Have you ever heard of structured data? What if we told you that structured data allows search engines to both crawl your site and to understand its contents. While website elements may seem obvious to human observers, web crawling programs can have problems deciphering them. That's where structured data comes into play.
Structured data, also known as rich data markup, gets added directly to a page's HTML. It's the extra information that you would see next to a website in search results, and its what gets displayed as 'rich snippets'.
For instance, if you Googled a specific news report in your area, the rich snippet would show the usual title and meta description, as well as a video preview underneath. Structured data is what tells Google that the video is closely associated with the report, and therefore to display the video as part of the search result.
If you aren't already using rich data markup as part of your SEO strategy, then your company is missing out on a valuable opportunity to catch searchers' attention. That's because schema tells the search engine what your content means, a step further than what it just says.
Schema and Inclusion in the Knowledge Graph
Google's Knowledge Graph is a recently added tool that helps the search engine answer searchers' questions more effectively. It combines data about different subjects, places, people, and ideas from different resources. When you include structured data markup, you explain exactly who you are, what your business or cause is, or the specifics of your upcoming events to Google. When searchers query Google about something related to your site, because you've given such exact information about your website to Google, your website will be featured more frequently, and site and product information could potentially be displayed more prominently on Google's coveted right sidebar.
For instance, business and website owners can add the necessary rich data markup to their website that will cause Google to display their logo, business phone number, address, and hours of operation within search engine results.
Getting Started with Schema
Because structured data is part of a page's HTML, you're going to want to have a basic familiarity with coding before beginning. That said, there are several great third-party tools like Google's Data Highlighter in Webmaster Tools that are available to help less tech-savvy individuals in incorporating structured data into a targeted website. Business owners who really lack back-end web experience will likely see better results if they consult with a web developer.
Is This an End to Keywords for SEO?
Get rich quick schemes only work for awhile before they break the system, which is sort of what keyword stuffing did for onsite SEO. The over-reliance on trying to game the search engines led many site owners to focus only on ensuring certain keywords were used over and over. This led to poorly written, over-optimized websites being ranked over higher quality content and products more aptly related to searchers' requests.
Google and other search engines are routing out such nefarious behavior by weaving increasingly complex layers of implicit intent into how they display search engine results. This does mean that keywords are fading in importance and semantic SEO and structured data are rising to the forefront. This will increase even more as users transition to mobile-based search. Google is now using location, past searches, and other personalized information to display more relevant products to the searcher.