Structured data is data that is organized in a certain way. In an SEO context, structured data, also known as schema markup, is often referred to as “the language of search engines.” Structured data is authoritative data that helps search engines contextualize, understand, and accurately match website content to relevant search queries.
More specifically, in the world of SEO, structured data usually refers to implementing markup on a webpage in order to provide additional details around the page’s content. As noted, this markup helps to improve search engines’ understanding of the content. This helps with relevancy signals and enables a site to benefit from enhanced results in a search engine results page. Structured data is analyzed and understood by search engines, so there are standardized implementations and classifications of concepts, relationships, and terms which should be used.
Why Structured Data Matters
Google works to organize information from all over the world in an easily accessible and useful way. Structured data is important for technical SEO because it allows Google to understand what businesses’ products, pages, and websites are about. Essentially, Google must determine what a page is about before it shows it in the search results. Structured data “talks” to Google, which can help bolster rankings and visibility.
Furthermore, structured data matters because it impacts how your search results (another word for this is a “snippet”) will look. Structured data allows customers to see more information about your business, thus increasing the chances that they will click on your result, which can lead to even higher rankings–and even increased revenue.
More specifically, structured data can lead to search result enhancements and content-specific features, such as:
- Rich search results: Includes images, styling, and other visual enhancements
- Enriched search results: Includes interactive or immersive features
- Knowledge Graph: Information about an entity, such as a brand
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs in your search result
- Carousels: A collection of multiple rich results in a carousel style
- Rich results for AMP: To have your AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) appear in carousels and with rich results, you’ll need to include structured data
Common Misconceptions of Structured Data
There are a lot of myths surrounding the use of structured data in SEO.
The biggest myth that exists is that Google can “figure it out” without any extra work or structured data. This is false. While Google and other search engines are capable of understanding content on their own, if businesses want them to understand specific elements or details of their content, structured data is a necessity. Not only will it help in the short term with elements that the algorithms aren’t good at understanding, but it also ensures that the content itself is well structured and serves a clear purpose. Furthermore, Google won’t grant companies certain features without correct implementation, which could be problematic over time. Studies have shown that rich snippets from structured data can improve click through rates by anywhere from 5%–30%.
The second myth is that structured data guarantees that a business will receive rich snippets, or enhanced search results, on Google’s results page. While using structured data markup is necessary to be eligible for rich snippets and rich cards, there is no guarantee that simply adding structured data markup to your site will immediately result in rich snippets or cards. Sometimes it may not show up at all or may appear inconsistently.
The third myth is that structured data is essentially a ranking signal, which is a characteristic of a website that search engine algorithms might consider calculating rankings. While using structured data helps search engines more accurately understand what your content is about, the use of structured data is not a direct ranking signal on its own. Rather, studies have shown that rich snippets can improve the click-through rate, which can indirectly lead to better rankings.
In conclusion, structured data is an important step to optimizing a website for search engines.