Structured Data: The New Metadata
Traditionally, search engines are adept at “spidering” through layers of data on your website, but have a tougher time understanding the appropriate context for your content — when you write about fireworks, do you mean emotional sparks or Fourth of July munitions? Structured data, an up and coming advanced form of metadata, is a way to integrate specific tags into your site’s HTML code that help describe the contents and context of your site’s content. By gaining these insights, search engines can greatly increase their usefulness when displaying organic search results.
Structured data provides granular metadata about the content of your website so that search engines can interpret it more intelligently and offer better results — both more accurate in response to their users’ search queries and better formatted listings reflecting the type of content offered on your site. When search engines can better understand the structure of a web page’s data, they are better able to help the searcher recognize whether the source is something that answers their query. Providing more detail will yield accurate results and therefore a higher percentage of visitors who are actually searching for what you offer — leading to decreased bounce rates and higher retention among those who are searching for your product or services.
As search engines incorporate structured data into their results, it is quickly becoming the “new metadata” of web design. Where metadata tags are limited to very basic information about the general purpose of your page such as a title, keywords and description, structured data will allow for far more detail and is evolving to be more widely accepted as useful, accurate information.
How structured data is displayed.
There are different ways to integrate structured data into your site depending on how much coding experience you have and what sort of information you want available to your visitors when they search for you. The writing structured data into your websites code is essentially a way to request Google to display extra information directly in search engine result listings, such as movie times, a product’s average user review or your nearest Chipotle’s business hours, without having to visit the entire webpage. These extra snippets of information are called rich snippets. Rich snippets provide extra information to help researchers decide whether to click on your site or not and therefore provide a ton of power in catching the eye of potential visitors.
Even without coding experience, Google allows you to create these rich snippets for your site with their markup tool. Depending on the category, you’ll be presented with fields to fill. For example, for a recipe, there will be fields for: recipe name, image, description, cook time, nutrition information and more. This way, instead of Google having to guess what your page is about, it’ll already be aware that this is information about a recipe and display it as such in results, making it much easier for potential customers to reach you and enjoy your best recipes.
Schema.org is a comprehensive resource for those looking to integrate snippets into their projects and illustrates the standardization in place for coding these bits of information. A collaboration of Google, Bing, Yandex and Yahoo!, schema.org documents the standardized, very specific vocabulary that can be added to HTML in order to improve search ratings. By using schema’s syntax, you can add an Amazon rating and price to a product’s listing directly in the search results.
Be visible with structured data.
In the sea of search results, structured data may increase a business’s visibility by providing context, not only for Google’s SEO purposes, but for searchers as well. It’s not enough to simply include SEO in your copy or metadata in your code anymore, but to also implement this contextual schematic of your content in order to ensure you are discovered. Structured data is the future of online marketing and if it is not considered in your site’s marketing plans, your clients may be missing out on an opportunity for higher search rankings as well as increased customer activity.