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April 09, 2018

Structured Data: The Growing Trend in SEO

by Samantha Becorest
Categories: Organic Search (SEO)

If there is one SEO effort you need to focus on this year, it should be structured data. It’s no secret that Google loves scraping site data to create new search features. The rise of SERP features this year including local packs, FAQ drop-downs and answer boxes are a telltale sign. Implementing structured data will not only get you featured in these areas often placed above top rankings, but also improve overall site rankings through quicker site crawling. To help you stay ahead, here are a few tips on how to implement a structured data strategy.

What is Structured Data?

Structured data is a standardized format for providing and classifying information about page content. For example, an enterprise software page can specify software name, pricing, ratings, etc. This allows Google to easily understand page content, resulting in stronger rankings and crawling ability. Structured data can also enable rich search results, which can provide a greater user experience than typical search results.

Structured data uses on-page code to markup notable page details. Most structured data use a schema markup vocabulary to specify page type (i.e. product, person, event) and page attribute (i.e. name, brand, price). You can markup pages in three primary formats: JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa. Microdata is original HTML-based format that utilizes tag elements to name properties. RDFa is another HTML-based extension that can be utilized. Google recommends using JSON-LD – a JavaScript-based format that can be dynamically placed into page contents and embedded into CMS widgets.

Structured Data Best Practices

  1. Markup content that is only visible to users on the page
  2. Define additional recommended features when possible
  3. Utilize the JSON-LD markup format for streamlined page placement
  4. Implement site-wide organization markup when possible (i.e. name, address, number)
  5. Customize site sections with product, service or event specific markup
  6. Update your markup as frequently as information and pages change

While using structured data enables features to be present, it does not guarantee a rich results feature. Google’s algorithm tailors search results based on what it feels provides the strongest user experience. Device type, search history and location are among many other factors that play a role in the algorithm. By referencing Google’s structured data guidelines before making your updates, you will have the best chance at guaranteeing a search results feature.

5 Steps to a Solid Structured Data Strategy

  1. Determine site-wide markup that can be implemented across all pages (i.e. name, URL, description). Review the schema markup for thing, the most generic page type.
  2. Determine site sections that would benefit from schema markup. Product, Event and Service pages all commonly used page types. Browse the full schema hierarchy for ideas.
  3. Utilize schema vocabulary to implement itemscope, itemprop and itemtype specifications. Define all required and as many recommended attributes as possible.
  4. Utilize the structured data testing tool to verify correct implementation.
  5. Publish a handful of pages. Refer to the Rich Cards or Structured Data report in Search Console to monitor results. If you find errors within your structured data, retest on Fetch as Google. Once all errors have been identified and fixed, launch the rest of your pages and repeat the process.