What is structured data and why does it matter?

There is a growing importance for online businesses to help major search engines truly understand their web sites. Even Google can have a difficult time digesting web content if its elements are confusing to web crawlers as well as consumers...

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There is a growing importance for online businesses to help major search engines truly understand their web sites. Even Google can have a difficult time digesting web content if its elements are confusing to web crawlers as well as consumers.

That’s where the term ‘structured data’ comes in. This new type of markup data is fast becoming rooted in the work of SEO professionals across the globe. It’s the name for all markup data that helps annotate your online content so that machines can understand it and index it accordingly within search engines.

Web pages that feature structured data markup increasingly feature more prominently in search engine results pages (SERPs). Take Google for instance - structured data markup makes a company’s digital content eligible for two types of Google features:

Knowledge Graph

If your business is a bone fide authority for content in your niche, Google can take the structured data from your website as factual content and import it into its Knowledge Graph. This authoritative content can power prominent answers to search engine queries.

Presentation of SERPs

By incorporating basic structured data appropriate to your digital content, your web site can further enhance its presence in relevant search results. From Rich Snippets that feature reviews, prices or ratings of products or events, to Site Breadcrumbs which indicate a page’s exact position within the website hierarchy, it’s all about making your website experience as enriching as possible for the end user.

To get started with structured data, Google has devised its own Structured Data Markup Helper to enable you to enhance Google’s understanding of the content on your website. To use this free tool simply submit a web page to the helper and use your mouse to ‘tag’ the different content elements which make up the page.

Once you are finished, the tool will generate sample HTML code with your web page’s microdata marked up. This can then be downloaded and incorporated straight into your web site.

Structured data includes the following data languages: schema.org, Microformats, Microdata and RDFa. So if you’re unfamiliar with any of these concepts read around these subjects immediately.

The days of keyword stuffing and backlinks to guarantee search engine positions are long gone. A business’ ability to utilise structured data effectively will dictate how favourably their web site will appear in SERPs.


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