Structured data is an important element of successful search engine optimization.
What is structured data?
Structured data (microdata or schema.org) adds additional information (markups) to your website. Search engines can understand these markups and possibly show them as rich snippets in the search engine results pages (SERPs), for example with an additional picture or a review. There are different formats of structured data, but Google explicitly suggests the use of microdata.
The following example shows the search result of a news article with rich snippets. This result stands out: it includes an image, the magazine name and the date of publication, because the publisher provided structured data in the webpage.
Why is structured data important for SEO?
There are two reasons why structured data has a positive impact on your search engine rankings:
- Search engines can identify the type of content provided on your website. It can then be displayed accordingly, for example video results are shown with a thumbnail image and a play symbol. As a result the user immediately recognizes that the result includes video content. In addition, there is a higher possibility that the search result is shown in the search categories (verticals), such as videos in the video search and news articles in the news search.
- A better visibility in the search engine results pages because the search result is bigger when rich snippets are included. This can lead to better click-through-rates, having a positive impact on your search engine rankings.
How to create structured data
Creating structured data requires advanced HTML knowledge. Schema.org provides very detailed information about how to markup many different types of content. These schema.org markups are recognized by the major search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex.
Google provides a simplified solution with the Data Highlighter. This tool allows you to tag the data fields on your site with a mouse. However, it does not work for all types of data (video markups for example are not possible). It is also important to keep in mind that markups generated with the Data Highlighter are only available for Google and not for other search engine providers.
Once the structured data is implemented, Google provides a tool to test it.
Applications of structured data for SEO
Google currently supports different types of rich snippets. The relevancy of each type depends on your business area and your website content. Below you can find examples of possible markups:
Structured data for videos
Since search engines basically only understand text content of a website, structured data is extremely important for video content. Markup elements such as the title and description of the video enable search engines to understand its content. Also, a thumbnail image and the length of the video can be displayed in the SERPs.
In addition to structured data you should implement the following measures when optimizing your video content for SEO:
- Video transcription: By providing the content of your video in text you enable search engines to understand the entire content.
- Video sitemap: A video sitemap supports the crawling process of video content and also provides the search engines relevant information about the content of the video.
In short, the implementation of structured data requires some effort, but it is worth it because it really increases the search engine visibility of your website.