Structured data is information that is added to a page’s HTML markup and helps search engines to not only crawl your website, but also to understand it better. Search engines use this information to generate rich snippets, which were introduced as early as in 2009, and refer to the extra bits of text that appear under the search results
Structured data helps search engines to better understand the content on your website and to provide their users with the best search results. There are two forms of structured data categories that Google uses:
Rich results: Google can use the structured data markup your provide for your pages to feature your content in a visually compelling way, such reviews, recipes, videos, etc.
Knowledge Graph cards: If your website is authority for particular content, Google can import your structured data into the Knowledge Graph cards that appear for well-known entities, such as people, places, and organizations.
With these different displays of information, structured data has a significant influence on SERPs, Google’s in particular.
During our latest SEMrush Chat we discussed search, structured data, and Knowledge Graph with Aaron Bradley, the Senior Manager of Web Channel Strategy at Electronic Arts, and our other chat participants.
Let’s dive deeper into the topic!
Q1. What is your best SERP element triggered by structured data?
Over the last decade, Google’s search result pages have evolved significantly. The search engine now displays search results in different ways based on structured data and context. These are the best SERP elements that are triggered by structured data (according to our chat guests):
When a searcher asks a question in Google Search, Google puts the search result in a special block that appears at the top of the SERP, which is called a featured snippet (sometimes referred to as “position zero”). It extracts a summary of the answer from a webpage, along with a link to the page, its title, and URL.
Getting your content into the featured snippet can help you to increase visibility and outrank your powerful competitors. Also, taking into consideration proliferation of voice search, the position zero is going to be the next great battlefield in the SEO world. According to STAT, voice search will continue to gain in popularity over the coming years, which means that there will be a lot more featured snippets to support it.
A1. Featured snippet for sure. It's a windfall of visibility. Easier said than done though...#semrushchat
— Matthew Young (@MatthewAYoung) April 26, 2017
We know that Google is constantly improving the quality of its search results. Therefore, by introducing Rich Cards in May of 2016 they took it a step further. Before then, it was only used for things like movies and recipes, however, Google is now expanding its rich cards. In November of 2016 it enabled local restaurants and online course providers to display their content in a more engaging way by creating mobile-optimized rich cards.
Google can also present recipe results in a visually appealing format, thanks to the rich snippets that work in the background to ensure success.
Using schema on your website increases the chances that Google will show rich snippets for your site because the search engine can understand what exactly it is you’re talking about. For example, if you’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe, schema markup will help Google to find an actual recipe with chocolate as an ingredient, instead of articles about chocolate recipes.
— Matt Lacuesta (@MattLacuesta) April 26, 2017
A1: recipe mark up is one of my favorites, and it transfers over to social like Pinterest #semrushchat
— Danny Ray Lima (@dannyraylima) April 26, 2017
Bulleted and numbered lists
Google places importance on well organized pages. Assuming that people usually skim search results and webpages to quickly find what they need, breaking up page elements with headings and lists is highly important. Rich snippets can be displayed in the form of bulleted and numbered lists, plus, relevant, optimized, and well-structured content has a higher chance to appear in a Google Quick Answers box, which is highly-visible text snippet answers.
A1: The step by step informative, intuitive display. Also bullet points or numbered lists help the bots and the users.#SEMrushchat
— Viable Operations (@viabledigital) April 26, 2017
Our special guest also made a very good point, saying that “the best rich result is always that that gives the data type marked up the maximum visibility in search.”
These are just some of the examples. Don’t hesitate your own best SERP elements in the comments below!
Q2. How would someone use Schema to markup a landing page that has reviews and prices for a product that can be customized?
Schema markup tells search engines what your content really means. To implement structured data, you need to provide search engines with the correct markup. By adding markup to your product pages you help Google to provide detailed product information in rich search results. It means that searchers will be able to see availability, price and reviews right on the search results.
There are two kinds of product information that can be displayed in search results:
a product page that describes a single product
a shopping aggregate page that describes a list with a single product and information about different sellers that provide that product
You need to make sure that your landing page contains a Schema.org Product type — which is a product or service you are offering. It should also contain an Offer type — which is a description how your product or service is sold. However, if a single product is associated with multiple offers, you can use AggregateOffer, i.e: the same gadget is offered by several different merchants.
A2. For customizable products, markup Product as usual, but employ AggregateOffer w/ lowPrice & highPrice properties #semrushchat
— Aaron Bradley (@aaranged) April 26, 2017
By combining some properties from schema.org/offers, you're able to add a price to the snippet. You can then employ AggregateOffer with highPrice property (i.e., the highest price of all offers available) and lowPrice property (i.e., the lowest price of all offers available).
A2: Looks like we aren't the first to say Aggregate markup will allow you the flexibility needed with varying prices. #SEMRushChat
— PureFocus (@PureFocus) April 26, 2017
Once you have obtained some reviews, you can then add them to your product pages. You can find all specifications for product reviews on Schema.org/Product.
A2: Add the reviews and price points to the snippet & help it by categorizing it correctly for bots. Also show the SM or review#SEMrushchat
— Viable Operations (@viabledigital) April 26, 2017
Let’s sum up these key points.
Q3. What technical SEO tasks should a company do to get to featured snippets?
Featured snippets present a challenge to website owners and digital marketers by sometimes eliminating the need to ever click through to their sites. Nevertheless, features snippets also provide them with an opportunity to significantly boost their site visibility.
Our chat guests shared their tips for getting featured snippets for your site:
Pay attention to basics
Aaron Bradley recommends using basic HTML tags, including <p>, <ul>, <li>, <table>, <h>. Featured snippets can come in different forms, which includes lists and tables. The <table> tag defines an HTML table, and the <ul> element defines an unordered list. To create a bulleted list, you need to use this tag together with <li>. If you want to add an ordered list to your content, you should use the <ol> element.
The STAT team found the two types of on-page markup that frequently appeared in featured snippets: <ol> and <table>. According to their findings, a <table> markup appeared 21.8% more frequently in featured snippet results than on regular search results. As for an <ol> markup, it appeared 41.6% more often. “Use markup where necessary, and use formatting that appeals to featured snippet presentation, like tables,” tweeted Matthew Young.
Aaron Bradley also pointed out that structured data is currently not a factor that Google uses in generating featured snippets.
Find out what questions searchers are asking
The key to getting into the desired position is to figure out which questions Google users are asking in your industry and how your content should answer those queries. This means that you need to identify a common question related to your niche and then provide a clear and direct answer to that question. However, keep in mind that you need to provide a real value beyond your answer as well.
Aaron Bradley suggested paying attention to the five W’s and H: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Traditionally, professional journalists were trained to answer the five questions when they write an article or press release, but some authors added a sixth question, “how.” You can use these basic questions for brainstorming and keyword research to come up with the right content for your audience.
Use natural language
The STAT report on how Google uses featured snippets to drive voice search says that as the ability of search engines to understand natural language, the intent behind queries evolved. With access to more detailed information about users, such as what devices they are using, search engines will better interpret the meaning behind a search query.
To increase your chances of getting featured snippets, it’s worth incorporating natural language into your content and speaking in a more conversational tone. By doing so, you can make your content more visible, as the way users are searching for things is changing.
As Andy Drinkwater @iqseo pointed out, you need to markup your HTML correctly and structure your pages well. Then, you need to create content around questions that your users are likely to be asking.
Q4. If you had one property to choose for your main keywords which one would you pick and why: knowledge graph or featured snippet?
During our discussion, we talked about both featured snippets and knowledge graphs. However, it was interesting to know which of them our chat participants would prefer if they had to choose just one for their main keywords.
Both knowledge graphs and featured snippets appear at the top of the SERPs, however, a featured snippet is a short summary which aims to provide the best answer to a question asked in Google search. It includes the link to the full webpage where the snippet of content was found.
On the other hand, a knowledge graph is designed to provide some basic information about a particular person, place, company, product, or thing. It serves as a quick reference point for further information and doesn’t provide navigational links to a specific webpage.
A knowledge graph's result is general information that is collected from all across the web. When Google successfully identifies an entity, the search engine can generate a knowledge graph card for it, which includes a compilation of information from different sources.
If your best keywords are the ones that focus on answering specific questions that your users may ask, it’s worth aiming your efforts to get your content displayed in a featured snippet. On the other hand, as Aaron Bradley pointed out, a knowledge graph is for entity-facing keywords, where you want to see your business information, like corporate contacts, logos, social profiles, and hours in your knowledge panel.
Aaron also remarked that you always need to target both featured snippets and knowledge graphs. However, some of our chat participants voted for the latter:
Finally, Andy Drinkwater stated that your choice between these two properties depends on which one can better serve your website:
Let’s sum up these key points.
As you can see, a knowledge graph can have a great impact on your company’s exposure, while featured snippets appear for informational intent queries.
Q5. Which local SERP features have helped your or your client’s site to increase organic traffic? Anything local business can easily implement?
Lastly, we asked our chat guests to name local SERP features that helped them or their client’s site increase organic traffic. Here’s what they answered:
Consistency in data
As many of you already know, the SEO landscape is becoming more and more competitive. Therefore, some businesses must begin to focus on smaller, local markets. When it comes to local search, consistency is vital for your site to build local SEO authority. You need to provide accurate information about your business, such as your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation (if applicable), and other important details. This is the information that Google pays attention to in order to determine whether or not it’s what your users are searching for.
A strong presence on Google My Business
Google My Business provides businesses with a real opportunity to connect with their customers. Information in the Knowledge Panel and Maps comes straight from your Google My Business page. Therefore, it’s very important to provide accurate, updated information on your GMB page. “A knowledge panel can list Web and critical reviews, ratings, social profiles, appointment booking, and menu links. Verify in GMB,” tweeted Bill Slawski. From the GMB interface, you can keep your details up to date by changing your contact information, address, hours of operation, and other details when needed.
Rich Snippets Stars
A user is more likely to click on a product with a "star" rating. Imagine this: you rank well for your product, but your competitor has rich snippets and you don’t. They show their reviews directly in the search results and these start to naturally catch users' eye. If their rating is high, your rival can attract even more clicks from searches, because their profile looks more natural and trustworthy. “You'll never beat a good review portfolio. Bringing up my scores for hotels and restaurants have always killed it!” tweeted Tim Welsh @Twel5.
Using rich snippets for reviews enables a star rating to show up next to your search result. To get the review stars on your site, you need to markup your webpage with AggregateRating.
In addition to other elements, Danny Ray Lima named popular times. To help customers plan their visits to your business, Google can display popular times, which appear below your regular business details on Maps and Search. This feature helps your customers decide when to visit you. In November of 2016, Google announced the expansion of its popular times feature within Google Maps, which means that Google Maps now shows how busy or how slow a particular venue is in real time.
However, it's important to know that site owners can not manually add this information to their location, because Google uses anonymized data from those users who have opted in to Google Location History to figure out these popular times.
To find out ways to optimize your site for local search, you can check out this post on local SEO strategies for small businesses.
As Google has been pushing for structured data, it’s likely to continue growing in importance.
We would like to thank Aaron Bradley and our other chat guests who made this discussion interesting and productive!