Written by Caroline Cox on May 6 , 2022

From schema markup to rich results, this is your go-to guide on structured data.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How structured data works
  • Ways it benefits SEO
  • How to add this data to your website
  • Tips for testing your structured data

Knowing how to navigate the post office is a skill so valuable that, in my opinion, they should teach it in schools.

After all, how many times have you stood in line to mail something, only to get to the counter and realize you wrote the address upside down, didn’t use enough stamps, or choose the wrong type of box? 

Don’t even get me started on the forms you have to fill out to mail things internationally.

But it’s all for good reason. Packaging your mail properly means it’ll have an easier time getting to its destination. 

Structured data for your website works in a similar way. It ups your chances that the information you provide gets to those it’s designed for.

Structured data is a standardized way to share webpage information with a search engine. While it’s possible for the search engine to crawl your website without this data, it could miss something important.

Even if it seems that search engines’ efforts are limitless, they only have a certain amount of bandwidth and resources to organize efficient search results. 

Just like putting the right amount of stamps on your letter, by focusing on this data, you can make it easier for the search engine to do its job properly, while boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) in the process.

people climbing a mountain

Since the main goal of your SEO tactics is to climb higher on the SERP, helping search engines analyze your site should be a priority. (Image: Unsplash)

How structured data works

Structured data (also called schema markup) is a way of describing your website to make it easier for search engines to index it. By embedding tags of code throughout your pages’ HTML, you’re telling search engines what your content is all about.

As Semrush explains, “Schema markup (schema.org) is a structured data vocabulary that helps search engines better understand the info on your website in order to serve rich results.” Basically, it’s a specific language of this data type. 

Without schema markup, search engines don’t see the “meaning” of your data when crawling a page or site. Instead, they have to make an extra effort to go from “seeing” to “understanding.”

While structured data is not a ranking factor, it simplifies the ranking process. And since the main goal of your SEO tactics is to climb higher on the search engine results page (SERP), helping search engines analyze your site should be a priority.

Benefits of using structured data for SEO

There are a few key benefits of using structured data for SEO. 

1. Improved communication with search engines

When you use structured data, search engines receive all the information they need to understand your website. Without this type of data, Google can miss important details, which can negatively affect your rankings.

Think of schema markup as a translator. It provides a full translation from “human” to “search engine” language. Without the schema markup, search engines have to spend time and effort translating what you want to say.

If you don’t have structured data, the search engine’s translation may not always do a great job interpreting your page’s purpose quickly. In turn, this could cause errors and indexing delays.

Pro tip: Schema.org has its own structured data testing tool you can use to make sure yours is set up properly. HubSpot lists a few other testing tool options here as well.

2. A better shot at rich results

Search engines use the information they get from structured data to create rich results (formerly called rich snippets). Basically, these snippets have more contextual info than regular snippets. 

If you don’t implement it, you lose potential real estate on the SERPs and hinder your SEO efforts. Rich snippets in Google vary from product information and reviews to FAQ and news article headlines.

Google regularly changes its rich results requirements. In June 2021, it limited the number of FAQ rich results to two per search. Regular changes make it even more important to keep structured data clean and readily available.

Since having this data helps you increase the amount of space you take up on the SERPs, you may also see click-through rates rise as a result.

woman standing in a hallway using her laptop next to data

If your website is connected to the Knowledge Graph, it can gain extra real estate on the SERP. (Image: Pexels)

3. Streamlined E-A-T

The expertise, authoritativeness, and trust (or E-A-T) of your webpage’s content plays an important role in your SEO efforts. 

The most important data Google needs in order to determine the page’s quality includes:

  • The page’s purpose
  • E-A-T
  • Main content quality and amount
  • Data about the website and main content creator
  • The main content creator’s (or the website’s) reputation

A big chunk of the information Google requires to assess the above can be sourced from structured data. While E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor, it helps Google understand the overall quality of the page, which affects ranking decisions.

4. Access to Google’s Knowledge Graph

For many websites, getting ahead of the competition involves appearing in Google’s Knowledge Graph. If your website is connected to the Knowledge Graph, it can gain extra real estate on the SERP.

The Knowledge Graph information card appears on the right-hand side of search results. It provides users valuable factual information, which can vary from a country’s population to a company’s contact details.

To make it easier for Google to add your website to its Knowledge Graph, you need to — you guessed it! — implement structured data.

Pro tip: In spring 2022, Google Search Console updated its structured data report to provide more information about invalid markup, according to Search Engine Journal.

5. Better Local SEO

One of the best ways to improve your local SEO efforts is to take advantage of the local business markup. This will help you display info for specific branches of your business, including address, operating hours, contact details, and more.

Structured data also allows you to provide updated information about your company. If there are any changes you want to communicate to the audience, you need to update your schema markup.  

The need for structured data

While it may seem that structured data is optional, failing to use it can put your business at a disadvantage, especially if your competition is leveraging it.

Search engines are always working to meet users’ need for an optimized search. The more resources are required for proper indexing, the less time Google has for interpreting.

In the future, Google is likely to leave pages without structured data for later, turning schema markup into a direct ranking factor. By that time, if your website doesn’t have this data, your rankings will drop dramatically.

man on phone and writing something down with a pencil

Structured data is a communication tool. (Image: Pexels)

How to add structured data to your website

Several ways exist to add this data to your website. They include:

The first two options are fairly straightforward and don’t require coding knowledge. The third one is more complex and detailed. It allows you to ensure extensive clarity of communicating with the search engine.

Need more insight into your structured data or SEO strategy? We can help.

The takeaway

Structured data is a communication tool. Keeping it in good shape means you can provide search engines with the necessary information about your website during crawls. 

While search engines will eventually find this information anyway, adding a schema markup can speed up and enhance the process.

Even though it’s not a direct ranking factor, schema markup affects the way Google assesses webpages. That’s why, today, using this type of data is a must.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2021.

This entry was posted in Blog, SEO and tagged , , , on by .
Caroline Cox

About Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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