Structuring your data helps search engines like Google understand your website better, can lead to rich search engine results, and it has the ability to influence the traffic you get from search engines. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, but a potentially challenging one as well.
In this post, we’re going to walk you through what you need to know about structured data for SEO so that you can audit for errors, glean insights, strategically use it to your advantage, and prepare for the future.
New to structured data? Start here.
Structured data is markup that provides additional detail about a web page.
Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.
While Google works hard to understand what a page is about, it’s a bit of a guessing game. Using structured data eliminates that guessing by providing explicit clues about a page’s meaning.
For example, instead of Google seeing a string of numbers that looks like a phone number, structured data markup can tell Google explicitly “these numbers are my organization’s phone number.”
Example of organization markup.
Google accepts three different structured data formats:
If you haven’t yet experimented with marking up your content, we recommend looking through Google’s search gallery. Here, you can explore the types of structured data that are most likely to influence the way Google displays your pages in search results.
For example, adding product markup could result in price, rating, and availability information next to the product URL in search results:
In addition to the structured data Google uses for rich results, other structured data types from schema.org are helpful for organizing your content and providing search engines with extra context clues. If you’re just starting out with structured data, it may be a good idea to prioritize relevant types that Google uses for rich results before moving onto additional schema.org types.
Auditing your structured data for errors
If you’ve already implemented structured data on your website, it’s a good idea to audit it. During a structured data audit, you’ll want to ask:
- Which pages is the structured data on?
- Is any of the structured data broken?
- Is there more we could do with our structured data?
Typically, structured data audits involve popping each URL into Google’s structured data testing tool and checking for errors. Not only is this time-consuming, but it doesn’t give you the full picture.
When auditing your structured data, you’ll want to know more than “is it broken?” You’ll also want to be able to see, at a high level, what might be missing or out of place.
One way you can do this is by segmenting your URLs. Botify sets up URL segmentation based on URL patterns, making it easy to create groups of URLs based on their shared properties. For example, an e-commerce website could create a segment for all their product pages. That way, you could check to make sure that all your product pages had product schema.
You could also work in the reverse. Instead of looking at a segment to check that all pages had relevant schema, you could opt to view all pages that already have a certain type of schema and audit that list for accuracy.
Crawling your website to find structured data issues at scale is much preferable to using the testing tool on your URLs one-by-one, so before you audit your structured data, we recommend a solution like Botify’s!
Glean insights from your structured data
You can do so much more with your structured data than just making sure it isn’t broken or missing. Since structured data can change the way Google understands and displays your web pages in search results, you’ll want to know how (if at all) your structured data is changing the way Google and visitors are interacting with your site.
Once you’re able to unify all your data, you’re able to get answers to questions like:
- Does the number of reviews in my review markup have an impact on how often Google crawls my pages?
- Does a poor average rating negatively impact my organic click-through rate?
- How much more traffic am I getting after implementing “in stock” structured data? (This is one of the many things we tested with Merkle, finding that in-stock snippets improve CTR while out-of-stock snippets decreased CTR).
Once you understand how Google and visitor behavior changes with your structured data, you can use those insights to strategically modify your structured data for maximum impact.
Strategically using structured data to your advantage
Having a firm grasp of your site’s structured data and how it’s impacting performance can help you understand how to leverage structured data to your advantage.
- SEO Insights: An e-commerce website could find that products with an average rating of three or lower have a lower organic click-through rate than products with a higher rating. Knowing this, they might choose to remove the review schema in hopes of improving traffic.
- Business Insights: Going even beyond this, auditing your structured data could also yield business insights that stretch beyond SEO. An e-commerce website that has implemented product review markup may find that some of their products have lower or fewer ratings than other products, indicating that there may be something wrong with the product itself that they need to fix.
- Justifying Developer Resources: Developers at enterprise organizations typically have a long task queue. If an SEO wants to implement structured data and needs a developer’s help to do it, they’ll likely have to make the case as to why it’s important. Having this data from your own website can prove the positive impact (on crawling, traffic, and even revenue) structured data would have, resulting in you getting the dev resources you need.
Preparing for the future of structured data
While Google currently supports around 30 types of structured data for rich results, they’re working on adding more all the time. For example, Google just recently added support for FAQ and How-To, highlighting the fact that SEOs need to stay vigilant, ready to implement new, relevant structured data at any moment. At Botify we take the same view, always adding new features as Google releases updates.
The best way to prepare for the future of structured data is to realize that Google’s desire for it isn’t going away. Google wants it to be easier for them to understand content and display it in the most helpful formats for searchers. To do that, they need to be constantly innovating on the structured data front, and when they do, SEOs can use Botify to make sure not only that they’ve implemented it correctly, but also know how it’s impacting their bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about Botify’s structured data capabilities, we recommend checking out our post introducing our structured data optimizations or by booking a demo to see it in action!