When you look at the results page on Google you’ve probably noticed the different types of results you get for the same search.
You’ve got the organic results, ads, Google shopping results, featured snippets and “people also asked”.
The way these results are displayed is based on structured data, which is used by Google to organise the different displays based on the most relevant answers to the query.
So, given the importance of appearing at the top of Google searches, how important is structured data and how can you use it to improve your search performance?
What is structured data?
Structured data is the way information on a website is organised in a way that makes it easy for search engines to understand it, categorise it and display it in as many ways as possible to get more user engagement within SERPs.
Structured data is built using a text-based markup, typically using the schema.org vocabulary, a result of collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex.
It essentially clarifies what information Google and search engines need to understand your content, figure out how well it matches a user’s search, and then display the content in the best way to provide a good experience to the user.
Schema.org is made up of three forms of code:
By providing structured data markup on your company’s website, you ensure your content is eligible to appear in creative ways within search results.
Taking Google as an example, your content can appear in one of two categories:
- Rich Results/Cards
- Knowledge Graph Cards
What are Rich Cards and Knowledge Graph Cards?
Let’s take a look at these forms of structured data categories.
Rich Cards took over from Rich Snippets, providing a more mobile experience. These now account for the majority of page one search results, using Schema Markup to provide searchers with results that include images, reviews, and contact information.
Google’s Knowledge Graph is used both behind the scenes by Google and to present knowledge graph cards within SERPs, providing direct answers to questions and queries.
How to make the most of Rich Cards and structured data
Here are 5 Rich Card strategies you should be using…
1. Use Schema.org markup on your web pages
Schema markup may be daunting because you need coding skills, but web developers should be able to set up a system so that marking up your content is as simple as filling in a few fields.
If your site is built on WordPress, there are a number of plugins you can use to easily mark-up your content.
This will allow your content creators to mark-up content as they produce it and speed up the process.
Here are just a couple schema markup types that might be really useful for you to use:
Using schema markup for your articles makes them more likely to appear in the news section within Google results. This is the perfect form of schema to be used by content producers, working on both engaging value driven content and company news stories.
We all know that videos are a powerful tool to have in your marketing arsenal, and though seen less frequently within SERPs, they can still be found for certain searches. One great way to include video schema markup is with ‘How to?’ posts, ensuring your search results take up more page 1 real estate and help you stand out through the use of video to potential customers.
Searches for products and businesses can all be marked up using the ‘rating and review’ schema code, allowing you to show your product ratings and customer reviews within your search result snippets.
2. Research your target search terms
As part of your SEO and content marketing strategies, you’ll conduct keyword research and choose specific terms that you want to rank for.
But what you possibly don’t do, and you really should, is look at how the search result’s page looks and how the different elements are presented.
By seeing how the page is laid out and what results are pulling through, you don’t only see which competitors are ranking for similar terms, but also what forms of structured data work best for the search term.
For example, you might still be working on your organic results for the main search, but you could create some content to answer part of the ‘what people also asked’ section.
This will push you up the search results quicker and get you on the front page for part of the search results while you keep working on your organic results in the main search.
Once you see what elements are displaying on the search results, you’ll have a better idea what types of schema markup you should be implementing on your website.
3. Targeting local customers
If your business sells or provides a service where customers can come to a storefront, then it’s key to ensure that you show up in local searches.
When Google sees that individuals are looking for nearby results, they will present a map that includes a cluster of local businesses.
Now, for those concerned with coding, you’ll be pleased to read that for this form of rich result you won’t need to implement any form of structured data.
All you have to do is create a business listing in Google and follow the same actions that are recommended for local SEO in general.
4. Focus on providing the best answer in the best way
One of the biggest challenges of Google’s rich results is that for simple questions like ‘how to boil and egg’ Google will provide the results that give the best answer in the best format at the top of SERP.
Today that typically means showing videos at the very top of search followed by the ‘what people also asked’ snippets, which include questions related to the main search.
What this means is, the user might need to scroll down the first page to land on the top organic result – which they’re not likely to do with the results presented right in front of them without having to click to another website.
It could be argued that Google does this to simply keep users on its search engine (rather than leaving for another website) but it doesn’t change the fact that you should be aiming to provide the best, most clear answers to your customers’ questions, in the best format.
Google is now changing its algorithm to identify content that answers customers’ specific questions (even if the content is part of a larger piece of content) and will pull it through to the top of search.
This means by focusing on your customers and what they’re looking for, you can increase your chances of appearing higher in search while working towards ranking high in the main search organically.
5. Always pay attention to changes
Rich snippets have been around for a while, but Google and other search engines are always updating and evolving their platforms for users and business alike.
So it’s important that you keep up to date with the latest updates in both organic and paid search, so you know exactly what the landscape of the SERPs looks like when an ideal customer searches for one of your targeted terms.
Google is constantly updating how it prioritises searches, and often many of the searches relate to how searches appear, so impact how you view and use structured data.
Search engines are always evolving.
Not just in terms of which websites or content they display at the top of search or on the front page, but also how they display that content.
Despite what you might be told, there is no preference given to videos over other types of content.
It’s just about which content provides the best answer in the best way to the query being made by the user.
One technical thing you need to focus on, is that mobile first is still critical so you should design your content to be viewed first on a mobile device, and desktop second.
If you can provide answers to their key questions, then you’ll perform well on Google search.
Plus, by creating different types of content that works with your structured data in the background, you can start to take up more real estate on the front page and appear in more snippets and rich features, as long as the organic results.
Need help with your content marketing and technical SEO to see better results on Google?
Already doing SEO for your website but not seeing the results you want? Get a free technical SEO audit and we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to improve your search results.