Why you should start paying attention to structured data

If your website is like the vast majority of sites out there then it will need an overhaul of how it treats structured data, or face search engine purgatory. Adding structuring tags to products, listings, events, or objects of almost any kind can seem a chore, but Google insiders say, this is up there with mobile friendliness and HTTPS for helping page rank. Without this, your site may sink into search engine oblivion!

Structured data, aka microdata, aka microformats, helps search engines like Google to understand the content on your page, categorise and rank it more effectively. Put another way, structured data should be considered just another layer of signposting to help out the bots crawling your webpage, helping them decide where to position your page.

And this is important, because as Gary Illyes said in his keynote speech at Pubcon on 9th of November this year, “It is almost like we started building lots of new features that rely on structured data, kind of like we started caring more and more and more about structured data.” Famously Google keeps the exact details of their algorithm secret, but they often drop some strong hints!

Gary Illyes is a webmaster trends analyst for Google, so he knows a thing or two. When someone representing that web search behemoth talks about structured data, it pays to listen. If your website is key to gaining customer reputation or sales, your ROI can soar or plummet depending on how you organise the data it contains. So, what can your company do to increase your use of microformats to structure your data?

First: spruce up your existing pages. This could become quite a laborious project, depending on your current system, so allow for this in budget and timescales. Only use tags that suit the data they are marking, or your site may appear as spam-filled as stuffing in a bunch of salacious keywords, to the search engines.

Second: look to automating the process in the future so that tagging is part of the culture for creating smart web content. Is there a plugin you can use to help this? Can your CMS add custom fields that allow you to enter the tags easily?

Third: make sure you use Google’s webmaster tools such as the structured data highlighter in Search Console (or engage a webmaster or SEO service to do this for you).

Fourth: analyse the results. Rather than just putting in the changes and hoping this will lead to success, keep an eye on it via your site metrics.

If you want an in-depth guide to the types of structured data you can get, go to schema.org to find out more.


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