As brands begin their planning for next year, there are two important considerations they’ll need to make time for as they navigate between traditional search methods and emerging ones. Two terms that marketers will need to be increasingly conversant in are structured data and unstructured data.
To begin with, Structured data, which is also called schema or markup, is data that helps search engines understand what content is on a given webpage. And it is going to be one of the most important things in SEO – and local search in particular – in 2018.
In part, that’s because local businesses can use structured data to provide more details about their locations, which can help increase click-through rates (CTR) and improve search visibility.
However, even though structured data has been around for a while, not many brands are using it. This is likely because they lack the development resources to input the backend coding.
That, however, is going to change. Or, rather, it has to.
And that’s in part because brands are operating in an increasingly competitive landscape and the additional information helps search engines better solve for consumer intent.
I’d argue this is in part why structured data is going to be so important for SEO in 2018.
- Structured Data Helps Search Engines Understand Your Content.
Structured data helps search engines organize the information on your site, thereby making it easier for them to find valuable information that matches the intent of the end user. In turn, your position in the SERPs becomes more attractive.
Think of it this way: Any time you can give search engines data in a format they understand, all parties benefit as both your site and the search engine provide a better user experience.
Recipes are a good example of a content type ideal for structured data as you can include details like calories and cook times. Travel and jobs are two additional verticals where structured data comes in handy to flag information like price and availability or descriptions, requirements and location. And, of course, in ecommerce, brands can mark up details like ratings and price, which show up in the SERPs and help consumers find more information about products and services – and, in turn, this helps increase CTR and conversions.
- Structured Data Helps You Rank for the Answer Box (Or Position 0).
Ranking for featured snippets or answer boxes can help drive more traffic and conversions. There have been numerous studies about the impact of ranking for answer box queries, demonstrating results in position 0 have higher CTR.
- Structured Data Helps You Become the Answer for Voice Search Queries.
Not only that, voice assistants have changed the way consumers search for information. According to Google, more than half of queries will be made by voice by 2020 and this requires a refreshed approach to SEO in which structured data markup helps voice assistants find your content. In other words, if you rank for featured snippets or answer box queries, the odds are good your site will be the sole answer to a voice query because Google uses those results for verbal answers.
- Structured Data Helps You Show Up in the Knowledge Graph.
Structured data can help you get into Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is an important part of the search experience. It powers many of the innovative new ways data shows up in the search engine. Getting your information in there is incredibly important – especially if you have a business. That means you must make sure your details are correct, sign up for Google My Business and add all the information you can. Many other parts of the Knowledge Graph, however, are generated from structured data. That includes reviews, movie information and events. As such, you should also be sure to mark up your data to boost your odds of getting in the Knowledge Graph.
5. Structured Data Helps You Appear in the Rich Results for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
Quickly loading sites provide a more positive user experience, which Google likes a lot. As a result, if your site uses AMP, you’ll want to make sure search engines know by including structured data markup on both the regular and AMP pages. This will allow your AMP pages to appear in rich results, including the top stories carousel and host carousels.
Tools to Test Structured Data
Here are my favorite tools to test if structured data is set up correctly:
The best tool identifies possible errors in your website’s code and comes from Google itself.
However, another great tool is The Markup Helper, which will help add structured data markup to a sample web page.
*Winston Burton joined Acronym in 2014 with over ten years in search marketing. Prior to joining Acronym, Winston was the VP of SEO at Havas Media, one of the world’s top ten global ad agencies. He started the SEO practice for Havas and built the practice to include clients such as Choice Hotels, Fidelity, Exxon, Volvo and Marc Jacobs. Winston spearheaded SEO strategy including content marketing, mobile, link building, and all technical areas of SEO. Winston’s career also included the SEO Manager role at Rosetta and time at Zeta Interactive.