There’s no doubt that SEO and the way search engines like Google order their results pages have changed dramatically over the last few years. Better technology, in particularly more intuitive AI solutions, mean that getting to the top of the pile is a lot less about careful keyword selection or stuffing those assets carelessly into your text.

Structured data is a way of providing Google with the information it needs to display your pages properly. This is a method of coding that is always delivered in a standardised format and is specifically designed for computers and programmes like web crawlers to read, understand and evaluate.

Let’s say that you have a recipe page. If you are reading it as a standard web page, as a human being you can easily pick out the key aspects like the ingredients and the way to cook a particular meal. For web computers, this isn’t such an easy thing. They require a little help to figure out what is important. This means you need to add mark-up language – little text or coding snippets that tell the programme what it’s looking at. It doesn’t change the formatting or look of your page but works underneath what you see, a lot like Meta titles and descriptions, and helps important information appear in search results.

The main structured data components that Google search looks at are:

  • Microformats: Code that is used to specify published items, including reviews and information about people and businesses as well as products.
  • RDFa: In longhand this is ‘Resource Description Framework in attributes’ and is specifically a HTML5 extension and allows you to describe user-visible content.
  • Microdata: This is a mix of RDFa and Microformat and uses simple attributes such as span and div to assign descriptions and names to properties.
  • Page Date: This basically does what it says on the tin and assigns a date to your page.

While these may look a little complicated, particularly if you don’t have much understanding on how the underlying code works on a web page, they’re important for developing a strong, workable SEO strategy. They don’t in themselves improve your ranking on search engines.

The key to Custom Search in Google is making it easier for users to find exactly the page or information they are looking for. For example, if you have a website selling phone apps, including search structured data can give users access to appropriate information at a glance such as ratings and cost. That means you’re more likely to be clicked on and more people will head through to your site.

Google and other search engines have long been encouraging web designers to incorporate structured data and its generally thought that successful implementation can improve visibility and click through rates because of the additional information provided to users. When you consider that most of Google’s advances in the past few years have been towards developing AI that creates a personalised experience you can see how including search structured data is beneficial.

Getting search structured data into your content strategy currently has applications for search results such as rich snippets and knowledge graphs, both of which have higher click through rates.

Including structured data does not necessarily improve your search engine ranking and it doesn’t guarantee appearing as something like a rich snippet – what it does do is make your search results appear more attractive to users and makes you, hopefully, more relevant.