April 26, 2013 Leave a Comment
Merchants looking for new ways to optimize their sites for better placement in organic search results listings are accustomed to focusing on content, and specifically on the substance of the text and images on their sites’ pages. But another aspect of that content is increasingly important — the structure of the information, as presented in the back-end code of the page.
As presenter Richard Chavez of PM Digital outlined in his SEO presentation at the recent MarketLive Summit, merchants can now tag discrete pieces of content within a given page, making those snippets easier for search engines to parse, recognize and display within search results listings. Elements such as videos, the average rating for a product, the price, and search-engine friendly descriptions can all be called out by these specialized tags.
This structured data isn’t exactly new; its widespread adoption began in the spring of 2011, when Google, Microsoft and Yahoo announced a joint effort called Schema.org to standardize tagging of page elements. But structured data took on especially heightened significance for merchants as of November of 2012, when Google integrated a set of specialized eCommerce vocabulary called GoodRelations into Schema.org — radically expanding the number of potential attributes merchants could tag. The number of product-specific properties grew from eight to 25, and the number of offer-specific properties allowing merchants to tag price and discount information grew from 10 to 27, according to Search Engine Land.
While the prospect of retagging their sites may give merchants pause, adopting structured data should be a top SEO priority. Two of the many reasons why:
Enhanced search results listings have higher click-through rates. Sites implementing structured markup can see a 30% increase in traffic from organic search engine results, according to content management system provider Webnodes, while GoodRelations claims search result listings using structured markup achieve 30% higher click-through rates than unmodified listings. Among the unsponsored listings for “Cole Haan ballet flats”, the video from Zappos and the rating summary from Bloomingdales are more eye-catching than the top two results from the manufacturer and Amazon. The listings for Bloomingdales and Nordstrom incorporate custom descriptions that are both concise enough to be displayed in their entirety and catchy enough to encourage further engagement. “How could a chic, flexible ballet flat get any more comfortable?” asks the Bloomingdales copy, while the Nordstrom description calls attention to details such as “Diminutive drops of gold” and “comfy Nike Air.”
Markup helps physical locations stand out. By calling out individual store details with specialized tags, merchants can achieve greater visibility for their physical outlets, with the address, phone number, events and even hours listed in the search results listing — an advantage that’s especially crucial for mobile search results, streamlining access to information for on-the-go shoppers. On a smartphone, REI’s individual store location listing, which is tagged with structured location markup, consumes most of the screen, with not only a map, but store hours and a click-to-call icon integrated into the display.
To learn more about structured markup, read the “Getting Started” guide on Schema.org. And check out Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, which displays what structured markup is detected on pages, and Data Highlighter, which enables tagging of page content without recoding.
Are you now using structured markup, or do you plan to do so? Why or why not?