Google Knows Keywords are Imprecise
Different strings of words can refer to the same entity.
The same keyword phrase can describe 2 different things.
Keywords are just not a reliable way of designating real-life things.
That's why Google adopted their “Things not Strings” Philosophy and implemented the Knowledge Graph in 2012.
The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used to enhance Google results with information gathered from a variety of sources.
These are the problems that structured data aims to solve.
By focusing less on “strings” (keyword phrases alone) & speaking the language of Search Engines, you will improve your opportunities to rank.
Knowledge Graph information is often presented to users in an infobox next to the search results.
How does understanding this help your business?
Google no longer relies on just Keywords it encounters on websites to understand the overwhelming amount of data on the internet. It's too easy for that system to be gamed.
Google increasingly uses its' Knowledge Graph to understand the world so that it can provide the best search results.
By increasing the presence of your business in Google's Knowledge Graph, you can give your business a chance to be better featured in search results.
Structured Data: An important strategy for getting your business in the Knowledge Graph.
There are many strategies for what can be called Knowledge Graph Optimization, and using Structured Data on your website is an important one.
What is Structured Data?
Structured data is standardized metadata which can be used to provide specific details about your website, content, and business to search engines.
So what is metadata?
Metadata is data that describes and gives information about other data, and is generally behind the scenes and not visible to website users.
It is only revealed by review of the HTML which creates a web page.
This is exactly how search engines see your web pages. Not as the gorgeous layouts with fancy fonts and images, but as a long string of characters. A search engine's job is to review those characters and to determine as much as it can from that information.
Structured Data Schemas are Documented at Schema.org
Schema.org was created in 2011 and is a collaboration between Google, Yahoo, Bing & Yandex to create a shared “vocabulary” for describing web content.
Schema.org is not a formal standards body. Schema.org is simply a site where the schemas that several major search engines will support are documented.
What is the point of standardizing Schema? In short...to make the web better.
Automated data extraction by search engines is great when it works, but it can be error prone because different sites can represent the same information in so many different ways.
Markup provides a consistent way for computers to understand the data on a page, and helps search engines display information usefully in search results.
Better for Search Engines
Schema.org focuses on defining the item types and properties that are most valuable to search engines.
This means search engines will get the structured information they need most to improve search.
Better for Webmasters
Schema.org provides webmasters with a single place to go to learn about markup, instead of having to graft together a schema from different sources, each with its own rules, conventions and learning curves.
Better for Users
When it is easier for webmasters to add markup, and search engines see more of the markup they need...
Users will end up with better search results and a better experience on the web.
Why Is Structured Data Important for SEO?
Structured Data helps Google explicitly understand important information about your business. Here is an example...
First..Imagine you are Googlebot...
You are indexing a web page of a roofing business.
Part of your mission is to discern the physical location of the business.
If you know the location, you can determine when it is valuable to show that business in The Google 3-Pack Search Results for local searchers in the same geographic area.
There is always another algorithm update waiting in the wings to take your job so you need to focus!
This is easy!
- Step 1: Parse the characters on the page with your algorithm super brain.
- Step 2: Locate a pattern of letters and numbers which has the characteristics of an address.
- Step 3: Remark how easy this is for your super computer brain...Success!
….Well, Maybe 🙁
Because we can only apply so much confidence to the idea that the address we found is relevant for the local intent we want to justify.
We can't be sure it's the address of the business.
- It's possible the address is actually that of a business in another town for which the roofer did a job.
- Perhaps the address is the business's old location and they are juts letting people know they have moved from there.
- Maybe the address is that of the location of a roofing convention the roofer recently attended to learn all the latest roofing techniques.
Without some very specific cues you (Googlebot) won't be too confident that the data we found is the actual address of this roofing company.
This is where structured data comes to the rescue!
How Does Structured Data Help in this example?
How Can a Business Use Structured Data?
The ways in which content can be described by structured data are only limited by the available vocabulary at Schema.org. However, search engines are not actively using all of the content types described by Schema.org...yet, anyway.
Following are some common uses of structured data for business that ARE used by search engines.
More Examples of Structured Data for a Business to Explore
For reference, these are other examples of Structured Data. Some of these apply only to certain types of businesses or websites. However, the vocabulary of Structured Data is expanding and changing all the time, so a new opportunity may be just around the corner.
Implementing Structured Data on a WordPress Website
Schema.org vocabulary can be used with many different encodings. The 3 main ones are RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD.
JSON-LD is recommended by Google and also a W3C Standard, so that is the way we recommend implementing Structured Data. (See the video below showing how to implement Structured Data on a WordPress site.)
Use a WordPress Plugin for Structured Data
Here is a list of a few.
- WP SEO Structured Data Schema Plugin* - Only does JSON, and is easy to use. Does not include Reviews. *This is the plugin we regularly use.
- WP Customer Reviews Plugin - Focuses only on reviews. Be careful to adhere to Google guidelines for reviews.
- RDF Translator - Convert JSON to Microdata to include manually on your site in a Text Widget, in a theme template, or with a WordPress hook. (Helpful for reaching Bing)
- Yoast SEO - (Organization only, JSON & Open Graph Microdata. No Local Business.)