The issue with website content is that it has to be written with multiple audiences in mind. First off, you have to write for your target market of customers and users. It needs to be written and structured in a way that they can understand and relate to your business. But unfortunately, that’s not your only focus. Because most people land on a website after being referred by a search engine, you must also appease the technical demands of the search engines. This is where things can get tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Helping the Search Engines Help you
Search engines are essentially sophisticated robots that meander through cyberspace looking for valuable and relevant information. While your content may be both valuable and relevant to your human audience, you have to keep in mind that search engines function differently. Furthermore, individual search engines function differently than others. That means Google, Bing, and Yahoo – while appearing similar on the surface – don’t follow the same rules or search patterns.
The answer to this complicated conundrum is structured data. This term refers to information formatted and structured in a universally understandable way that allows search engines to filter, format, and refine search results for increased accuracy and clarity. Ultimately, it allows users to find your site and determine whether or not it’s useful to them.
Understanding Structured Data and Markups
“Structured data is becoming an increasingly important part of the web ecosystem,” explains Google Webmasters. It’s used to highlight very specific pieces and types of content in the search results, and websites do their part by marking up their content using standardized formats and schemas.
Online marketer, Kevin Vertommen, has some good insights when it comes to the topic of structured data markup. “Web pages have an inherent meaning which users understand when they read them,” he says. “Search engines, on the other hand, have a limited understanding of web page content.” This is where markups come into play.
For example, let’s say you have a web page that’s about Apple. When a search engine crawls the page, it would identify the keyword Apple, but it really wouldn’t know whether you’re talking about the brand or the fruit. This puts the search engine in a tough place, as accurate search results are its primary goal. Whereas humans can look at something and derive the meaning based on context, search engines cannot.
Structured data is the answer to this troubling issue. As Vertommen points out, the information stored inside structured data is used by search engines to generate what are known as rich snippets. Whether you realize it or not, you’re very familiar with rich snippets. These are the little extra bits of information that show up next to a search result They come in the form of small thumbnail image, ratings, number of reviews, and more. In addition to making your web pages more visible, structured markup actually leads to a 30 percent increase in your site’s click-through-rate.
Types of Structured Data Markup
The value of structured data markup is pretty clear, but did you know there are different types? You can only use one type per page, or else you’ll confuse the search engines. So, it’s important to know what you’re doing.
- By far the most popular form of structured data, Microdata is the brainchild of Schema.org – a collaborative initiative of Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The widespread use of microdata makes it the ideal solution if you’re seeking to maximize your time and effort.
- The second type of structured data markup is RFDa. This method of adding structured data uses a number of different properties and features – including HTML tags – to describe entities and assign information. RFDa is best reserved for experienced webmasters, as it’s the most complex and advanced of the three.
- JSON-LD is a lightweight Linked Data format. It is easy for humans to read and write. It is based on the already successful JSON format and provides a way to help JSON data interoperate at Web-scale. JSON-LD is an ideal data format for programming environments, REST Web services, and unstructured databases such as CouchDB and MongoDB.
Utilizing Helpful Tools and Resources
Thankfully, Google and the other search engines have put forth a lot of effort when it comes to educating webmasters and providing adequate tools and resources for understanding structured data markups and how to implement best practices.
For example, Google has the Structured Data Markup Helper, which shows you how to update your site so that the search engines can better understand the data it contains. This tool essentially walks you through the process in step-by-step fashion. Google also has the Structured Data Testing Tool, which provides insights into different URLs and their markups.
Making the Most of Structured Data Markup
You can’t overlook structured data if you want to maximize your website’s visibility and display relevant information to search engine users – it’s as simple as that. Thanks to fantastic third party resources and tools, you don’t have to be a coding expert, either. Simply read up on the topic, gain a firm understanding of what structured data markup is, and give your web pages the information they need to succeed.
Latest posts by Samuel Edwards (see all)
- 6 SEO Mistakes Amateur Bloggers Frequently Make - March 22, 2016
- Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Pages for SEO? - January 22, 2016
- 3 Tips for Creating More Effective Online Ads - January 14, 2016
- The Importance Of Placement: SEO And Site Format - January 6, 2016
- 3 Must-Track Website Metrics For Every Business - December 8, 2015