Earlier this month we heard rumblings of a new change in Google’s algorithm thanks to a Hangout with Google Switzerland’s John Mueller (read more about the talk here). While no announcements have been made, what was said may create a new checklist item for SEO workers. The importance and utility of structured data and Schema has long been understood, but it may become a part of Google’s ranking algorithm. In order to understand what it means, we need to break this down into a few parts and answer some questions.
What is Structured Data?
Structured data (synonymous with Schema) is simply a very clear way to tell search engines what your website is. Typically, search engines crawl your website looking for keywords, titles, headings, etc. to find out what your website deals with in order to rank it. As a website administrator, you can add code to your website that clearly tells search engines your company name, hours, phone number, address and even cite specific reviews. This data then helps search engines place you in rankings and even show your information more clearly. For instance, if someone searches “ABC Restaurant hours” and ABC Restaurant has informed Google what their hours are, Google can display the hours of the restaurant without requiring the user to comb through search results to find this information.
Why Do I Need Schema?
Currently, the biggest benefit of Schema is given to users. While it allows companies to somewhat control their search engine presence, it eliminates a barrier between a user’s question and the answer. By doing this, not only are you helping search engines display your information, but you are answering some of the most common questions asked by your customers (both potential and current). Every company should be using structured data because it is an easy way to clarify what your website stands for, which both customers and search engines appreciate.
What if I Don’t Have Structured Data?
What Mueller’s comments suggest is that not having structured data could very well hurt your search rankings in the long run. While your rank is not affected by structured data yet, in the future it may be. Suppose that your company sells used cars. If you are Google and are trying to match a user’s question of “Used Cars near me”, would you rather show them a website that has clearly told you it sells used cars or take a chance that your algorithm has correctly defined another website. For Google, there is no guesswork in showing the website with structured data. If you are the company without Schema, it makes perfect sense for Google to rank your competitor above you.
If your website has yet to add structured data, contact Thoughtwire Media to begin helping your customers find you.