Have you ever wondered what makes searches look the way they do on your desktop or mobile device?
Whether searching Google from a phone, tablet, third-party service, or desktop, Google has its eye on your searches.
Structured data is the key to making a website visible to searches across all these connected devices, search engines, and lifestyles as we move into a more integrated Internet of Things.
What Is Structured Data?
Per Google’s definition of structured data, it is …
“a standard way to annotate your content so machines can understand it. When your web pages include structured data markup, Google (and other search engines) can use that data to index your content better, present it more prominently in search results, and surface it in new experiences like voice answers, maps, and Google Now.”
Implementing this data into your website can be difficult to understand at first, but understanding your site’s position and function makes getting started easier.
What Does Structured Data Make My Website Look Like in SERPs?
When Google and other search engines discover the structured data markup on the website, it will start to read the tags and display unique items in the SERPs. There are 3 main things that can happen to your website when you properly use structured data…
(1) Rich Snippets
By including structured data that is appropriate for the content on your website, you can enhance the appearance of your site in search results. Rich snippets can include information for the following data types: products, recipes, reviews, events, software applications, videos, local businesses, and more. Here is an example of rich snippets for a recipe above a result with no rich snippets…
These rich snippets aren’t anything new, but their universal application is making them practically mandatory for building a competitive website. Plus, using structured data helps boost click-through-rate (CTR) which also boosts the competitiveness of your website.
(2) Google Knowledge Graph & Quick Answers
The Google Knowledge Graph is Google’s way of organizing information about well-known entities: people, places, organizations. In this area, Google merges information from many data sources such as websites, Wikipedia, social media, and more. Below is a screenshot of what a Google search engine results page for the term “amazon” looks like on a desktop browser.
The section on the right-hand side is what is known as the Knowledge Graph. This can be customized by utilizing and adding structured data markup to your website.
As can also be seen in this image, Amazon runs a paid AdWords CPC campaign, and you can see the yellow “Ad” button next to the “top” search result, and people are generally aware this is a sponsored post.
Similarly, if your website has a page with the definition of your product or an item that users frequently seek an answer for, structure that page for Quick Answers. In other words, these tend to be direct answers to a user’s question. Here is an example of a Google Quick Answer…
Using Quick Answers, Google is attempting to provide most generally agreed-upon answers within search results in order to provide quick answers on the page for users. Though this may not help a site’s CTR for certain searches, it does help a site and brand become known as a trusted resource, a much more valuable branding tool in the long run.
You increase your chances of having Google create Knowledge Graph and Quick Answers for your site’s content if you mark it up with structured data.
(3) Social Media and Structured Data
Social media is making a big push to compete with SERPs structured data, and both Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graphs are helping these sites become content portals as relevant as any search engine.
Although still limited to 140 characters, tweets can be embedded with rich snippets and media content to make them more appealing. Many developers are racing do exactly that using Twitter Cards, which combine with Vine to make Twitter feeds as appealing as YouTube and Facebook.
Facebook Open Graphs help people and brands tell stories through mini-digital-pin boards that bring content to life. Each of these is meant to keep users engaged with social portals, and your website can gain equal traction through either online medium and should be prepared for all of them. This maintains maximum visibility for your brand.
Applying Structured Data on Your Site
- For example, if your band is on a festival tour or you are looking for movie times near you, this can be seen outside a website and directly in the SERPs.
- RDFa and Microdata. Both of these are the syntax for adding extra markup to HTML that allows search engines to more clearly understand the meaning of specific pieces of on-page content. The Resource Description Framework in Attributes (RDFa) site has a wealth of information to help understand linked data and how to implement the HTML coding on your site to make microdata available to search engines.
How to Implement Structured Data
Google has its own proprietary structured data markup helper that can assist you (or your webmaster) determine how and where to add markup to a page on your website. Using this tool, you can figure out how to update your site so that Google and other search engines can understand the data it contains.
WordPress users can download plugins — such as a JSON API plugin — which help you set up structured data for pages on your website. They also help restructure existing sites and provide a consistent look across landing pages, and Google Analytics is a great tool to find which landing pages are bringing browsers to your site.
Once you have determined the best structured data categorizations for unique pages and your overall site, you can implement the code; but, be careful! Google is quick to drop the hammer on spammers, so don’t overuse this new power.
Testing Your Work
Both Google and Yandex provide structured data testing tools that can crawl your site to ensure it was done correctly. You can also utilize the structured data dashboard in your Google Search Console. Be sure to save a copy of your site before making any changes so you can always revert to the starting point if necessary.
Once these tools say your site is ready to go, it will start showing up within a few days in searches around the globe as a more relevant and visible web property.
Drumroll… and now the infographic you’ve been waiting for!
* Infographic edited on 1/18 – thanks to Aaron at SEOSkeptic.com for pointing out a few errors in the code/HTML examples of the original post.