Why You Need to Understand Structured Data - Here's Why #79 | Perficient Digital

Why You Need to Understand Structured Data – Here’s Why #79

Using structured data markup is a good way to help search engines find, understand and feature important information on your site. That means they can do a better job of helping the right people find you in search. A recent session at SMX Advanced in Seattle revealed a number of interesting innovations in the area of structured markup. In this episode, we’ll fill you in on what those are.

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Hi, I’m Mark Traphagen of Perficient Digital. With me today is Eric Enge. Recently, Eric and I attended SMX Advanced in Seattle, and while there Eric covered Aaron Bradley’s highly informative session covering what’s new with markup and structured data. First off, Eric, what is structured data?

Eric: Okay. First of all, you can think of structured data as what we call linked data. Let me explain what I mean by that. First of all, I’m going to relate it to the way you think of links on a regular web page. What links on a regular web page do is they make additional content accessible because you can click on that link and go to that page. Well, there’s an analogy along these lines with data within the HTML of a website. On a given page you might have some data inside the HTML. Actually, it’s pretty hard for a third-party program to parse through that data and figure out what the unique elements are. But, when we put something in a structured data format, it becomes far more accessible for those third-party programs to get to.

Having said that, structured data basically makes certain types of web content highly accessible and understandable by search engines and other third-party programs. Because the data on the page is tagged with standardized identifying code, it’s far easier to process and interpret than a regular web page. For some time now, the standard for structured data markup for web pages has been schema.org, a repository for standard markup agreed upon by all the major search engines. More recently, there are newer forms of markup that can go beyond what the traditional search engines use.

Mark: Like what?

Eric: Well, in the world of mobile apps, for example, there’s a real need for speed. For example, Facebook’s instant articles feature allows publishers to format their content in a certain protocol. It enables Facebook to present the content on their mobile app almost instantly in a very mobile-friendly presentation.

Mark: Google, of course, is doing something similar with its open source AMP project, too.

Eric: Right. In fact, I ran some tests on our own content using the AMP protocol and saw a 71% reduction in page size. Our mobile page speed score in Google’s page speed insights tool went from 43, shown in red because that ain’t good, to 88, shown in green because that’s a great page flow speed.

Effect of Google AMP on page speed
Mark: These latest forms of markup are aimed at displaying content faster and well adapted to smaller screens. Very smart in a time when the majority of online time is being spent on mobile devices.

Eric: Indeed. There are other examples happening right in search such as Google’s rich cards. It’s built on the notion of rich snippets and uses schema.org markup to allow the display of content in the SERPs in a more engaging visual format. It also makes it easier for Google to mix and match different types of presentation units in its results.

Here you’re seeing mobile results for the same query. On the far left are the standard Google results we’re used to and a series of blue links. In the center, we see results shown as rich snippets. Rich snippets show a bit more information than regular results, in this case, a small image and sometimes review stars. On the far right, we see the newer rich cards.

Notice the larger images and the use of sliders and carousels, enabling the mobile user to see more in the confined space of a smartphone screen. 

Mark: Very cool. One more thing before we close this episode, Eric. Tell our viewers about a tool Google has that can help them implement structured data correctly.

Eric: Sure. It’s called the structured data testing tool. You can enter any web page or even a snippet of your code and the tool will tell you if you have any structured data errors. 

Mark: Of course non-website based implementations of structured data markup, such as Facebook’s instant articles, have their own ways of testing and validating your implementation.

Eric: Right. If you’re using them, you’ll need to research how to properly prepare your content for those platforms. 

Mark: Thanks, Eric. Eric’s Search Engine Land article has several more interesting examples of how structured data and markup is being used online. You’ll want to check it out at the URL on your screen now. 

Eric: Before we go, a reminder that we’d love to address your questions about any topic in digital marketing in future episodes of “Here’s Why”. So, leave us a question in the comments below, and maybe we’ll be giving you a shout out in a future episode of “Here’s Why”.

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2 responses to “Why You Need to Understand Structured Data – Here’s Why #79”

  1. Omi Sido says:

    Let’s talk about AMP 🙂

  2. Would love to share some ideas on the strategic nature of structured data outside of SEO, such as semantic analytics and open data. Great introduction, loved Aaron’s presentation as well!

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