What Is Structured Data? Why Schema Markup Matters for SEO

October 17, 2019

Structured data markup, also known as “schema markup” (a reference to schema.org), is essentially code that tells search engines what the content on your web pages means.

While search engines may attempt to infer meaning from the user-facing content on your pages, it isn’t always possible for them to grasp the actual intent. Structured data markup works in the background to help search engines get a better idea of what your content is actually saying.

Why is Structured Data Markup so Important?

Imagine your business has two different phone numbers – one for sales and one for customer service. Your website may list both numbers, indicating to users what each number is for. However, there are many different ways this content can be structured on the page, and many different ways it can be presented to users. For example, if you prefer to call your customer service team by a different name, you may want to use the words, “client relations,” or “Call This Number to Buy Now!” instead of sales. Additionally, the structure of the HTML may not make it clear which phone number is attached to which service. The text may even be included in an image, making it impossible for search engines to read.

When you consider all of these variables, the need for structured data markup becomes apparent. This markup is a way to spoon-feed this information to search engines, so they know how to interpret it. And once they know how to interpret it, they can serve it up to users in helpful ways.

Examples of Structured Data

In addition to the phone number examples above, there are many other uses for structured data markup, including:

  • Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumb links are a handy way to help users orient themselves within your site’s hierarchy. Structured data mark ups can often serve as a best practice for telling search engines which links on your pages are breadcrumbs. The site structure can then be reflected in search results:
  • Events: Marking up event listings on your site allows you to create a list users to click directly to the page of the event they’re interested in.
  • FAQs: By marking up your FAQ page with structured data, questions and answers can be surfaced in search engine results to allow users to find them more quickly.
  • Products for sale: Product listings offer valuable markup opportunities, with structured data available for prices, availability, average ratings and more.

How to Add Structured Data to Your Website

 

Implementing structured data, on a basic level, is easy. As long as you have the ability to add code to your pages, it’s as simple as adding a block of code within the <head> or <body> section. The type of code used is called JSON-LD, and it should be included within <script> tags, like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">

{

  "@context": "https://schema.org",

  "@type": "Organization",

  "url": "http://www.example.com",

  "contactPoint": [

    { "@type": "ContactPoint",

      "telephone": "+1-555-555-5555",

      "contactType": "customer service"

    }

  ]

}

<\/script>

In the above example, the only custom data the has been included is the URL and the telephone number. In Google’s reference section, they offer sample code for all of the different types of structured data markup they support. These examples can essentially be used as templates, into which you can add your website-specific data.

If you don’t have the ability to access your website’s code, one option may be to implement structured data markup via Google Tag Manager or another tag management system — if you’re using one. The tag manager can be used to inject structured data into your page in the same way it injects analytics tags. However, it’s better to implement the markup directly on the page itself, because this makes it as easy as possible for search engines to find it.

Why Does Structured Data Matter for SEO?

While the use of structured data markup isn’t technically a ranking factor, it’s important for SEO in a few different ways. The most visible way is in enhancements that appear in search engine results. You can see examples of these in some of the screenshots above. One of the largest benefits these enhancements provide is improved click-through rates. One study showed that star ratings alone can result in as much as a 35-percent increase in CTR.

This can be especially important for pages that are not the No. 1 result for a particular search term. These snippets are eye-catching and can draw in users even when they appear further down within the results.

Structured data also helps establish connections, effectively linking the data on your pages to data elsewhere on the web. For example, if you have an article on your site that was written by someone who has written for other publications, you can reference the author within the article markup and link them via their own personal webpage(s) to other work they’ve done.

By helping search engines better understand your content, you only increase the chances of getting that content in front of users to whom it’s relevant. So you stand to gain not just more traffic, but better traffic.

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