No one outside of Google really knows how the super search engine decides how to rank websites, but every now and again, the real world is given snippets of information. The latest bit of info to emerge is that Google may begin to give preferential treatment to websites that contain structured data. If you are worried about your website rankings, you should be asking yourself whether your site needs structured data.
What is structured data?
Structured data is extra information that has been marked-up on the webpage highlighted for web crawlers to better understand the data contained within the website. Examples of structured data include a search for recent movie releases showing alongside show times and ratings. Most websites are built using HTML coding that is sometimes difficult for web crawlers to interpret. Difficulty in understanding the information a website contains can result in a site being deemed as uninteresting or not valuable and can slip down the search engine rankings.
Using structured data
If you have information on your website that is structured, i.e., book reviews, restaurant reviews, service ratings, then you would benefit from implementing structured data. Google can help you do this with their free Structured Data Markup Helper tool and you can find this tool in Google Webmaster tools by entering it into Google’s search field. There will be a short video available to help you understand how the tool works, but all you need do is submit the relevant web page to the Helper tool and use your mouse to add tags to the pertinent elements on the page. Add as many tags as you deem necessary. When you are finished, the Helper tool will generate an HTML code for you to download and embed in your website.
In-house or outsource?
For most non-IT people, HTML coding is a foreign language, and it is worth noting that unlike much SEO, such as incorporating keywords and key phrases into your web copy, structured data may be better handled by a person who has working knowledge of HTML coding. Tagging your website will take time, time that may be better spent by you focusing on the areas of your business you are more comfortable with. However, an in-house, do-it-yourself approach is possible when using third-party services such as schema.org, which provides a range of HTML tags that you can use to annotate your webpage.
Are keywords still important?
Not every website contains copy or content that is suitable for structured data, so keywords should still play an important, not to say vital, part of your website SEO strategy. However, it is probable that Google will be rewarding websites that contain structured data, especially as structured data is often personalised and localised. This is especially important when you consider that more internet browsing is now performed on the move, using mobile devices that collect personal and local data almost every time they are used.
Structured data definitely seems to be the way that Google is heading and any website capable of containing structured data but neglecting to do so may find themselves being penalised. You should still rely on keywords as part of your SEO strategy, but get ahead of your competitors by thinking about implementing structured data on your website today rather than waiting until tomorrow.