Structured data is not a new thing, the Schema.org initiative was launched on the 2nd of June 2011 by Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It is a shared vocabulary which provides search engines with more detailed information on web pages, this allows search engines to offer rich experiences within their search results for certain information.
You may not know much about the benefits and capabilities of using structured data on your website, but Google just made a move that makes structured data much more important than it ever has been.
In much the same way that Google placed emphasis on the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, by introducing the likes of Google AMP pages they are now doing the same with structured data. On the 17th of May 2016, Google announced “Rich Cards”.
Rich cards are a new format for displaying content within the search results, which Google states is:
A more engaging and visual format, with a focus on providing a better mobile user experience.
The significance of this move by Google has been re-enforced by them including Rich Cards in the Search Console, and also releasing a new set of tools to help webmasters to implement and test their Rich Cards. To access Rich Cards you will find it in the Search Appearance section of the navigation within Search Console:
As it stands (at the time of writing this post) there are only two categories being displayed on mobile results, recipes and films but there will be cards for products, events, reviews etc being rolled out shortly. Google have created a gallery which shows examples of the types of cards available, and also an example of the code implementation for each.
View the full gallery here : https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-gallery
Along with the new gallery, Google has revamped their structured data testing tool which will allow you to make sure you have everything marked up correctly and in working order. With the inclusion of Rich Cards in the search console, you will also now be able to monitor Rich Card performance via the Rich Card Reports, this will show you errors such as invalid cards, but also allow you to spot opportunities to implement Rich Cards by presenting “Enhanceable Cards”.
This move by Google signifies that they are going to begin placing more importance on structured data which is why you need to start thinking about including structured data in your website where possible. There is also an opportunity here to capitalise within the mobile search results, as Google’s Rankbrain now looks to present the most contextually relevant content to its users. This means if you have a great piece of content and it uses compliant structured data you could be given preference at the top of the search results – over a site that may have similar content but may not have structured data implemented.
As it stands it can be an arduous task implementing structured data which is why a lot of sites do not go out of their way to do so, but if you are willing to put in the effort it can pay off big time. If you want to understand more about semantic search and why structured data is important, check out Mike Arnesen’s Searchfest2016 presentation on understanding and facilitating semantic search. Mike also wrote a great article on how to track performance and ROI of structured data which you can read here.
I know what you are thinking now, there has to be a scalable way to implement this? Well, there could be, we are in the process of testing using Google Tag Manager to insert Schema.org markup dynamically using JSON-LD. Google strongly recommend using JSON-LD to implement Rich Cards in their announcement post:
We strongly recommend using JSON-LD in your implementation.
Chris Goddard (the Director Of Marketing at SERPS.com) put together this great post on how to implement and test this. I advise going and reading about how Chris did it and then testing it out yourself, he was even kind enough to make his example code available which you can also find below:
So it is time to stand up and take notice of structured data and how your website could benefit from having it implemented, good luck and we would love to see any examples of your tests!