For the past few years, it has been understood that Schema data is not used for ranking purposes. The understanding was that Google only used structured data markup for presentation purposes.
However, recent changes at Google’s developer pages on this topic and statements at the 2017 PubCon event seem to indicate that the influence of structured data might be more complicated than that.
How Google Uses Structured Data
Google’s developer page formerly stated:
“When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.”
That’s very clear: Google uses Schema structured markup data to organize the information for the purposes of displaying it in “creative ways.”
But the Google Developers page on Schema changed sometime after June 26, 2017. The above reference to using Schema just for display purposes was replaced.
Now Google’s page says that structured data helps Google understand “the meaning of a page” in addition to enabling “special search result features and enhancements.”
Google’s Developers Support Page Changed
Google’s Structured Data developers page changed from this:
“search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.”
To this new version:
“Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. However, you can provide explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page.”
Previously, Schema markup was limited to presentation type data. Now the page states that it’s about helping Google understand the web page.
Is this just semantics? Has something really changed?
What Googlers Say About Structured Data
At the November Pubcon 2017 in Vegas, it was reported that Google’s Gary Illyes of Google said:
“…add structure data to your pages because during indexing, we will be able to better understand what your site is about.”
Later on Illyes stated:
“It will help us understand your pages better, and indirectly, it leads to better ranks in some sense, because we can rank easier.”
What Illyes appears to be saying is that Schema markup will indirectly help your site rank. But what does that mean?
Structured Data Is Not a Ranking Factor
One meaning may be that structured markup is not a ranking factor.
A ranking factor is something that directly helps a site rank.
So let’s make that clear, Schema is currently not a ranking factor.
In this case, this simply means schema helps you communicate what the webpage is about. That’s not a ranking factor but it’s a good practice all around.
Why You Should Use Structured Markup
It may be that there hasn’t been a change in how Google uses structured markup and the only change was that Google clarified their developers page. But we don’t know for sure.
What we know for certain is that adding schema markup to your webpages is highly recommended and that it can indirectly lead to better rankings.
While there may be some issues here that need to be clarified, one thing is clear: it’s important to consider adding relevant structured data to your webpages.
Structured data will help you communicate to Google what your webpage is about and that’s a win-win for you, your site visitors, and for Google.
Images by Shutterstock, modified by Author
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!