Over a decade ago, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, and other search engine giants got together and decided to declutter the internet.  Their solution?  A tool called schema.  The goal of schema is to structure the data of the internet’s webpages for accessibility and ease.  With marked-up content, Google or other search engines can scan the content and provide it quickly as the response to a relevant query.  This content shows in the form of a rich snippet, which could be anything from a recipe to a business profile.  Today, millions of websites use structured data, but structured sites account for only 1% of the internet’s content.  Google has a new solution: Google My Business, a platform for structured data, which Google can control on its own.

What is structured data?

Structured data is a form of code that allows search engines to interpret a website’s content easily.  TSearch engines present results in a more rich manner through structured data.  There is no proof that a website will structured data will rank higher but is more pleasing and enticing to view.  Google prefers JSON-LD code for structured data, though Microsoft and RDFa coding exist too.   SEO professionals agree that structured data can improve the clickthrough rate on your website, and it is necessary to seeing growth for your business, both online and in reality.

Why is structured data important?

Structured data is essential because it is a way for crucial information about your business or product to show up quickly and in a manner that is easy to view.  Many websites use structured data to improve the way content is displayed, including Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Bing, Google, and many others.

Additionally, with structured data, Google can quickly capture essential details on your company and the content that you are publishing on your website.  The search engine can then display the results more prominently in search results without the searcher needing to click on the link to your site.  Google calls the presentation of schema in search results rich snippets, and they improve Google’s overall service and the click-through rate to your website.

Structured data can improve the reputation of your website

If search engines can see that your website is reputable, then your site will likely start to see better overall rankings.  Another way in which structured data helps SEO is because rich snippets offer more information about a website, and the more information there is, the more likely someone is to click on the site.  After a while, more clicks will lead to higher rankings.  It is clear that structured data has many benefits, so you may be wondering why so few of the internet’s websites are using it!

Structured data improves popular voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home and AI capabilities of supercomputers.

Structured data is necessary for voice-activated systems like Google Home and Alexa to work, as the operating systems must be able to crawl for the most accessible data.  When the website data us structured, computers and search engines can be more helpful to when people need answers to questions and facts for decision making.   The proliferation of voice assistants has changed the way we interact with websites as SEO has turned to a focus voice search optimization.

Why is structured data not commonplace?

There are a couple of main reasons why structured data is not commonplace on the internet today, many years after its initial introduction.  One of these reasons is that many content management systems, such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal, do not have coding tools for structured data.  Hence third-party plugins are increasingly crucial for implementing structured data.  Honestly, many people, including web developers, do not have the time, energy, or money to put into building structured data.

Additionally, many people who made their websites themselves may not have the JSON-Ld coding experience to implement structured data.  As a solution to this problem, Google created its Structured Data Highlighter Helper tool.  This tool allows people without coding experience to mark schema on their websites, thus making their websites structured-data friendly.  However, it is not necessarily the most talked-about tool, and many people still don’t know about it.

Google is slowly replacing Structured Data with its own proprietary Google My Business data.

Since the introduction of structured data, Google has tried to get as many websites as possible to use structured data.  However, it is primarily up to web developers to either code their websites themselves or use Google’s tools.  The vast majority are not doing either.  Google wants to structure the web, however, so they’ve taken matters into their own hands with Google My Business.

How is Google My Business like structured data?

Google My Business is a free profile each business has on Google that a business owner can verify and customize with information to make their company most accessible.  When building a Google My Business profile, owners label themselves under appropriate categories.  These categories are a form of structured data, as are other Google My Business features.

Google has expanded its Google My Business features to include structured data categories.  For example:

  • On June 16th, 2018, Google Added “what’s new,” “products,” “offers,” and event type posts.
  • June 27th, 2019 Google opened the Product Editor to all categories of businesses by Expanding Product, Menu and Services Editor availability
  • June 24th, 2019, Google created Special Promotional offers or “Welcome offers” for customers who follow your business on Google My Business.

Google is just getting started!  We expect Google to continue to expand Google My Business features to capture as much structured data as possible.  Once this information is in your Google My Business profile, only Google has the rights to use it.  No other search engine or site has access to it, unlike your website’s structured data.  Therefore, Google owns the information in Google My Business, and it does not have to share it.

Why did Google abandon making the web more structured to focus on Google My Business?

Google can obtain much more information about a firm, with Google My Business, without web developers needing to do anything.  When Google My Business started, Google bought information about companies across the globe.  They then began building profiles that search engine could easily crawl and index.  Through Google My Business, Google is developing structured data without having to rely on web developers to update websites.

When I search for a business near me, is Google My Business the first result?

Currently, Google has a couple of options for what will come up when you search for local businesses.  Google can show the profile of a company in its search results if it has structured data on its website.  The profile will look similar to Google My Business but uses schema markup.  Alternatively, Google can show its Google My Business Profile.    Given Google My Business’s rapid growth, you are most likely to see a Google My Business profile.  You will want to make sure that the structured data on your website matches your Google My Business profile.  If it does not, there is a chance that neither profile will rank well!

Should I have structured data on my website and Google My Business?

Only Google has control over Google My Business data. You will want to have structured data on your website, so the entire internet has access to it.  Google will recognize when you tag structured data like your company name, address, and hours of operation on your website.  If this information lines up with your Google My Business profile, your structured data will emerge higher in rankings.

Can structured data on my website rank above my Google My Business Listing?

The results depend on the search and whether or not Google My Business has the same information.    Google does not want to depend on your website for content; however, if your website is more relevant, it may be given priority.  Given Google’s obsession with speed and performance, we expect search results to display Google’s proprietary data first.   Your Google My Business profile is more likely to appear first because Google owns this data.  However, if your structured data conflicts with Google My Business, your website rankings, and your profile may drop.

What’s next for web developers and general structured data?  Should I structure my site now?

For many small and local businesses, developing and optimizing their company’s Google My Business profile is an easy option.  Google My Business does not require a web developer.  Your listing is free and targets local customers who are looking for your products or services. So, structured data is, by many standards, less helpful than a Google My Business profile now, especially for small businesses.

Schema on your website will help you reach a larger audience than Google My Business

As you can probably tell in your everyday life, the Internet is changing rapidly.  Thus the way we optimize our businesses should change with it.  Structured data on your website will help you reach the biggest possible audience.  Social media, major search engines, and voice assistants like Siri, Alexa Echo, and Google Home also use structured data from the Internet.  Make the choice that will lead to higher rankings, more clicks, and eventually more business for your company!

If you are looking for help implementing structured data or developing your Google My Business profile, please reach out to Boston Web Designers- we have the skills it takes to boost your company’s internet presence.