How to Use Structured Data Markup for Successful On-Page SEO

seoblog How to Use Structured Data Markup for Successful On-Page SEO

There are five points regarding search engine optimization (SEO) and search marketing strategies that have been acknowledged in recent years and continue to be identified as relevant. These five points:

  1. It has never been harder to receive organic search traffic from search engines.
  2. Search engine results pages (SERPs) architecture is always changing.
  3. Position No. 1 is ceding value to a massive influx of SERPs features.
  4. The current solution is a switch to the practice of On-SERP SEO.
  5. Initiatives such as structured data markup can leverage the full value of On-SERP SEO.

In the old days of search engines, you would enter a query that would return the standard 10 blue links. For certain terms, you might also see a couple of ads at the very top of the page. Otherwise, it was a very straightforward, minimalist experience. Contrast that era with what you tend to see nowadays. On any given query, the search results might include three or four ads, a video carousel, a news carousel, a knowledge panel and many other features. In some cases, the first organic search result might be tucked away well below the fold – knocked out of sight because of the prominence of these SERPs features.

In this query for “b2b marketing,” the first organic result isn’t even above the fold.

The old days of simplicity are long gone. It is readily apparent that Google is on a mission to resolve search queries as quickly as possible. In many cases, this involves doing so directly on the search results page via the aforementioned features. 

One of the best strategies at the present moment is to invest heavily in On-SERP SEO. The practice of leveraging all of Google’s existing SERPs features (such as rich results, featured snippets and the knowledge panel) to own as much real estate as possible on the first page of your target queries. This is how you garner more attention, satisfy user queries on your terms and entice more click-throughs to your website. It is still important to pursue top organic rankings, but as Google changes the layout of the SERPs, users are analyzing the results differently and are biased towards all of the features that exist before examining blue links. 

pinball pattern search behavior diagram

The “pinball” pattern of search behavior.

If you study all of the applicable SERPs features, rich results (a new organic experience from Google that enhances your blue links with interactive features) stand out for a number of reasons. First, there are over 30 to qualify for. Second, they are powered by structured data markup so you aren’t “paying to play” as you would with ads. And third, the list is expanding all the time as Google places more importance on this type of SERPs feature.

To qualify for rich results, you need to implement structured data on your website. Here’s how to define structured data, why it’s important, why Google endorsed it and explore why it is an essential element of an On-SERP SEO strategy. 

Structured Data — The Language of Search Engines

Structured data is the language of search engines. If you think about website content, humans have little problem understanding the basic gist of what it’s all about. Search engines, on the other hand, obviously don’t have the same natural languaging processing capabilities. Not yet, at least. As a consequence, they need more context and clues to understand what they are crawling and indexing. Structured data is the solution for providing more information about a page and classifying content on their terms. 

Structured Data — A Key Element of an On-SERP SEO Strategy

There are numerous benefits to utilizing structured data markup. However, as it relates to an On-SERP SEO strategy, the biggest benefit is the qualification for over 30 rich results that maximize website visibility and SERP real estate with more actionable, appealing, and detailed information surrounding the blue link. These include features like ratings, reviews, how-tos, videos, frequently asked questions, pricing and availability. Because they are more functional and visually engaging, they can direct more qualified users to your site and lead to an increase in impressions, click-through rates, and total clicks. Google has documented how structured data drives business results – especially top of funnel metrics in those first points of contact in multiple case studies. Structured data has been shown to increase CTR, increase conversion rate, and increase time on site because of improvements in authority, relevance and discoverability.

rich result example

A rich result example where frequently asked questions are embedded below the blue link.

Structured Data — Google Approved

Google is on a mission to organize the world’s information to make it universally accessible and useful. This is a big task and, of course, their search bots have limited resources to efficiently crawl and index the internet. Google endorsed structured data because firstly, it makes their job easier, secondly, it helps them understand content faster and more thoroughly and lastly,  it improves their search results pages for users.

As Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, has stated: “Even without the structured data leading to rich results, our systems profit by understanding the pages better when they use structured data.”

Structured data also powers many of Google’s innovations in voice search. As they mentioned at their 2019 I/O conference: “Focus on building great content using an open standard (structured data) and Google will help you reach your users across Search and Assistants without having to build a custom experience.”

Getting Structured Data Markup on Your Website

When it comes to getting structured data on your website, there are a number of options for structured data implementation that range from mostly manual to fully automated. It boils down to how comfortable you feel with your technical skills and whether you have the time and resources to do it in-house. Keep in mind that Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, has gone on record saying that structured data markup is not going to get any easier in the coming years. In addition to initial implementation, both maintenance and running updates are time-intensive factors that must be considered.

Conclusion: Utilize Structured Data Markup for a Successful On-SERP SEO Strategy

It is discouraging to some that more and more organic real estate is being ceded to SERP features, there is a way to leverage technical initiatives like structured data to make the best of it. Google relies on structured data to populate over 30 rich result SERP features that cover this ground. The first step is implementing it on any of your content that is represented in any of the SERP feature-heavy queries. 

The evolution of SEO brings to the forefront the importance of communicating perfectly with Google’s Search Bots. It only starts with structured data. Google has backed other important initiatives like dynamic rendering, which makes it easier to crawl Javascript-powered websites. Likewise, Edge SEO is gaining popularity as a way to create the fastest possible crawling and indexing experience. Still though, if you do nothing else, structured data is a critical element of a sound 2020 SEO strategy. Influencers like Neil Patel, for example, have cited it as one of the most important strategies of the coming year. Act accordingly to take back control of the SERPs!

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