Believe it or not web crawlers, even Google’s very own are still struggling to understand the content on the pages of your website. Yes, your pages are getting indexed and they’re ranking in the SERPs, however if you don’t already know anything about structured data or rich snippets or you already do however haven’t got around to implementing them yet, you’re missing a massive opportunity for getting more traffic to your website.
“Structured data helps you give users browsing the SERPs more information about the content on your webpage”
With the recent introduction of rich snippet mark-up, you have the opportunity to give Google so much more information about your website content; this information can be used by Google to help enhance your listing within the SERPs for the keyword phrases you rank in the top 10 for. Although relatively easy, there is some work involved in implementing the correct code however the benefits far outweigh the time spent performing the implementation. To give you an idea, here are a few examples of what rich snippets look like in Google’s search results:
The structured data around a lot of music search queries generally bring back some really nice looking results.
Google is listing two pages both with different amounts of structured data.
If you want to see more you can check out Dr Pete’s ‘Mega-SERP – A Visual Guide To Google.
There are a few different options that you can use to mark-up the pages of your website with rich snippets, however the major search engines, including Google, prefer Schema.org. Schema was developed to help simplify things for webmasters and to create a common format; and a single place where they could go to not only learn about mark-up, but also remove the need to put together different mark-up from different sources, where each would have their own set of rules, conventions and learning curves.
There are literally hundreds of ways to mark-up your onsite content, however you must ensure that the mark-up you use is relevant to the type of content on your page. For example, if you want to mark-up for reviews you would only use the tags listed here. The minimum implementation for rich snippets to show up in the SERPs is to implement at least two tags, however we recommend that you implement as many tags as are relevant to the page and that you give as much information as possible.
The more information you give, the more likely your rich snippets will appear in the SERPs. You’re basically giving Google more options to better improve on what information it shows to its users. Bear in mind, however, that Google has a set of guidelines and best practices to follow when implementing structured data. Like anything in the realms of SEO, rich snippets have been known to be open to spam tactics and sites have been known to incur penalties in the past for breaking these guidelines around structured data. If you go down this route you may not only have your rich snippets removed from Google, you may also get your page demoted or possibly even your site manually penalised.
Will Schema.org mark-up help boost my rankings?
This is still unclear whether or not structured data aids in boosting a site’s rankings. In a video by Matt Cutts from October 2012, he stated that: “Just because you implement Schema.org doesn’t mean that you should necessarily rank higher.” However, he then went on to say that not to expect Schema.org to give you any sort of ranking boost, yet in the next breath he said that he wasn’t going to take it off the table.
Thinking about this further, if you provide Google with more information than any other site and Google want to present its users with the best possible results, then why would they not use your structured data rich site above others who don’t provide this data? Although Google hasn’t officially said that structured data is a ranking factor they are asking for the information so it may possibly be a direct factor in the future. You can watch the full video where Matt Cutts answers this question here:
Schema.org & Rich Snippets help increase CTR from SERPs to your website
…even when you don’t rank in first position! Currently, and until Google officially confirms that Schema.org mark-up directly affects rankings, the main goal for implementing Schema.org is to attract a higher CTR (click through rate) to your website from Google’s SERPs. You can attract click-throughs away from sites that rank higher than you in Google SERPs, this can be especially important for you if you don’t rank highly for your desired keywords and can be particularly useful when no other site has implemented any structured data as your listing will stand out from the other nine no matter what position you currently rank at.
Since the introduction of rich snippets, the standard CTR graph that we’ve all come to know and love in the SEO world is now pretty much obsolete and is only really relevant for search results where there are no rich snippets being utilised on the first page of Google. If you’re not sure what the CTR graph looks like or what the percentage click-through rate of each position on the first page of Google (theoretically) is, it’s included below:
Google’s Knowledge Graph
The ‘Knowledge Graph’ was basically Google’s way of outdoing Bing and the other search engines by showing just how good they can make their results for their users. Although the Knowledge Graph shouldn’t be confused with the rich snippet mark-up that we’re trying to obtain for our websites Google does use Schema.org information to help populate its Knowledge Graph results. Here’s an example of what a Knowledge Graph looks like:
Structured Data Testing Tool
If you’re ready to take the plunge and implement the code, which is relatively simple to do, you need to be acquainted with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool which can be found inside your Webmaster Tools profile. It is imperative that you test your structured data mark-up before you go live with it on your website. If you don’t, and Google re-crawls and re-indexes your site with these errors, it can take some time for Google to catch up when you do realise and make the necessary changes.
If – after a re-crawl – you’re still seeing no rich snippets within your listing in the SERPs, the problem could be something else. Visit Schema.org, find the available tags that are most relevant to your page content, write the code and then use the Structured Data Testing Tool to check that Google can actually understand the code before you publish it on your website.
Monitor for errors
Once you’ve implemented structured data on your website be sure to actively monitor your Google Webmaster Tools account for any errors and make sure you fix them as soon as possible. Once logged into your Webmaster Tools account, you can find these listed under Search Appearance >> Structured Data:
Here are a few steps to take to help diagnose and fix any mark-up errors:
- Check which structured data types have errors
- Drill down to specific errors
- Fix the mark-up on your site
- Verify that the updated mark-up is correct
And for further information on the steps for diagnosing and repairing any errors please checkout Google’s support page here.
- Marking up your website with structured data helps describe the content on your website in a way that search engines can understand.
- Search engines use this information to enhance your listing in the SERPs.
- This will help you attract a higher CTR from sites that rank above you even when you rank in lower positions.
- Before going live you MUST test, test, test and when you think you’ve tested enough test some more! This is the most important step.
- Once implemented on your live website, monitor for errors via Webmaster Tools.
Google is evolving and structured data will play an even bigger part in that evolution. If you’re still really unsure of where to begin with implementing structured data then please get in touch.