If you have a website that uses any kind of structured data, then this article is for you. Not sure what structured data is? Here’s a short explanation:
An eCommerce store website usually has a structured way to display its products. A typical product has a price field, a title field, a short description field etc, and usually those elements are placed in the page based on a layout template. Other examples of a website pages that has regular layouts could be a blog post page, or maybe a review page, or a job listing page and so on.
Search engines are very good at figuring out what kind of website you have and whether your pages form some kind of set, but sometimes it’s best not to rely on chance to have each of the fields in templated pages identified as what you intend them to be.
If, for example, you are a regular blogger about movies or TV shows and write a post and a review on each that you have watched. Your blog post will probably have a title that reflects the movie or TV show name. You probably list the director, screenwriter, etc. You may also note running time, episodes, and a review score measured in stars or points of some sort. To ensure each of these elements are recognised by search engines for what they are, you need some kind of signal.
There are two ways you can address this issue:
- You can use Schema markup to tag your data so that it is identified according to a predefined list of formats. Information on how to implement Schema markup on your website is available on http://schema.org.
- For Google search, you can use the Data Highlighter tool available in Google Search Console to begin mapping fields in your website against template fields in Google’s search engine.
Implementing Schema markup can be complicated for most website owners. It’s something that you’d most likely have to ask your web developer to do for you. If you are using a page template for your posts or pages in which you plan to place structured data, they might be added there as a ‘one-off’ and need to be built in a way such that future updates of your website theme software do not overwrite them back to the original unmodified states. One advantage of Schema markup is that you do not have to place it in a page template if you know how to implement it ad-hoc. You can simply tag the elements present in your page via HTML code, but you will need to know how a well-formed tag should look, and have access to the code version of your page content. As an example, WordPress websites offer access to the code content of each page via the page editor.
How Schema Markup Works:
Most website administrators will probably be familiar with using paragraph and heading font formats in their page content. You’ll see that the main heading for a page is most likely in a ‘h1’ tag that looks like this: <h1>Main Heading</h1>. Implementing Schema Markup operates in a similar way, in that the element you want to highlight is embedded with a Markup element, for example: <div itemscope itemtype =http://schema.org/Movie><h1 itemprop=”name”>Avatar</h1></div>. This structure signals two things: a) that the element within the div (division) refers to a Movie, and b) that the item in the H1 tag is the name of the movie. There are hundreds of different markup elements that you might be able to use in your website. Take a look at this page: http://schema.org/Movie to see a list of elements for the Movie category.
Data Highlighter in Google Search Console:
This is the best option for most website administrators, because it has a guided user interface in GSC. It’s a much less complicated system for tagging elements within a page to signal structured data to Google, however it does require that your pages follow a structural template and you can’t really implement this ad-hoc in a single page. Well, technically you could, but it’s impractical to do so.
Using the data highlighter in eCommerce stores or blog websites is where this system comes into its own. You can very easily begin tagging elements within your page according to the product template and available standard fields for that sort of template (product, article, event, book review etc). To access the data highlighter, you need to have your website registered and verified in Google Search Console. You can then access the tool here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/data-highlighter.
Click the “Start Highlighting” button and load any templated page from your website. You can only load pages that exist in Google’s cache, so you’ll need to ensure Google has already crawled and indexed the page templates that you want to tag. To begin, you need to select the type of page you are tagging. Then, it’s as simple as selecting the structured element (let’s say the Title), and assigning the tag type “title” from an available list you predetermined when you selected the page content type. Tag all of the elements for which there is a matching tag. Don’t tag elements that don’t occur or are not regular parts of the page template. For example, your blog post template probably has a fixed title position, fixed author link, fixed breadcrumb link, a fixed position for publish date and maybe a fixed category element. But if you add your author link manually in the body of the content, you may not be able to reliable tag this using the template profile.
Tag at least three or four of your blog posts this way, checking that as you progress, Google is already correctly identifying the tag element, without you needing to tag anything. If it doesn’t tag accurately, consider removing your tag from the template, because it may not be adhering strictly to template rules and may confuse the auto-tagger for any new pages you make in the future.
If you use Product page templates and Blog Post (article) templates on your website, you can divide these into two distinct sets in the Data Highlighter. There’s no limit to the number of sets you make, but the more you make the more likely the tool and template may become ineffective at identifying tagged content in your website.
The disadvantage of tagging using the Data Highlighter in Google Search Console is that it only applies to Google searches. If you want to do the same for other search engines, you need to investigate those to see if data highlighting is also available, and if not, your only option is to use Schema Markup or a similar tagger.
Why should you tag content?
Tagged content will help search engines to correctly identify what a given page is about and how it should be considered against other pages on the internet. Many search engines like Google have filter settings such as ‘shopping’, ‘maps’ or ‘images’ designed to tailor search results to a particular format or type of result. If your product pages are tagged as products, you may gain organic search engine placements in queries about that type of product that previously you might have missed out on. Google is continually developing better ways to display search results so that the user finds exactly what they are looking for. Tagging through the Google Data Highlighter tool helps you get search impressions in Google. And since search impressions are the first step to getting visitors, every single impression you can gain is a bonus. While I haven’t tested exhaustively, I believe tagging does not really have an effect on rank, but it could establish rank where previously you had none. In other words, if you were placed in search results for a product or shopping search in Google already, the tagged data is not likely to have much (if any) effect on your rank there.