Let’s kick off this post with an explanation of what structured data is and what it is not.
The simplest explanation of what structured data is would be information presented to search engines in a way that search engines can understand. What structured data is not is a “quick win” tactic that gets your website ranked faster or gives your website a sudden surge in visitors. Structured data is to be used to strengthen your brand’s presence and relevance through the lens of Google.
When this information is presented in a way that search engines can understand, we can expect Google and other search engines will be able to understand what the individual elements of our website mean. Anyone who has ever coded a website knows you can present single pieces of information in limitless ways. For instance, a phone number could be presented in the format of a “span” in HTML, or it could be presented as a basic text element. Search engines identify both of these elements as just plain text.
With structured data, you are able to take important business information and outline to web crawlers exactly what it is you are trying to present to them.
Benefits in Search from Structured Data
Search engines (Google, specifically) understand their end users want a fully interactive experience, yet they don’t always have the information to make that happen.
Take a look at these two results for the search term “concerts in nyc”:
The top result is a standard Google result, where the second example uses structured data using live information on their website.
Here is another example using “Godzilla”:
Using structured data, IMDB is able to get rating information to display graphically in their results.
How Do I Use Structured Data?
If you are manually writing code for your website, you are well on your way.
However, it is important to note it is a good idea to get a plan in place before beginning to just add code to random areas of your website. I suggest thinking about what elements are important on your website and to your brand. For instance, if you were a local business, you might not find it useful to implement e-commerce functions and vice versa.
The beauty of being a new structured data user is there are many resources that can be used to get this information implemented. We will start with (in my opinion) one of the easiest: schema.org.
As mentioned above, it is important to develop a strategy based on what your businesses objectives are.
I suggest first visiting this page: http://schema.org/docs/schemas.html to see all of the different elements they offer.
Let’s use a restaurant as an example. We will start with traditional information regarding the restaurant's location information, and we will build it out from there.
Traditionally, this information might look like this in HTML:
<h1>Bridget’s Biscuits</h1> <span>12 Sample Street</span> <span>Sampletown</span> <span>Open Daily, 6 am to 12 pm</span>
Now, Let’s let the search engine’s know they are about to encounter some structured data by using the “itemscope” and “itemtype” tags in a new “div” tag.
<div itemscope itemtype=””> <h1>Bridget’s Biscuits</h1> <span>12 Sample Street</span> <span>Sampletown</span> <span>Open Daily, 6 am to 12 pm</span> </div>
Between the quotes, we will want to place where we are pulling our information from in the form of the schema.org URL. In this instance, it would be as follows in the end. <div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Restaurant”> <h1>Bridget’s Biscuits</h1> <span>12 Sample Street</span> <span>Sampletown</span> <span>Open Daily, 6 am to 12 pm</span> </div>
Now that Google knows they are reading information about a restaurant, let’s markup the important information using the “itemprop” element. This will get applied to each specific tag. This is outlined below. Please note this is only a small amount of information being marked up in schema.org. There are many more options that could be applied.
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Restaurant”> <h1 itemprop="name">Bridget’s Biscuits</h1> <div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”> <span itemprop="streetAddress">12 Sample Street</span> <span itemprop="addressLocality">Sampletown</span> </div> <span itemprop="openingHours" content="Mo-Su 6:00-12:00">Open Daily, 6 am to 12 pm</span> </div>
You will notice we opened and closed another “div” element in the middle. We did this because the information is not specific to the restaurant industry.
By using this markup, you have now made it easy for Google to identify this information, creating a more interactive experience.
Why Use Structured Data?
There are two great benefits of using structured data.
The first is you can potentially have a more interactive experience with Google. The second benefit is sites with this more interactive experience have been shown to have a higher click through rate. There are many studies to show those statistics, but the results range anywhere from a 5 percent increase to a 30 percent increase in click-throughs!
Wrapping it up, and getting started!
We now know the benefits, and we now have an understanding of how to modify our HTML. The only thing left to do is read the “Getting Started” guide by schema.org and start planning and implementing!