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The Importance of Structured Data and Schema Markup

According to Daniel Cheung, a structured data expert, “99% of all digital marketers don’t even know what Schema Markup is”. I can confidently say that the majority of that 99% has at the very least heard of it, but based on the SEO work I have personally done recently, I would have to agree that the practice of applying structured data and schema markup to active websites is severely lacking. 



In the video above, Daniel Cheung goes on to explain that the wonderful thing about structured data is that it can actually be read and understood by bots. Unlike HTML and JavaScript, where search bots have to parse out the information, essentially making guesses as to what the content is about based on keywords and other factors, structured data and schema markup are formatted specifically for bots to read, understand, and index accordingly. Let’s start from the bottom, and work our way up.


What is Structured Data?

Structured data is data that is organized in a specific format with the intent of delivering information in a crawlable way to be displayed in search results. For an article this would be information such as the author, their name, a link to their bio/social media account, and information on the article itself such as the publish date, last updated date, title, etc.



Product pages have their own set of data that is set up in a similar way, along with FAQs, recipes, job postings, you name it. 


Because of the basic nature of the data within this process, structured data inherently becomes immensely useful to the public as well. Google being able to know exactly what an article is about, they can index it and accurately display it for users when their search lines up with the data, and then, Google uses the data from the structured data to display the snippet for the user. 


What is Schema Markup?

Schema Markup is structured data made up of tags with very specific vocabulary to be used in a website’s HTML. The crawlers pick up on these tags, and index the content using the implemented structured data they find on the page. 


So, essentially, structured data and schema markup are the language that websites use to clearly and unambiguously talk to search engines in order to accurately convey what it is they want to share with the world, and the search engines will know exactly what to do with it. 

Examples of types of schema markup would be something like BreadcrumbList markup. Putting BreadcrumbList markup on your website will tell search engines the story of how your website fits together, and how to navigate through it. Think of this as like a skeleton. If your homepage is the skull, then the Resources page would be the shoulder, the Blog page would be the arm, and articles themselves would be the fingers. And each one knows how to get back to the skull, and in turn can tell search engines how to also.


Another example would be Organization markup. Making sure your site has proper Organization markup will ensure that search engines actually know about your business when users make branded enquiries. This allows search engines to use your company as a whole in snippets rather than just relying on its content. 


Improvement in Indexation

The utilization of structured data and schema markup is a search engine optimization practice. Plain and simple. The entire point of it is to optimize your website to make it as clean and easy for search engines to find you, store your information, and put it in front of people who need it when they need it. Together, they improve your website's SEO by making it easier for search engines to index the site, which directly benefits your website in many ways. 


By making it as simple as possible to be indexed, you are likely to rank higher in searches. That being said, the content you create will still have to provide helpful information. No amount of markup will help a useless or oversaturated topic rank higher than it deserves. 


Possible Effect on CTR

Click through rates in this regard are under a bit of debate, believe it or not. For the most part, if a website has proper implementation of structured data and schema markup on each of their pages, it should increase the site’s CTR. This would make sense, seeing as how those pages should be indexing much easier and increasing their rankings, meaning more eyes should be seeing them.


However, if you watch the video from Daniel Cheung, he actually says that if you implement schema markup correctly, it could easily reduce your clickthrough rate. This is because when you do it correctly, the information that the user is looking for will likely just show up in the search results, meaning they will have little to no reason to actually venture to your website. 


Of course, this greatly depends on the type of markup that’s being observed. If the user is looking for a product, then they would likely still navigate to the page, as they will likely be interested in a purchase. However, if they type in a question and get an answer from a website’s FAQ page, then the answer will likely be given in the SERP. No need to dive deeper in this case.


What we should all be able to agree on though, is that if you have created the information for the right reason, which should always be to provide helpful, meaningful, user focused content, then utilizing structured data and schema markup will always be a win. You may intend for your content to drive traffic to your website, and that is a perfectly valid and acceptable goal to have, but even if your content doesn’t ultimately increase your CTR, you are still providing people with information they want, which is also a good thing.


Why it’s so Important

SEO changes, structured data doesn’t. Every day there are schemers doing everything they can to find ways around Google’s algorithms, cheat the systems, and rank higher in SERPs where hard working people and their websites deserve to be. And every day, Google continues to put out updates and new initiatives in order to make spammer’s jobs harder (with the hopes of making it impossible). But one thing within SEO we can say for sure is that properly used structured data and schema markup will almost certainly continue to be a standing pillar in search engine’s method of finding the most relevant and accurate information. 


Things within SEO have to change all the time because of these scammers and spammers, but data is the one thing that will always be important. If you can manage to fully implement these markups into your website now, you will always have one foot in the right direction to keeping up with the ever changing landscape that is search optimization.

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