning, but now Google say they prefer it in JSON-LD. Whilst Google prefer this format, some search engines don’t support this, like Bing, so they will also need microdata to appear in either Microdata or RDFA formats.
Why does it matter?
Without structured data, search engine crawlers will only be able to take a best guess at what the content on your website would be relevant to. Search engines rank your website with many different factors, but relevance to keywords and how much information you can provide the user, these are some of the big factors you need to consider. So naturally the more information you can provide, the chance you can move up the search rankings and beat your competitors is improved.
If you’re still sceptical about the benefits of introducing structured data to your website, the rewards go further.…
We have all seen the extra information that appears at the side of Google for specific searches, it is this that is heavily affected by structured data, showing the user alternative places you can be found, your address, contact details, opening hours, reviews and even more fields. Not only is this helpful for the user but it solidifies your brand as a reliable and respected authority for their needs. Not only is this good for your business but it will help to improve your CTR.
How to use it
With structured data, you can specify that your business belongs to a certain category, for example, a local business, person or even an event. Within each of these categories feature subcategories to specify even greater detail, e.g. a local business might be a cafe or a radio station. The whole system works on this kind of hierarchy, each level down has unique and generic fields that can be allocated to your website so that search engines know what the data you’re giving them means and how they can use it in order to provide the best result the user first time round.
A working example…
If you want to add structured data to your site or improve what is existing, it can be a daunting task at first glance. So let’s look at an example, using Frogspark’s structured data.
- We start by giving the search engine a context, this is how the search engine knows which bit of data means what, in most cases, this will point to the schema.org website.
- Next, we refine down the possibilities by assigning an ID, this is basically a top-level description that is really vague – these are referred to as schemas.
- Once these basics are have been coded, you can begin to look at the list of relevant fields (a full list of these is available on the schema.org website), and following each fields rules and logic to input the data you need.
In our example, we have included the URL for our website, the name of the company and the potential for users to carry out a specified action, in this case, search the website.