How can Structured Data help your SEO

February 14, 2021
Steve Turnbull
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How can Structured Data help your SEO hero image

Have you ever wondered how Google can understand the content and function of a web page? It turns out there are clues you can provide to help its crawlers classify (and therefore rank) your content. 

What are these clues called? Structured Data.

According to HubSpot, 76% of your content marketing efforts should focus on helping users find what they want quickly and efficiently. Michael Brandvold talks about this.

Ensure you're doing exactly that by following the tips provided in our go-to guide to Structured Data.

What is Structured Data & Unstructured Data?

In the context of a web page, Structured Data is particular information used by basic algorithms to understand a web page and its content. 

Google Search uses such information as it gathers information about the worldwide web, including your online content.

Structured data is added to elements of a web page code (the HTML) and acts as a description for the content within.

Structured data is very much for the benefit of analytics software and site crawlers. 

Unstructured data (also known as qualitative data) is content that is more difficult to process, with no conventional format.

An example of unstructured data would be comments, phone calls or email responses, as these are mostly anecdotal and subjective, as opposed to transactional and numerical.

What is an example of Structured Data?

In terms of website development and SEO, Structured Data refers to the code that assembles, categorises and defines your content. For instance, you can use specific labels within the back-end of your website to identify recipes, reviews, product pages, and so on.

One of the most commonly used and popular types of Structured Data in terms of Search Engine Optimisation is Google's Knowledge Graph. 

The Google Knowledge Graph is the information that appears on the right-hand side of a search results page when you search for a particular brand or company.

As you can see, ours is currently populated by our contact details and reviews. Google collates this data by crawling your site, as well as other authoritative sources such as Wikipedia (Search for Brad Pitt and the knowledge graph will likely show a link to a Wikipedia page).

Try Googling your company name and see what comes up in the Knowledge Graph panel. If you don't like what you see, or want to add to it, check out Google's Update your Google knowledge panel guide.

The other way in which Google's Knowledge Graph presents itself within search is through a picture carousel. We've provided an example of this below:

Paragraph snippet from the search 'why is the sky blue'
Screenshot showing a picture carousel

How vital is Structured Data for SEO?

Structured Data and SEO is all about enriching the search experience for the individual user. The likes of Google and Bing want to make it as seamless as possible for a searcher and provide them helpful and informative results.

If you search for "carrot bolognese recipe", for instance, you'll notice a numbered list from BBC Good Food sits at the top. This numbered list is called a "Featured Snippet"; currently the pinnacle of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). 

Why? Because it means Google has identified your content as the most contextually relevant and trustworthy source.

Screenshot of the Google SERP after searching "Carrot bolognese recipe"

One important aspect of SEO if you're to optimise towards getting that sought after Featured Snippet spot is to label your content with Structured Data. BBC Good Food has clearly used Structured Data to show Google that this particular web page is a recipe.

Forms of Featured Snippets, achieved through intelligent use of Structured Data, include:

  • List Snippets: Pulled from numbered and bulleted lists, as shown by the recipe above.
  • Table Snippets: Usually shown in the form of movie times and the like.
  • Paragraph Snippets: The most popular of the three, paragraph snippets form 81.95% of all snippets. These are here to provide quick answers to queries, which is why you'll often find them when searching phrases involving: how, why, what and who. We've provided an example below.

How do you create Structured Data?

There are three different formats of Structured Data for SEO:

  1. JSON-LD, which Google describes as "JavaScript notation embedded in a <script> tag in the page head or body." The search engine recommends using this format wherever possible.</script>
  2. Microdata, “an open-community HTML specification”.
  3. RDFa, "An HTML5 extension that supports linked data by introducing HTML tag attributes to the user-visible content that you want to describe for search engines."

If you're not familiar with HTML, effectively adding structured data to your website is a big learning curve. Modern Content Management Systems like WordPress try to do much of this work for you. SEO plugins like Yoast also provide a helping hand.

To learn more about the various formats, explore Google Search's Guide.

Most structured data is created using "a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond."

Another useful tool is Google's Structured Data Testing Tool. This tool enables you to test any web page for correctly formatted structured data.

Check out Google's Structured Data Walkthrough for clear instructions on how to upload and start implementing this on your site.

Leave it to the experts.

Confused by structured data or don't have the time to implement it to your website? 

Don't worry; we can do this for you! We offer unrivalled levels of support in everything from web hosting and development to SEO and other vital areas of marketing.

Call us on 01652 462463 to discover how we can give your business the online presence it deserves or drop us a line via our contact page.

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