Google’s structured data tags: What are they, and how can you use them to improve your SEO?

Posted March 20, 2017 in by

The search engine optimization (SEO) landscape is constantly changing, and sometimes it feels impossible to keep up with new developments and opportunities. However, you’ll find that focusing your efforts on one optimization at a time can make the process of creating a well-optimized site more manageable.

Structured data tags are a key component of helping Google understand your website from a technical standpoint. This sounds a little techy and boring, but I promise, using structured data tags can have a major impact on how information from your site appears on the search engine results page (SERP). This quick overview will help you understand what a structured data tag is and how you can use them on your website.

 

What is structured data?

Structured data is a type of data with high-level organization applied to it. This means that it is structured and predictable, and search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.

I could get pretty technical here, but at a high-level, structured data uses data markup or small notes in the text-based code of a website (what you see when you select “view source” in your web browser) to tell search engine crawlers what the text is and its level of importance to the user. These notes serve the purpose of describing things on the web; for example, if you post daily fitness moves to your blog, you could use structured data to describe properties for each move such as the summary, calories burned and exercise difficulty.

 

What are structured data tags used for?

When you use structured data tags on your website and online content, you are making that content more eligible to appear in two main categories of Google Search Features:

Rich results: The more information a search result snippet provides, the easier it is for users to decide if the resulting page is what they are looking for. Google’s rich result snippets contain structured content—such as reviews or business listings in an eye-catching format known as a rich result snippet. Here is an example of one for a recipe:

Google-rich-search-results-example

 

You can see that the image, review rating and description all make this search snippet really stand out. These elements are all pulled into the rich snippet when the search crawler is alerted to them using structured data tags. Other kinds of structured data can enhance the appearance of your site in search, such as breadcrumbs or a site link box.

Knowledge Graph cards: Brace yourself; I am about use the word knowledge three times in one sentence. Knowledge Graph cards are fueled by Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is a knowledge base used to enhance search engine results with semantic-search information from a variety of sources. This information is pulled into cards or structured information that is displayed right on the SERP instead of requiring the user to click through to a website.

Google-knowledge-graph-exampleIf you’re the authority on a certain topic, Google can pull structured data from your site as factual and important into these Knowledge Graph cards.

 

How can you use structured data?

To start using structured data tags you’ll need a few things: the help of a web developer to implement the tags, Google’s guide to search features and experiences, and the data type selector to help you understand which combination of markup is required for specific search features.

To determine which information requires a markup, look at the available schema markups to determine which item props align best with the information on your website. Moz has a helpful guide on SERP features to help you get started.

Once the tags are installed, you will need to verify that your markup can be processed by Google. You can do this by copying and pasting the HTML into the structured data testing tool. After this is confirmed, you can wait for Google to recognize your markup in their next crawl of your page, or you can submit your site for a recrawl using the instructions in search console help.

When considering your next move to optimize your website for search, installing structured data markup is a great quick win that can yield powerful results. Implementing tags on your website is an optimization that dramatically changes how your site appears on a SERP and can have many benefits to how search engines crawl and understand your site.

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