There’s something simple you can do that will improve the way your website appears in search engine results and the click through rate to your pages. It sounds techie but it turns out it’s straightforward.
This is the fourth episode in our series called Tech Arrghhh in which I try and demystify some common tech questions.
In episode 90 we looked at UTM tracking links and how you can use them to measure success
In episode 91 I decided it was time to find out if posting duplicate content to LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook notes would damage your SEO
In episode 92 We looked at whether you should move your site to HTTPS
Structured data is one of those tech terms that was wrecking my head. I’d been told it would improve the way my site would look on Google but I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why.
So I asked an expert. Sandra Hennesy is my go to person for SEO so I went to her and asked her to explain it to me and to you. It turns out Structured Data is nowhere near as scary as it sounds and it’s helped Sandra triple click throughs to her SEO Bootcamp event.
Listen below to find our how to easily implement structured data
What is structured data?
People often make the mistake of thinking that structured data will get them a better search engine ranking. It’s not really about getting a better ranking but more about getting the click when you get the better ranking.
I refer to structured data is a vocabulary or language. All the search engines have come together and said, if you use this we will all recognise it. It gives them a better understanding of your page
If I add structured data do I get those cards appear in search results?
Yes, by adding structured data you are improving your ‘snippet’ (your listing on Google). For some snippets, you’ll have cards come up, for example, recipe cards.
Structured data for articles and blogs allow you to add a date and maybe a review. It’s about improving how you look in the search results so that Google can represent you properly. Because of this it will, without a shadow of a doubt increase your click through rate if you are using it properly.
Let’s take the recipe one as an example how does that work?
If you aren’t using structured data you probably have a standard search engine listing which will include a title, a couple of lines of description and the link through to the recipe.
Recipes are one of the areas where you will see most use of structured data. If I do a search for ‘recipe for mince pie filling’, the top result I’m seeing is a BBC food recipe.
I can see the image, I can see the user rating, I can see it will take me 20 minutes to make and it’s 70 calories.
What that is doing is qualifying the link before I click. I’m far more likely to click that one than another that only has the standard title, description, and image.
On mobile, recipes display in a rich carousel card, in a box. People will slide across the different recipes to find the one they want.
Google is constantly changing the way they are using markup. The way it’s used today will be different from the way they use it tomorrow because they are testing how things work.
You can set these up for events too?
Yes, absolutely. I actually tripled the click through rate for my SEO Bootcamp just by adding my structured data. When people look for SEO Bootcamp you’ll see my standard listing but you’ll also see the event listed below it.
If you run events you can have up to three listed with your standard search engine results.
Once again it’s qualifying the user better. If they can see the event they are interested in they will click on that rather than the landing page where they may have to go and seek out the info they want.
It sounds scary and difficult
It is one of the most technical areas of SEO but the good news is, you don’t have to have a technical team to implement it.
The easy way to set it up is through your Google Search Console. I’m a big fan of Search Console because it gives you a lot of information about your SEO, your website and any issues you might have.
There is a cool report in there called ‘Structured Data’ which will tell you if you are using structured data, what pages are using it and if there are any issues to fix.
The first thing you should do is find out which pages are already using structured data. If you are using WordPress most templates will have some level of it. Typically there will be errors.
For example, it might tell you there are no author details on the article. You can fix this by marking up the name of the author on the page.
It sounds very complicated but I’m going to give you a tool now that makes it uncomplicated.
For articles, your author info is important but the date is also important. When people do a search. Let’s say they ask a question. People want relevant answers. They want to know when the article was published.
If an article comes up that was published in 2014 it’s not going to be as relevant as something published this year. People are more likely to click the up to date article. I would always recommend having a publish date on your articles.
And we can add all this information using the tool you were talking about?
Yes, make sure each page you have that you want to add data to is consistent. That it has the exact same format and the exact same layout.
When you use the data highlighter tool I’m going to tell you about you’ll only need to mark up five pages. Google will then use that markup for the whole site.
For example, If you are selling products you might have thousands on your site. You just mark up five and Google will roll that across the whole site automatically.
That’s why all your pages have to be consistent. If they have a different layout Google can’t roll it out and you’ll have to mark up every page on your site, not just five.
We have our pages ready, we’re ready to mark them up. How do we do that?
Go into your Search Console, on the left-hand side you’ll find ‘Search Appearance’ and ‘Data Highlighter’ and that’s the tool you are going to use to add structured data to your website.
Watch the video they give you on this page. It will take you through how to use it.
Then you start highlighting. You tell it which page you want to mark up. For example, the link to a blog article. Google will take you through the process to mark it up.
You will highlight the headline and mark that as the title of the article. You can then highlight the date to tell it that that’s the date it was published. It’s very much a point and use tool.
This is about Google understanding what your content is about and properly representing you in search results.
After you have marked it up it will pull in five similar pages. You go through each of those and make sure that Google has marked those up properly. Then you just save it and Google will roll it out across your site. As you add new pages it will roll out that structured data to those too.
That’s it? I don’t have to go and copy that code and put it on my site?
That’s right, you don’t have to touch the code at all. I used that tool to mark up my event and it tripled the click through rate on that page.
Is there a plugin that can add reviews to your blog posts?
You’re probably better at using an independent software package. I’ve been looking at Feefo.
Is there a site we can look at that’s using Structured Data well?
Littlewoods Ireland, this isn’t something you can do through Data Highlighter but notice how you can see the search bar in their Google listing. Now instead of having to click through the site I can find the exact item I want to buy from within Google.
Find out more about Sandra’s SEO Bootcamp here.