Structured data is one of the most effective ways to increase the visibility of your website content and improve the sustainability of your SEO as Google implements regular updates for the SERP environment. For the past five years, many of Google's most groundbreaking SERP functions have been driven by the use of structured data from across the web. Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels and other extensive snippets provide content from websites with structured data.
So when we keep thinking about how small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can compete in today's evolving SERP landscape, well-implemented structured data makes all the difference.
In this blog I explain the following:
- What is structured data?
- Why should SMEs give priority to implementing structured data?
- How do you identify which structured data is best for your SEO strategy?
- Strategies for Adding a Scheme to Your Site
- How to measure and demonstrate the impact of structured data
In my experience, well-implemented structured data is effective for websites of all sizes and industries. For my own clients, the schema implementation has enabled growth, improved search performance, and created opportunities to reach new audiences.
- For an established national retail brand with a thriving social media following, scheme tweaks helped increase organic conversions by 50% in a month. And six months later, the improvements we made to product markup, organization, and blog schema all helped increase organic conversion value by 230%.
- For a local recruiting site, we combined a niche-oriented scheme and sitemap optimization to increase both organic clicks and impressions by over 80% each within four months.
- For an international B2B retailer, the improvement of the existing scheme formed the basis for a marketing strategy that enabled us to increase the number of ranking keywords in three countries by an average of 70%, increasing our sales by 35% compared to the previous period increase and create new marketing channels within 6 months.
- For a professional service provider, we integrated E-A-T-centered scheme optimizations into a blog and were able to improve the average ranking position by 30% in 3 months and by 43% within one year.
Although the target markets, goals and audiences were different in each case, I was able to use the schema markup as a strategic basis for a more comprehensive SEO and marketing strategy. This is because the schema has become a fundamental element of scalable search engine optimization.
What is structured data in SEO?
On a website, structured data is a means of defining content with a consistent set of names and values so that bots and machines can better read, index, understand and serve your website's content. While the term "structured data" can include elements like an open social media chart, microdata, or any data set that is consistently organized (think your CRM), in general, when SEOs talk about structured data, we're referring to structured data Data data markup in JSON-LD as specified by Schema.org and recommended by Google.
Why is Schema.org structured data so strategically important?
Schema.org became a structured data HQ as its framework – vocabulary sets and relationships – was created and managed through a cross-platform partnership between Google, Microsoft, Yandex and other major search engines. They regularly create new schema types and relationships to make it easier for users to access information on the Web.
What does that mean in practice?
When I explain structured data to clients, I sometimes describe it as a means of essentially turning your beautiful website into a table for robots. You can prioritize and process the critical information about the content of the page without having to understand the layout of your particular WordPress theme, tons of CSS files or the navigation in your Joomla configuration.
This means that information that a bot has on a page can be more consistent and resilient, even as the content changes from day to day. In the example of a retailer with seasonal specials and campaigns changing the layout of the front-end homepage, structured data tells Google the same information about the page every time:
Why should SMEs give priority to implementing structured data?
Simply put, structured data gives you the ability to skip the queue on the SERP.
When we look at how Google has improved its SERPs over the past few years, we see consistent use of structured JSON-LD data in combination with Google APIs to create new features and new channels for content. Extensive snippet SERP functions such as Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels and other important changes to the SERP have been promoted or improved through the creation and use of structured data frameworks.
Users love these features as they are enhancements to multimedia search and cannot be missed as they often take up the entire viewport on mobile devices:
From left to right: Rich results for Google for Jobs, Recipes, Videos
No plain blue link in sight.
In many cases, your content cannot be included in these attractive rich snippets without structured data. So if you want to literally stay ahead of the competition, structured data must be a part of your SEO strategy.
What are the other benefits of structured data for small businesses?
In addition to better visibility, the structured data implementation offers the following advantages for small businesses:
- They are likely to outperform your local competitors. SMEs are likely to appear in the search results of local packages with other small businesses. The competition for keywords is fierce here, but many still have to incorporate structured data into their websites. This is an opportunity to increase your visibility, gain more market share and thus increase conversions.
- The schema markup is a fully scalable optimization. While some SEO tasks like content creation require pages to be optimized individually, the schema markup can be built into the structure of the page. This means that, for example, every new product list page is optimized after it is set up when you expand the website, regardless of whether you have six or six thousand products in stock. The time saved is especially important for small marketing teams.
- The implementation of the schema markup can be done as a single project within a few months. This can be a win for customers and SEOs, as in many cases there is a clear demarcation before and after, followed by solid results that help build confidence in further SEO activities, achieve a clear ROI and keep customers happy looking for quick wins.
How do you identify which structured data is best suited for SEO strategy?
With nearly 800 types of schema markup to add to a website, it can be difficult to decide which one is best for your page. However, to start with, there are a few new elements you can introduce or improve upon for better online performance and to compliment your existing content or ecommerce SEO strategy.
Does your site pass the schema markup checklist?
There are certain types of schema markup that apply to almost every website and others – like product and job postings – that are vital to effective search engine optimization. As a rule of thumb, every time I get a new client, I do the following initial checks:
- Do the home page and about pages have an organizational or local business scheme?
- Do the blogs have a schema for articles or blog entries?
- Do the team pages have a person scheme?
- If it's an ecommerce website, does it have the niche critical product schema?
- If it's a recruiter site, does it have the niche-critical job posting scheme?
- Is the company in a different niche with dedicated Google SERP capabilities, does it have the markup required?
If you answered no to any of these questions and the site does not have the appropriate markup, consider adding schema markup to your site.
If the answer to these questions is "yes", it is important to test the quality of the implementation before proceeding to the next step. You can do this by looking at the Search Console Rich Results Report to review pages at a large scale, or use the Structured Data Testing Tool and the Rich Results Test to review individual pages. If you see errors, they should be fixed.
How to find address scheme errors
Valid schema markup in the search console
First, take a look at Search Console's Rich Results Report to examine the pages at a large scale and determine what content is being read as valid, valid with errors, or incorrectly.
Valid: If your markup is Valid, it will be properly crawled and indexed. It is unlikely that these pages will require further action.
Errors: Pages with markup that are marked with an "error" usually have the wrong syntax. You should therefore check the individual pages and correct the code as soon as possible. When the changes are complete, use the Validate Fix button to request a reassessment.
Valid with Warning: If your content shows as "Validate Warning" you are likely seeing schema markup with a missing field. These warnings do not invalidate the page or markup, but they can make the page less competitive by making the content less targeted. Review your content to make sure that your schema reflects as much of the content on the page as possible to reduce these errors and thereby improve the performance of your schema markup.
Schema markup warnings in the search console
You can use the Structured Data Test and Large Results Test to fix improvements to structured data on individual pages. Each of these tools allows you to enter the relevant URL and get detailed information about errors or warnings.
Structured Data Test Tool Warnings
Warnings for rich results tests
The missing fields highlighted here correspond to properties within the event schema type. To improve this markup, you should look up the definitions of the relevant properties on schema.org and, if necessary, use their sample HTML as a guide for your optimizations.
Property definitions in schema.org
Example of an HTML script "performer" from schema.org
In this case, I may need to build new Performer fields into the CMS or work with the development team to add the content from existing CMS data fields to the regular schema schema to improve the performance of my schema.
In both cases, you will be making improvements to better address and serve users.
Strategies for Adding a Scheme to Your Site
If you need to add a schema to your site, there are a few options for implementing it.
Adding a scheme to individual static pages
For some individual pages with largely static content, adding markup types such as Local Business, Organization, or a single FAQ page can be a straightforward process of generating the code and pasting it into the page's HTML. Major CMS platforms like Shopify and WordPress have plugins that help generate the markup for these pages that is easy to implement. Users with custom CMS configurations can use tools like the Schema Markup Generator to generate JSON-LD and then give it to the development team to broadcast live.
Adding a scalable scheme for mass implementation
Implementing a bulk schema is almost essential for high-volume content creators. This applies to e-commerce stores, but also to those who regularly publish content in standard format such as recipes, blogs, articles, vacancies, events, training courses, etc.
For these pages, the most effective way to get the most out of the schema on your site is to automate the process by incorporating it into the structure of your site. In most cases, this is a four-phase approach that takes place in coordination with your developers and customers.
- Start with your sitemap. You should have a dynamic XML sitemap that will help Google create index pages and that includes the elements listed in the structured data. For an e-commerce website, this means that there is a sitemap that contains the product lists pages, but also the image sitemap and customer service pages.
- Organize your content. For bulk implementation, you should work with your content and try to assign each standard field a type and property for the content of your page. Treat it like a formula that can be applied to any page of the same format. If you don't have fields that match the required properties for your schema type, add them. When you have a lot of information, make sure you have traits that support the unique selling propositions of your content. Then work with your developers to update your template so that the schema is generated consistently across the site.
- Connect to relevant Google APIs. Once your sitemap is solid, your content will be optimized and your markup will be in place. Verify that the scheme you are using has an API and if so, connect to your site. Some of the most commonly used large-scale results connect directly to dedicated Google APIs, which can be further integrated with PPC tools to complete your marketing mix.
Examples of schema types with dedicated Google APIs
- The Accommodation Scheme connects to the Hotel API and can be used with Google Hotels PPC
- The job posting scheme is linked to the indexing API to enable inclusion in Google for Jobs
- The product schema is connected to the content API to allow inclusion in Google Shopping search results and ad lists.
How to measure and demonstrate the impact of schema markup
Measurement scheme Activate extensive results in the search console
The effects of schema markups that generate large results can be easily monitored and measured in the search console. The Improvements tab allows you to monitor the quality of your implementation and any current or recent bugs.
View schema-aware rich content on the Search Console Enhancements tab
To monitor impressions, rankings, clicks, and click-through rates, visit the Search Appearance tab under Performance. This tab contains historical data that can be compared to previous configurations of the site.
Visit the Performance tab> View Appearance for a comprehensive performance result
In Google Analytics, your tracking and monitoring depends on your implementation. For example, clicks to apply Google Jobs can appear as a separate source from the standard search results in Organic. But I also saw Google Shopping clicks as part of the (other) channel. In both cases, comment on your implementation dates to monitor relevant content for changes in clicks, impressions and conversions.
Search Console data should be sufficient for many small businesses, but there are tools you can use to examine the data in more detail.
A strategic, integrated approach to structured data implementation helps SMBs stay competitive in today's search environment because of its scalability, versatility, and measurability. Additionally, the applicability of schema markups as the foundation of a cohesive content and advertising strategy brings much-needed efficiency to SMB marketers who want to get the most out of their content.
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