SEO isn't just about keeping up with current algorithm changes, it's about preparing for the future and ensuring your website stands the test of time. Here our SEO manager, Tom Chapman, explains everything you need to know about structured data.
Ask any SEO agency about their services and you'll usually hear something about the "three pillars of SEO". These areas (link building, content, and technical SEO) are undoubtedly important but just focusing on these elements will only get you so far.
To really future-proof your website, you need to not only focus on what will get results now but what will pay off in the future. To do this, we must pay attention to Google's advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In essence, Google is striving to understand user queries like never before. This is far more than just understanding what you type: Google's attempts at grasping voice search, intent, and personalisation, will - if successful - arguably make their algorithms the smartest computer programmes on the planet.
We need to help Google understand your website if our SEO efforts are to pay off. As far as we're concerned here at Dark Horse, structured data is the main tool for achieving this.
What is structured data?
Structured data is hand-crafted code that helps machines understand the content of a page. To illustrate this better, let's look at a practical example. Let's say you wanted to find a PPC agency in Altrincham, Manchester. There are two separate parts to that query:
A machine must understand both of those elements to return the best result. As we offer PPC services and are (conveniently) based in Altrincham, we've specified this through JSON schema markup - the preferred language to use when crafting structured data.
As a result, we have several elements of code on our PPC landing page. This includes both product and location:
As you can see in the schema markup above, we've given the exact information a machine needs in order to understand that we fulfill the search query above. As our structured data is easier for Google to understand than other methods used by our competitors, we're currently occupying the knowledge graph for 'PPC agency in Altrincham'.
As you can see with this example, a better position in search results means more traffic - and more clients.
What if I'm not a local business?
If you're not a local business then the above example probably doesn't matter much to you. However, whatever you sell or whatever service you operate, you can benefit from structured data.
For example, let's look at buying a new PlayStation game. Can you work out who has optimised their pages with schema?
The above screenshot barely needs explaining. Smyths Toys has marked up their product with price, rating, availability, and a range of other schemas. As a result, this gives them a clear advantage over Argos - despite being in the position below in the SERPs. The star rating alone should help entice more users to click.
What can I use structured data for?
At this stage, a better question is "what can't you use structured for?". There is schema available for just about every situation. For example, you can mark:
There are more than 1,200 possible actions you can take with schema - and the list is growing every day. Some of the most popular additions include adding star ratings and delivery times to your listing - with the latter option available only recently, meaning that adding this information to your site gives you a clear competitive advantage against those that haven't.
Putting this schema on search result pages can lead to a huge boost in click-through rate. This translates to more customers - and, ultimately, more sales.
How can I use structured data?
Adding structured data to your website is easy if you've got significant technical expertise. At heart, this requires coding and knowledge of HTML. Far from being a quick job, each line of code has to be hand-crafted and tested.
If you've got a business to run, the last thing you want to do is spend hours programming lines of code. For us, it's just one of the many tools that we use on a daily basis to radically increase our clients' search visibility and bottom line. Our team of expert SEOs will evaluate your website and determine how structured data can best help you. As well as providing the benefits outlined above, this'll help prepare your website for what Google will eventually be.
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