Why Is Structured Data Important For SEO?
You’ve been creating great content, optimizing your web pages, and building links. You thought you had all your SEO bases covered, but now you hear there’s something else you have to learn all about for SEO: structured data.
SEO evolves and one of the biggest changes in recent years has been the rise in rich search results. In the early years of Google, the search engine results pages (SERPs) mostly included a couple of ads at the top and ten links with a brief description under each. It was simple and straightforward.
Over the past couple of years, the SERPs have increasingly started to include results that provide information beyond that brief description. Beyond the links, you get information like the number of calories in a recipe and the amount of time it takes to cook, or pricing information for a product and how many stars customers have given it on average in reviews.
All of this has changed what matters most in SEO. While website owners are limited in what you can do about these changes, structured data, or schema, is one of the best tools you have to gain more control over how your website shows up in Google.
What is Structured Data for SEO?
Structured data is information you include in your html that provides search engines with more details on what your page is about. In order for search engines to properly understand that information, it needs to be structured as machine-readable data.
In practice, that usually means using schema markup (from schema.org), to add the proper code to your page. Schema allows you to tell Google what type of content is on the page (e.g. that it’s a recipe, product page, article, etc.) and provide details specific to that content type that would be valuable for people to know (e.g. calories for a recipe or ratings for a product).
Why Structured Data Is Important for SEO
Structured data isn’t a ranking signal, so it won’t directly help you rank higher, but it’s still important for SEO for a number of reasons:
1. It can help search engines determine relevance.
A lot of on-site optimization is done precisely for this purpose: Google needs to know what’s on a webpage to decide what kind of searches it should show up in. And you only want your web pages showing up for relevant searches – a pet food brand doesn’t need to show up when someone’s looking for shoes.
By providing more information to Google about what’s on the page, you make it easier for the algorithm to figure out what searches your content is right for.
2. It makes your website more competitive on the SERP.
Showing up high in the results is important for visibility, but even once you’re on page one, the person searching still has a lot of other options to consider. Anything you can do to give your website an edge in getting that click is worth it.
Structured data can add images and helpful information, like reviews or prices, in the form of rich snippets, that draw more attention to your webpage on the SERP and makes it more competitive.
3. It improves your click-through rates.
The whole point of showing up in the search engines is to get more people to visit your website. At the end of the day,CTR matters more than where you rank. SEO professionals have found that structured data can improve click-through rates by anywhere from 5-30%.
Structured data can indirectly help you improve your rankings by getting more of those clicks.
Adding schema to your web pages is a relatively easy way to improve how your website appears in the search engines and drive more traffic. For anyone that cares about SEO, that makes it worth doing.
How to Use Structured Data for SEO
One of the first things you learn when you start doing SEO for your website is that it’s very competitive. Trying to figure out what you can do to make your website stand out when so many others in your niche are doing the same is an ongoing challenge.
Well, it turns out structured data is one thing that not everyone is doing. In fact, only 17% of marketers were making use of schema markup as of last year.
The main thing stopping people is probably quite simply that it sounds hard. But it doesn’t have to be. Google helpfully provides a Structured Data Markup Helper that makes it easy for you to input the details relevant for structured data and automatically generates the html code you need to add to your website.
Even if you’re not great with html, Google’s tool means you really just need to know how to copy and paste to add the code to your website.
If you have a large website, adding structured data to all of your pages may be a big project, but if it brings up your click-through rate, the time spent will be well worth it.
Get Help with Structured Data
If using structured data for SEO (or any other aspect of SEO) is feeling overwhelming, you may benefit from outsourcing the work to skilled professionals who can take it off your plate. HostGator’s SEO services can take the stress out of dealing with all this stuff yourself, while helping you on the path to better rankings and results over time.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.