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How to SEO your structured data

Structured data helps search engines take the guess work out of understanding your content and the structure or your website. Its essential SEO.

Introduction to Structued Data

Structured data is a way of adding code to your website pages which spells out to search engines what certain elements are. Its like saying, "This is a product" or "This is the products price" or "This is my review rating" or "This is the address of my business".

The markup can also tell search engines how you are connected to social media allowing it to join up your online presence in a way that it could only guess at before.

Rich snippets work in all the major search engines including Bing, Yahoo and Google

Who should use structured data?

Everyone is the short answer but especially those who have:

  • Blogs or article sites
  • Ecommerce websites
  • Websites which review products or services
  • A physical bricks and mortar business

Structured data for all websites

Every website should have breadcrumbs and breadcrumbs can be marked up with Structured Data. This is a great way of telling search engines how your website as a whole is structured so they can understand the various sections clearly.

Search engines remember, will rank a particular page on your site higher if they feel your site as a whole is very specific to a particular subject area or has a large number of pages dedicated to that subject area because it sees you as having more authority.

Telling search engines that these pages are all grouped together in one area of the site gives you a whole lot of brownie points.

Structured Data and Blogs

There are just zillions of blogs on the web these days so how can you get yours to stand out or be more eye-catching? With Rich Snippets you can add an image of you (the blogger) and a link to more of your writing on other sites.

This is done by creating a Google+ page for yourself and then adding a strip of code to any web page where you contribute as a person. The image you upload on your Google+ page will then show in the search results along with a link along the lines of "More by [Your Name]".

Rich snippets in your code can change how a blog looks in the search results from this:

Blog in search results before rich snippets applied

to this:

Blog in search results after rich snippets applied

Note: - as of late 2014 Google stopped using the authors image as it found this did not affect the way internet users selected a choice in the search results. Strange but apparently true!

Structured Data and eCommerce

For eCommerce websites the case for Rich Snippets is even greater. Some of the items that can get displayed in the search results include:

  • the product image
  • the price
  • in stock confirmation
  • Reviews

This all makes it far more inviting for the internet user and as has been said many times - getting into the top 10 search results is one thing, getting people to click through to your website is another!

In the following example we've used Rich Snippets to mark up a standard product page on an eonline shop. Now in the search results it looks like this:

A product page after rich snippets applied

Note the following which is now showing (highlighted by the red arrow in the picture above:

  • Breadcrumbs - the line "batteryguy.com > Nickel Cadmium Batteries" are the breadcrumbs for that product. Showing these in the search results offers more visual reasons for users to click through.
  • Product Price and Availability - Shown in grey these show potential customers you are proud of your price and that you have the item ready to ship.

Beyond the fact that you are showing a greater amount of useful information using Rich Snippets also means you are quite simply taking up more space on the search results pages and that makes you much more noticable. As such Rich Snippets are a key way for eCommerce websites to increase their Click Through Rate.

Structured Data and Reviews

If your website has reviews on it then Rich Snippets can really help these stand out by showing star ratings in the search results. It doesn't matter how your reviews are rated (percentages, score out of 10, etc) you can format these for the search engines.

How to add structured data

Most platforms like Wordpress offer plugins if you are not a techie. Otherwise you can find out everything you need to know in this Google how to guide.

Once you have structured data added test everything is working as it should with Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.

Is structured data worth it?

Yes - its absolutely essential for many websites and quite frankly why wouldn't you want to make your content crystal clear to search engines? Its what On-page SEO is all about and here they are handing you an opportunity on a plate!

The Structured Data Google penalty

Such has the abuse been from many webmasters when using rich snippets that Google introduced a penalty if you were caught messing around painting a false picture of your sites content. Full details of this can be found on my How to SEO website under Spammy structured markup recover.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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