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Just How Important Is Structured Data in SEO?

Learn about advances in structured data, why it's so important to your site, the benefits of structured data, and more.

Just How Important Is Structured Data in SEO?

The use of structured data is gaining adoption but we still have ways to go. In fact, 50% of brands are still not using structured data.

But it’s not a “nice to have” anymore – it’s an imperative. Structured data has many benefits including higher click-through rates, greater search visibility, faster indexing, and voice search domination.

It helps Google understand your content better and faster, and can help enhance your site’s visibility in search features.

The more you can communicate to search engines in the same language, the better you can understand one another.

The Many Uses of Structured Data

You can find structured data for just about any type of content including events listings, products, and restaurants, to name a few – with much more to come.

That’s because big brands tested the waters with their dev time and resources and were able to tie results back to business value, like improving traffic or generating conversions.

Structuring your data with schema.org not only gives you great search benefits such as reusing the information to enhance analytics or onsite search – it also yields voice benefits, like informing chatbots.

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By structuring the data, you are helping to define the content to increase the machines’ chances of correctly matching your content to relevant voice queries.

In fact, Amazon says it uses schema to determine local business intent.

The Impact

We implemented structured data for one of our largest financial clients and documented some impressive results after implementation:

  • 400% net growth in rich result organic traffic overall.
  • 160% growth in impressions and 150% growth in clicks for the Answer center.
  • 41% growth in impressions and 28% growth in clicks for Magazine.

Now, I know that some of you may be wondering if we did anything else to the page. There are many reasons why organic performance can improve, such as building new content or getting new links.

Nope. This is solely the result of implementing structured data. We even tested it by turning it off and the results started to decline.

The value of structured data used to be only to get the rich result from Google.

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Now, the value extends further to the quality of traffic measures.

Google has posted some case studies that go over some examples of using schema for some large brands.

The Top 5 Reasons Many Brands Don’t Use Schema

There are some common reasons we’ve come across as to why some clients don’t use structured data:

  • They don’t have the resources in-house and need to rely on an agency or consultant, which can get expensive.
  • They are not technical and don’t understand the code and how to mark items up. We all know that one error in the code can cause your structured data not to validate.
  • It’s not supported by their CMS.
  • They neither see nor understand the benefits, even with Google providing case studies showing the incremental value.
  • They are behind the times and stuck in the past.

Luckily, there are some great solutions on the market which allow you to mark up at scale and easily create, manage, and measure structured data.

The Top Benefits of Using Schema

There are many benefits of using schema, especially for ecommerce brands.

Here are a few of the most important.

Get Your Content Indexed Faster

Google can’t crawl the entire web, which has more than 3.23 billion pages. Nor does it want to, because crawling is expensive and there is a lot of duplication and low-quality content the search engine wants to keep out of its index.

Having structured data can help Google find your content easier and understand it better.

Higher CTR

Having rich results show up for your products in the SERPs is a great way to increase click-through rates and draw more attention to your listings, especially if you have great product reviews.

More Conversions

Having rich results can also increase your conversion rates. If more people see your listings and the listings are positive, the likelihood that they will buy from you will increase.

Get Featured Snippets & Be the Winner for Voice Search Queries

Getting rich results is the Holy Grail for SEO. Your site will appear at the top of the search engine result page, before the organic listings.

Having structured data isn’t a necessity, but it could sometimes help you earn a featured snippet. This can improve your click-through rates and drive more traffic.

Voice search results are pulled from featured snippets. This means you can be the only result for a voice query because Google uses those results for verbal answers.

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Control Your Information

Structured data is a foundation with which machines understand your content. It also gives brands the ability to control how their information is defined, which in turn puts them in control of how machines understand the brand.

Having structured data saves bandwidth and time because you are giving information to Google so they can understand it.

It is also important to understand search engines are playing a long game with structured data as it enables a more efficient way to effectively answer search queries with more personalized and factual results.

This is called “data retrieval,” as opposed to the traditional and bandwidth-taxing exercise of “information retrieval.”

This shift – and the importance of structured data – isn’t going away.

Structured Data Tips

Structured data must be used appropriately or you can find yourself with a manual action. I know this firsthand.

I had an old job board I didn’t pay much attention to because the industry had changed so much. And so some of the job postings were using structured data that did not match the content found on some of the job pages.

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Upon noticing that some of the search engine rankings started to decrease for some keywords, and impressions/clicks were also decreasing over time, I went into Google Search Console and found a manual action.

I found out which URLs were causing the issues, blocked them in robots.txt, and submitted by reconsideration request to Google.

They processed my request and the rankings started to go back up to page one from the bottom of page two.

Please take manual actions seriously and use the correct structured data types. You don’t want to see Google decrease your visibility and performance because you are not using structured data markup properly.

Always make sure you monitor your site – i.e., clicks, impressions, keywords, etc. – for any signs there may be an issue.

Implementing and maintaining structured data can be time-consuming. Just one error in your code can cause structured data not to validate.

With new structured data types coming out all the time, it’s worth paying attention to — especially when you can reap the benefits of driving incremental traffic, impressions, and clicks.

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Also, make sure you update structured data from time to time. New things are constantly coming out from a structured data perspective.

Job postings are a good example of this. Google just announced directApply which is a new change to the jobposting structured data type.

Summary

Structured data is no longer just nice to have – it helps Google understand your content better.

It is also an important factor if you want your site to be visible within search features and stand out in the SERPS. The results can include rich results, enhanced discoverability, and even more clicks.

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Winston Burton

SVP, SEO at Acronym

Winston Burton is an SEO and digital marketing expert with over 16 years of experience optimizing some of the world's ... [Read full bio]

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