We Called It: Structured Data and Search Engine Ranking Factors

Chris Bell

Mar 03, 20162 min read
Structured Data and Search Engine Ranking Factors

Nine months ago, I wrote an article on schema and SEO. Therein, I talked about how filling out of metadata made for a better user experience and could assist in SEO. Even though Google has denied up until now that schema would be used as a ranking factor, now they seem to be revealing that structured data will indeed contribute to rank in search engine results in the future.

In this recent article from Search Engine Land, John Mueller stated in a Google hangout that “over time, I think it [structured markup] is something that might go into the rankings as well.”

Coincidence? I think not.

The algorithm now is rumored to use 200 ranking factors. No one knows if this is or isn’t the case, but since Google wants us to create content for actual living users instead of search engines and algorithms, this makes sense.

I feel that it does so for the following reasons:

  • Schema tags directly correlate to actual topics and facets within content. If you want an easy, keyword based summary of a web article, just look at its schema itemprops and microdata tags. This is also a trick to reverse engineer keywords when conducting competitor research on content.
  • Schema is machine readable, making content much easier to crawl, read and index – perfect for databases.
  • Schema is ideal for e-commerce, and already is in use, as shown with Automatic Item Updates for PLAs and the Google Mobile Buy Button.
  • Schema feeds directly into the Knowledge Graph, with info appearing from microdata in the Knowledge Graph box on the right rail.
  • Schema is inherently friendly to, and pushes adoption, of mobile.

Schema and Google's Purpose

This all plays into Google’s drive to provide answers, not just links. Google, in my view, wants to be the primary answer provider on the Internet, and so is pushing adoption of schema and microdata to give better and more organized information to users.

Other Search Engines' Views on Schema

While Bing has not made any similar announcements, they and Yahoo are, along with Google, part of the Schema.org initiative. Yandex also uses the Schema.org standards. However, Baidu does not, using instead its own series of XML tags and elements. Usually, when Google sets a standard, other search engines follow in due course.

What this means is that webmasters should consider structured data in both webdesign and content management. While Google insists that structured data is not a hard ranking factor, I feel that it’s a good idea to mark up such content anyway, purely for UX purposes. Structured data makes things better for users, and happy users means better SEO in the long run. If you work with WordPress, there are a number of plugins that can help you set up your structured data.

So, I will be a gentleman and not gloat. No sir. Not me. Mister modest, I am.

Rocket Gloats

Just like Rocket Racoon wasn’t laughing.

What do you think about the future of structured data? Let us know in the comments.

Chris Bell is a regular contributor to the SEMrush Blog, appears regularly at #semrushchat and is a digital account manager at Daily News Digital Solutions. You can follow him on twitter as @riskycontent.

SEMrush Ranking Factors Study 2017

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Chris BellChris creates compelling content and does outreach with the best thought leaders in marketing and PR for Didit. You can contact Chris at chris.bell@didit.com, follow him on Twitter, or connect to him on Linkedin.
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