We talked last time about rich cards and how Google is using this new methodology to enrich the results that are returned on searches. We also mentioned that rich results are built on the backbone of structured data. The one thing that we did not do, however, is go deeper than the surface of what structured data actually is.
We will be correcting this oversight this time with a deep dive into the world of structured data. From a more in-depth introduction to what it is to a walkthrough of Schema.org, which is a project that presents one of the largest collaborations between search engines to utilize structured data. By no means will we have covered every aspect, but it is our goal to get your feet wet in this concept that will prove critical to the success of your online presence.
Introduction to Structured Data
The very first question we will address is the most basic: What is structured data? Though we touched on this topic in our last post, it may be best to allow Google themselves to weigh in on this topic.
According to Google, “Structured data refers to kinds of data with a high level of organization, such as information in a relational database. When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.”
What this really means is that if you think about your website in object-oriented terms, you can organize it in a very efficient way for search engines to consume. Now a detailed discussion of object-oriented programming is way beyond the scope of this discussion, so it may be easier to think of structured data the same as the brainstorming that resulted in the product or service that your site provides. For example, if your site is a restaurant, some of the structured data items you would be looking for would be price, location, type of cuisine. Each of these pieces of information can be coded into the back end of your website. These pieces of data will never be seen by a customer, but they will be crawled by search engines which will place your site into favorable categories to ensure that when someone searches for a restaurant, your site will come up with all the relevant information at the user’s fingertips.
What structured data is really is selling your website, service, and product directly to the algorithms of the search engines. This allows you to make the search engines sell your site on your behalf to potential customers. What is revolutionary about this idea is that by providing easy to crawl data to companies like Google and Yahoo, you are in essence recruiting these juggernauts of the internet as your personal online marketing companies. If this idea has peaked your interest, the next topic we discuss will be revelatory. Our next topic is how to use research from these companies to make structuring your data for their consumption easy and intuitive. Next, we are going to discuss schemas and their place in your campaign to make Google perform the heavy lifting of your online marketing.
Schemas: What Are They and How Do They Help with Structured Data?
Now that we have inundated you with the technical aspects of structured data, there is a bit of good news. Many of the largest search engine companies have been working together to come up with Schema.org. They have done this in a concerted effort to make using structured data more easily implemented for companies of all types.
When you peruse the site, you will find documentation that will enable you to create data for a wide variety of websites. The basics of using schema.org are centered around microdata. The concept of microdata is that when a person comes to your website, they will understand the underlying message of your site when they read the pages. A search engine only has the most literal and limited understanding of what it is reading.
For example, if you publish a site that details the movie Alien, people who come to your site will be looking for information on Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott. However, a search engine will not be able to discern your site from a site talking about illegal aliens so may return your site in a search concerning immigration. With microdata, you may embed additional tags into your HTML that will explicitly explain the content of your site to a search engine. The tags basically say, “Hey search engines, the information on this site is about the 1989 movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver.”
Now, the value that schema.org brings to your structured data are templates that explain all the various elements that will be beneficial to your particular website. You can search through the pages using their search or just immerse yourself in the walkthroughs.
The Next Step: Using the Structured Data Testing Tool
You have brainstormed all the elements that are relevant to your products and services. You have spent countless hours combing through the pages of Schema.org to compile the definitive list of items that you need to make your stand out amongst your peers. However, as anyone who has ever done website programming will tell you, there is a huge difference between knowing what you want and programming it into your site. Even the best websites have issues with functionality and broken links. Unfortunately, in this day and age, these mistakes are looked on with much less leniency than in the past.
To combat this, Google has designed and release their structured data testing tool. By entering your website or code snippet into the easy to use interface, you can test and validate a piece of your structured data or your entire site. It is just another way that Google is leading the charge of becoming your internet marketing partner.
The best part about this tool is that at the time of this writing it is free to use. This makes sense, as it is in Google’s best interest to have the websites that they crawl be coded with their search algorithms in mind.
The Wrap Up: What Does All This Mean Anyway?
We’ve covered a lot of topics in this and our last post, but the bottom line is this: if you want to be competitive in the online marketing world you need to be focused on the cutting edge of technology. There are some of you out there reading these words who are ready to devote the time and energy in-house to make the most of these tools. Some may hire an internal online marketing department with SEO experts.
But for those of you out there that don’t have either the time or finances to fund a new department, let our Google Girls and Guys lead your business into the future. Please give us a call at 215-393-8700. If we have gotten only one thing across in these words, let it be this. We are passionate about making sure every client we work with has the weapons in their arsenal to take the online world by storm. We’re looking to pull the train out of the station, we hope you’ll join us.