Using Structured Data to Super-Charge Your Search - My Talk from On The Edge Manchester 2013

I spoke today at On The Edge Manchester, a leading one-day conference for digital maketers; on the subject of using structured data and how to get this mark-up to display rich search snippets.

Here's my slides from the day...

My slides are fairly visual so here's some notes to explain the narrative:
1. Intro

2. Structured data has been impacting search for many years now. The Yahoo! SearchMonkey programme was the first to launch in May 2008, which required a combination of feeds and RDFa (page level), plus a gallery submission process for manual approval.

3. Google took a full year later to announce their support for Rich Snippets informed by structured data mark-up, as their tests showed that users found the additional decision-criteria very useful.

4.  Agenda

5. What types of data can be structured?

6.  Any kind of data that has a structure, or format that helps convey a deeper meaning can be structured data. As an example 10:00 may mean one-zero-colon-zero-zero to a robot, but to a human being it means 10 am.

7. Half a star out of five stars generally means 'crappy' to a human; but how's a machine supposed to know that? We could be an astro site talking about stars all the time!

8. So we've looked at examples of page-level or content level data that can be 'structured' but how does that relate to our organic search efforts?

9. It translates through 'Rich Snippets'; which is a more informative, meaningful, detailed and attractive result snippet. The result snippet being the data that appears in the SERP for your page!

10. Here's a mixed bag of examples of different types of rich snippets that appear for different types of structured data, including a room rating; business card data and recipe data. The recipe snippet showing the image and the time is one of my favourite types of examples to show.

11. Because when we look at the page we can see that the at page level we're shown two time periods; one for preparation time and one for cooking time. And like magic, the search engine has added them up.

12. Awesome!

13. Not really. It's semantic mark-up in the form of these nested microformats - PT30 and PT2H. This is why structured data mark-up has such awesome potential! It's moving toward a (machine) smarter web.

14. So how can we implement this on our sites? Here's where things can get a bit fuzzy

15. Microdata is an HTML specification used to nest semantics within existing content on web pages.

16. A microformat is a web-based approach to semantic mark-up which seeks to re-use existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata and other attributes

17. RDFa is a W3C recommendation that adds a set of attribute-level extensions to HTML, XHTML and various XML-based document types for embedding rich metadata within Web documents.

18. V:Rating = RDFa, hCard = microformats, prepTime, Schema microdata

19. In a Camp David style initiative, in June 2011 the major search engines (Bing, Yahoo! Google and Yandex) all announced support for the microdata vocabulary known as Schema. Going forward we recommend using the Schema protocol for all such implementations.

20. So Schema is both a set of Schema's, a vocabulary and list of hierarchies as well as a sub-set of the microdata specification.

21. Let's have a look at the class types for a recipe schema.

22. cookingMethod, cookTime, ingredients, nutrition, prepTime,
recipeCategory, recipeCuisine, recipeInstruction, recipeYield, totalTime

23. You will recall how our earlier example used schema protocol and also some microdata too.

24. Here's a really pretty product schema example showing AggregateRatings and price

25. Video schema is fairly new(ish) and shows run time and recency. You can also use video sitemaps to get these kind of snippets.

26. Music snippets show a fantastic amount of detail and take up a helluva lot of SERP real-estate so great to get implemented if you have the right kind of content.

27. If you're a developer or HTML proficient you're probably already on downloading implementation guides but don't worry if not as there's a lot of help available.

28. First off, there's a wealth of help and support data as well as the full lists of supported schemas and their hierarchies.

29. Then the clever guys at Raven Tools have developed a free Schema code-generator. You just select the type of schema you want to generate and it will ask you for the required data. You then copy-paste the code.

30. Google also have a structured data mark-up helper which will help you generate the code, but be aware that both these tools currently offer code-generation for only the most commonly (snippet) generating schema. Just to mention just because there is Schema of it, does not mean that there is a visible Rich snippet being generated.

31. The difference with the Google tool is that you can use the visual page and click on data elements to generate the mark-up, so really read-only code skills can make this work.

32. Once the code is generating you add just the highlighted parts.

33. There's also the data highlighter, which should mean no code changes. In this case you simply highlight the bit of your page that is equivalent to a data label and leave it at that. I've yet to get this to work, nor have I spoke to anyone that has

34. Finally there's the Structured Data Testing Tool which you can access through Webmaster Tools. Just submit the URL and G will preview your result based on if your mark-up validates.

35. So what's the point of all this?

36. Rich Snippets generate significantly increased click-through-rates, due to them offering nicely presented additional decision-criteria.

37.On one case study, we recommended Schema AggregateRating and across the set of terms that stayed in the same position month-on-month, CTR increased as much as 300%

38. Similarly after implementing Recipe Schema, we measured up to 195% increase in CTR.

39. Whilst not a 'pure' schema, authorship snippets generate hugely significant CTR's as high as 19% which is almost unheard of for a position 3 organic result and is almost akin to a first place result CTR.

40. Our SEO director Pete often gets as high as 24% CTR when his results are in position 3 or lower. On occasion this site shows both recipe and author schema snippets at the same time and in such cases nobody else gets much of a look-in! Pete possibly has a more trustworthy face than me...

41. So in summary; Schema is a microdata vocabulary supported by all major search engines; plus there's a wealth of free implementation guides, tools and even code generation tools; but most importantly a hugely significant impact to your traffic.

42. Here's a list of recommended reading...

May 23 2013
Nichola Stott
Nichola Stott

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