As search engines continue to become increasingly sophisticated in their data retention, the need for content marketing strategies to adapt has never been more evident. Welcome to the world of structured data. You’ve probably run into this term before and some of you might even be wondering what it is.
In layman’s terms, structured data refers to any data that is organized. The easiest way to think about it is when you have a bunch of times and dates for meetings scribbled down in a notebook. By taking these various notes and putting them into a spreadsheet to organize them by time and date — you’re quite literally structuring data.
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Think of it as having a standardized set of code for a machine to give it the most pertinent information it needs to achieve its goal. In this case, that machine is Google’s algorithm and the end goal is getting valuable search results that generate clicks.
Structured data has become an important part of the content marketing ecosystem, especially in recent years. With tangible benefits on SEO and click-through rates, structured data is something every content marketer needs to understand and incorporate into their strategy.
The Relationship between Structured Data and Schema
With all the jargon that gets thrown around when people talk about structured data, it can get pretty confusing.
Schema is an example of structured data. Imagine structured data as a foreign language and schema as one of its primary dialects.
Schema is an industry-defined semantic vocabulary of tags that can be added to your website’s code. Back in 2011, Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex came together to launch schema.org. This initiative was based on a mandate of creating, maintaining, and promoting schemas for structure on web pages, e-mail, and more.
In short, it created a standardized vocabulary.
This is a vital resource for developers. Schema.org provides a shared vocabulary that webmasters can use to structure microdata for streamlined indexing on search engines and, as a result, more engaging Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
While schema is still in its relative infancy as an initiative, a mere 17% of marketers were using or planning to use it for structured data markup in 2016. This begs the question of whether they even recognize the full benefits of structured data and what it can do for their content strategies.
What is the Real Benefit of Structured Data?
Google and other search engines love when webmasters use structured data. Not only that, but there are real benefits that come with structured data that has been correctly implemented.
In theory, structured data markup on its own will not improve your site’s ranking. However, Gary Illyes of Google recently said:
If you want your site to feature in searching, use structured data. More importantly, add structured data to pages. It will help us understand your sites better, which ultimately leads to better ranks in some sense because we can rank easier.
While not explicitly stating that structured data will impact SEO, Google is clearly paying more attention to sites that include it.
One of the ways it’s doing so is by assessing rich snippets and rich cards. These provide Google with crucial information that allows you to add more context to things such as articles, recipes, products, star ratings, reviews, and videos.
By creating these rich snippets and rich cards, you’re essentially telling Google you’ve put some serious thought into your data. On top of that, the user has the ability to preview what kind of information is on your site before they click.
In order to improve search engine visibility, Google also uses structured data to populate your Knowledge Graph. You know, that little box of information on the right-hand of the SERP. The better your structured data is, the better your Knowledge Graph will appear on Google.
Structured data can also help all the way down to the nitty gritty with things like breadcrumbs and carousels. There are a number of things it can help improve — and by implementing it properly, your click-through rate (CTR) will also see positive benefits.
Because you’ve taken the time to enhance your search results by making them more visually appealing and proving additional information to searchers, your CTR will naturally improve.
This is absolutely crucial as your CTR is directly correlated to your ranking. Increasing your CTR by 3% will move you up a spot in the rankings, boosting it by another 3% will move you up another spot, and so on. The better your CTR is, the higher you move up the ranks.
This is where all that work you’ve put into structuring your data really comes into effect. Giving searchers clear and concise information through your structured data adds validity to your site on search engines. That validity translates into more traffic and potential revenue for your business.
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