Schema.org: How Search Engines Use Structured Data

Schema.org: How Search Engines Use Structured Data

Search engines are constantly improving their indexing algorithms. Every day it gets a little bit easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. But how can you help the search engines out so that customers can find you easier? How does a search engine know what it’s looking at? It all has to do with structured data. 

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Schema.org is a set of web standards that have been developed and agreed upon by Bing, Google, and Yahoo search engines. The standard sets forth a specific set of types, or various items, that help the search engine gain context into what it’s indexing. 

How does it work?

When a search engine indexes content on your site it does not know context about what it’s indexing. The content is just that, content. So, by introducing structured data you’re providing the search engine context. 

A really good example of structured data is that of the knowledge panel that’s displayed for some searches on Google and Bing. Say you’re searching for a local business. With structured data you can provide the search engines an address (that it knows is an address), a phone number, a logo image, and key employees associated with the business. 

When a search engine encounters this structured data it now knows context. It knows the data it has found is a LocalBusiness type. It knows that the PostalAddress within it relates to that LocalBusiness. Now search engines can become smarter. Here’s an example they provide for LocalBusiness type:

<div itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
<h1><span itemprop="name">Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware</span></h1>
<span itemprop="description">A superb collection of fine gifts and clothing to accent your stay in Mexico Beach.</span>
<div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<span itemprop="streetAddress">3102 Highway 98</span>
<span itemprop="addressLocality">Mexico Beach</span>,
<span itemprop="addressRegion">FL</span>
</div>
Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">850-648-4200</span>
</div>

Without structured data on the above content a search engine would just index “Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware”, “A superb collection of fine gifts and clothing to accent your stay in Mexico Beach.”, “3102 Highway 98 Mexico Beach, FL”, and “850-648-4200”. However with the structured data the search engine knows that it’s encountered LocalBusiness data. Inside that data it knows the name of the LocalBusiness is Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware. It also knows there’s an PostalAddress attached to the LocalBusiness. The PostalAddress contains a streetAddress of 3102 Highway 98, an addressLocality (or city) of Mexico Beach, and an addressRegion (or state) of FL. Lastly, it also knows this LocalBusiness has a telephone number of 850-648-4200. 

Because it has this context it can create a map listing for this business (or update an existing listing.) It can help someone searching locally to find a local business. It can format a click-to-call link for the business because it knows it found a phone number. 

Utilizing structured data for my tour and activity business

It’s recommended to use structured data for business data like name, description, image/logo, hours, address, and telephone number. You can also use structured data for the tours you offer as well as promotions or deals. This is just a small portion and you can easily add many different types of structured data to your website. 

TRYTN also uses structured data on product detail pages to help customers book direct with you through TRYTN. Clients who have TRYTN-built websites already have structured data implemented. 

Is there such a thing as too much structured data?

Yes and no. This is a complicated question. Search engines don’t all consume the same structured data types. Those they don’t consume they will simply ignore. Some structured data (like recipes) they consume in a greater capacity than others. So while it won’t hurt your site to use structured data types that aren’t consumed it’s also probably not a worthwhile use of your time and money. Stick to the tried-and-true types that the majority of the large search engines consume readily. 

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