Data and Insights

What is Structured Data and Why Does It Matter?

In my opinion, Google is good at understanding the general context of a site and its content. Sometimes crawlers need some guidance and this is where structured data comes in. 

Structured data is added directly to a page’s HTML markup. Search engines use structured data to generate rich snippets, which are small pieces of information that will then appear in search engine results pages or SERPs for short.

Schema.org was setup back in 2011 by three of the major search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Yandex joined a few months later and their common goal was to "create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages”. In essence, Schema.org is the go-to ‘language’ of structured data and it remains open source.

There are three main types of structured data:

  1. JSON-LD – JSON-LD is the newest version, and it is, notably, the format that Google recommends. It is novel in how it exists on a page instead of “tagging” individual HTML elements. Think of JSON-LD as one big blob of informational code near the head that says to the crawler what the type of holiday, its location, and the hotel details are. JSON-LD is also good as it can supply information about a page without there actually being any “visual” content to represent that information. The general rule: only add markup for things that exists on a page.
  2. RDFa – RDFa is the counterpart of JSON-LD and it is just HTML extensions. Although conceptually different, instead of having your structured data in one digestible block, HTML extension syntaxes are spread throughout a page’s content, structuring your data off the cuff. Think of this syntax as just another attribute (like a class) appended to your HTML code. While elements can be injected as JSON-LD asynchronously, simply writing in HTML extensions is often cleaner and quicker.
  3. Microdata – Another HTML extension syntax. Microdata extends HTML5 and it’s been naturally replaced by JSON-LD due to its complexity of implementation. That said, it still pops up occasionally and is good to be familiar with.

In recent tests, we found that for many markets, just within a few short weeks, there were marked improvements in click-through rates for the pages on which we had implemented schema. There’s also an indication that pages with schema had an increase in organic traffic. However, we cannot solidly link this to the schema as it could have been the result of a seasonal increase, wider SEO-related activity, wider brand-related signals and content updates.

Examples figures from previous tests:

No Schema - May 17 to June 17 (CTR - 2.15%)

Schema implemented - June 17 to July 17 (CTR - 2.72%)

Increase average of 0.57%

Another side effect of having schema implemented was that the review scores for the client’s products appeared within Google Knowledge Graph for the particular brands whereas previously this had been all third parties reviews and scores. The Schema helped Google pull relevant information to show this detail.

Following on from the increase in organic traffic, there was a reduction in bounce rates for the pages we had applied schema to, albeit slight, which would indicate that the quality of the volume of traffic the pages were receiving had improved.

There are also articles from other sources which pretty much confirm that structured data mark-up is a ranking factor for SEO. Studies suggest that structured data is even more of a ranking factor for mobile. As mobile is dominating search and Google is moving towards mobile-first indexing, it will only continue to become more and more important. 

Although there’s been some anecdotal instances of rankings increasing (where no wider changes have been made), this may suggest search engines had a greater comprehension of the content and would also suggest that there was a ranking increase for pages that did have schema applied.

All types of brands would benefit from having schema as it is the goal of every business to ensure top performance in search. Alongside having a good search presence, the more “real estate” a listing can take up the better, and the more information that a brand can provide for its users pre-click will certainly help to influence that click.

It is especially important in the evolving search landscape where we can see that schema is becoming more and more important for both mobile and voice searching. The use of voice search is certainly growing and it is more than evident that an effective use of structured data has more of an impact for voice search. As a result, structured data has become one of the essential factors for voice search optimisation.

In conclusion, there is certainly a huge benefit to using schema, especially as it can lead to an increase in click-though rates. Get in touch with our team here if you have any questions around structured data. 

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