We marketers often find it tough to outsmart search engine bots. But let me tell you one interesting fact – Search engine bots are not as smart as humans! That’s because they cannot make sense of content without a preloaded vocabulary and a set of special rules. Simply put, they depend on structured data to understand the content on a page.
Allow me to prove it to you. Let’s say, the bots come across this string of characters on a page – Edelmanoffersthebestprservices
They will save 30 characters in their memory and move on. When a user looks for ‘Edelmanoffersthebestprservices,’ they will return to the page where this string appears. However, if the user looks for ‘excellent PR services’ or ‘PR and advertising firms,’ they will not be able to pick up the same page. This is because the bots haven’t got the context of the page.
Hence proved – search engine bots are dumb!
However, marketers depend on these bots for indexing their page and improving their visibility on the search results page. Therefore, we need to make sure they understand the content on a page just like humans, making it easier for them to crawl the page and get the context.
If your page content lacks a machine-readable context, no amount of resources spent on on-page and off-page SEO will get your webpage up in the SERP. Read on to know what is structured data and how it can help your SEO.
What is Structured Data?
In its endeavor to offer quality content to the users, Google goes out of its way to understand the webpage. But for structured data, search engines would find it tough to decipher webpage content. Structured data is an on-page markup that allows search engines to understand your page content by offering explicit clues about the meaning of a page.
Here’s Google’s definition of structured data.
“Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.”
When the information on a page is structured using a semantic vocabulary of tags (like Schema.org or Schema), search engine bots can read, organize, and display it in creative and effective ways. There is enough evidence that search results with extensive rich snippets (created using Schema) have a higher ranking, thereby boosting their click-through rate. So, if your business website isn’t using structured data, you are missing the opportunity to rank high in the SERP.
Structured Data Formats
Here are the most common ways to markup structured data on a page.
- JSON-LD – This is the most popular and recommended way for structured data markup. The JSON-LD script is used in the page header.
Microdata – Microdata is a form of structured data that works with HTML5 and is designed to highlight items and values on a webpage within the ‘itemtype’ and ‘itemprop’ HTML attributes. So, a ‘Person’ having properties name and title, can be described as below –
Name: <span itemprop=”name”>Daniel Butler</span>
Title: <span itemprop=”title”>Head of SEO</span>
- RDFa – Resource Description Framework in Attributes is a type of data format that’s highly recommended for embedding RDF statements in HTML, XHTML, and various XML dialects. You can use RDFa to specify your web content with metadata, helping crawlers grasp the semantic context of your page.
That’s a basic RDFa syntax schema.
Several objects and information on a webpage can be marked up in structured data. Schema.org offers a collection of shared vocabularies that can be used along with the Microdata, RDFa, or JSON-LD formats to mark up pages in a way that can be understood by the major search engines.
Structured Data to Improve Your Site’s Ranking: A Step-by-Step Guide
Select the Relevant Schemas for Your Website
Visit Schema.org to go through the complete list of schemas supported by search engines and relevant to your website. List the URLs of individual pages of your website and list the corresponding relevant schema.
Here’s a list of the most commonly used schemas for most businesses.
So, the schema map for a PR agency website could look like this.
Once you have your map of schemas ready, it’s time to create and add a structured data markup to your webpages.
Add Schema Structured Data to the Webpage
As mentioned earlier, the most popular format for marking up structured data is JSON-LD. If you possess coding skills or have a good developer by your side, you can write your own code.
Alternatively, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to generate a code for the review rich snippet. Follow these simple steps to create a structured data markup on this tool.
I have taken the example of the content marketing agency, The 20 Media.
- Select the relevant schema, and enter a URL in the space provided. When you are ready, click on the ‘Start Tagging’ button.
Now it’s time to highlight the elements of the page and assign schema tags to each of them. Check out how we have clearly defined the ‘name,’ ‘author,’ and ‘URL’ for the home page of The 20 Media.
You can also add missing tags using the ‘Add missing tags’ button.
Next, click on ‘Create HTML’ to create the code. Paste the code into the <head> or <body> tag in the HTML code of the webpage. The drop-down menu on the top of the page allows you to choose the format you desire.
Test the Markup
Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool allows you to validate the code generated after the implementation of structured data. You can either enter your URL or a piece of code to check for errors, warnings, invalid values in the attributes, and wrong date or time format.
Take Professional Help
The schema markup needs to be added to the source code of your website. If your site has static pages (which is rarely the case), this task is pretty simple. However, most websites hosted by content management systems like WordPress have non-static pages. Implementing structured data for such sites can be a tricky undertaking. This is because WordPress splits up webpage content, making it tough to determine where the schema markup should go.
If you lack the required coding experience, this manual insertion of code can mess up your website. Therefore, it’s wise to involve an experienced developer for the job.
There’s more to an SEO campaign than keyword research, backlinks, and meta-tags. The modern semantic web demands webmasters to lay emphasis on the context of the webpage content rather than just keywords and links. Structured data makes it easier for search engine bots to get the real meaning of a page, thereby improving its chances of having a better rank in the SERP.
Use the information and tools shared in this post to add context to your webpages, allowing search engines to reward you with a better ranking.
Check out how to improve SEO for your PR using Prowly
Prowly’s new Story Creator gives you even more control on content optimization 😲😲 Implement your SEO master’s recommendations into every piece of public relations content you publish: from meta tag configuration to keywords to no-follow and no-referrer attributes or 301 redirections 👏👏