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Using Structured Data to Hack Your Rankings

Maybe you’ve decided to invest in content and want to do everything you can to make sure it ranks. Maybe you’ve already invested in content and are now wondering why it’s not ranking as well as expected. Either way, you should know that there’s more to optimizing content than keyword research, relevance, and density.

Structured data markups is a simple, yet effective way to help your content rank more competitively and surpass your competitors. And there are many ways you can leverage it across many forms of content.

Why structured data

Imagine the following scenario: You’ve spent dozens of hours researching and creating a piece of content. You know all the ins-and-outs of the topic, its nuances, the keywords it should target. And now you’re ready to publish it.

But there’s still one crucial detail to the equation: how is your audience going to find it?You’ve figured out how to communicate to your audience, but are you communicating to Google (or other search engines)? To the platforms that will put that message in front of users? 

This is where structured data comes in. In a word, structured data contextualizes your content by optimizing it for semantic research – i.e. user intent and user needs.

How structured data works

In layman’s terms, semantic search allows users to search by ‘meaning’ rather than exact keyword matches. Have you ever had something on the tip of your tongue and tried to reverse-engineer the answer with Google searches? If you answered yes, then you’ve used semantic search.

Structured data is a way of contextualizing content so that Google can understand its semantic relevance and what it’s all about. 

By using structured data, you can provide Google with the context it needs to position your content for relevant semantic searches. Essentially, structured data helps Google (and other search engines) – i.e. a blog post vs a product description vs a Victorian poem about a trans-dimensional corvid (that’s corvid, not covid).

Furthermore, structured data optimizes your content for Rich Snippet inclusion. What are rich snippets? Simply put, rich results are enhanced search results that feature value-added content right in the search results – including thumbnail images, user-ratings, pricing info, and more. More importantly, rich snippets not only make your search results stand out from the competition, but can boost your click-through-rates (CTRs) by 20-40% over the results that lack them. 

SEO what you do

You know the value your business provides better than anyone else, but Google may not – unless you tell’em, of course. Whatever that value is, however, there’s likely a structured data schema that exists to help optimize the pages that convey that value-prop.

Product markup

If your business sells tangible products, then the Product Schema is meant for you. Simply put, it allows you to markup basic product information, such as price, description, product images, and any other relevant product details. 

Services markup

Similarly, the Service Schema showcases the services your business offers, putting them at the forefront of organic searches. Service reviews can help in this respect and can be marked up using the Aggregate Rating schema. A four or five star rating adds credibility to the service your business offers and is more likely to persuade a potential consumer to click – compared to search results without it. 

Apps + Software markup

Downloadable content such as applications and softwares can also be optimized using the Software Application Schema. This will clearly display the app or software’s name as well as illustrate the category it can be found in as well as other relevant information. 

User review markup

Once your products and services are all marked up accordingly, it is important to consider consumer confidence. User reviews and testimonials can play an important role at the point of purchase and are an easy way of building trust with your customers. 

These can be marked up with the Review Schema, showing consumers what they can expect from your product or service. In addition, the Aggregate Rating schema contextualizes reviews and client experiences, showcasing what potential customers can expect. 

SEO what you know

You know your products better than anyone. You know your business better than anyone. And this is knowledge your brand can leverage to dominate in the SERPs.

FAQ markup

It is now time to leverage this and optimize content using structured data. The FAQ Page Schema is commonly used and helps answer all the burning questions your consumers might have. FAQ’s are keyword rich and directly speak to your consumer’s needs

With an increasing number of users typing their questions directly into search engines, FAQs can help you rank above your competitors while offering value-added content. 

How-To markup

Instructional content such as ‘How To’ articles and guides is another effective way to connect with your audience and position your products and services. You may be an expert in your industry, but your consumers are not. 

This content cannot only help you rank on semantic searches, but also convert leads into sales by marking it up using the How To Schema. This schema marks up the instructional content by subsection, total read time, and more. 

Article or Blog markup

Content is everything when it comes to SEO as it regularly engages and communicates with your audience. Traditional blog posts or articles can also help improve your ranking and are ideal to generate brand awareness.

When marked up using the Article Schema or Blog Schema, this kind of content can help propel your brand to the first page of SERPs (and even above the competition). Essentially, quality content is a pillar of SEO, and can help your brand establish itself as an industry leader in its field. 

New release markup

If your business aims to stay atop the latest trends and break industry news as it happens, the News Article Schema is a great way to optimize this type of content. From press releases to news stories, this schema ensures your content reaches its audience in a timely manner. 

Of course, your content needs to be newsworthy. But if it is, crucial details such as date, outlet, and category will not only be featured in the SERPs, but help your content get listed. 

SEO who you are

Your business and your brand are entities that can also be leveraged for SEO. Whether you’re a local business or corporation, whether you employ a large or small team, your brand’s unique identity represents a number of SEO-pportunities.

Local Business and Corporation markup 

First off, whether you are a local business or corporation, there’s a way to not only let search engines know, but also ‘brand signals’ to indicate that your business is a legitimate one. Specifically, the Local Business and Corporation Schema are designed to markup your website content for your business’s coordinates, contact information, pricing, opening hours, and more. 

Friendly tip: Adding your business’s address at the footer of your page will help it emphasize its legitimacy on every page of its site.

About Us markup

An ‘About Us’ page is a common feature on any business’s website, allowing prospective customers or clients to get to know how your business came to be – whether it’s been around for the last century or was recently founded in a your parents’ garage or a loft in some hipster neighbourhood of a major metropolis. 

Whatever the case,  this content can be marked up with the About Page schema which, in turn, emphasizes not only the core information about your business, but strengthens ‘brand signals’ that bolsters its validity. Now, not only do customers, clients, or random users know what you’re all about, but so does Google

Person markup 

Once customers or clients have gotten to know what your brand (and its products) is all about, it might be time to meet the team. The Person Schema is perfect for pages featuring team profiles. Indeed, this schema can highlight a wide range of information, including name, title, contact info, and just about anything that makes your team relatable and unique. And as an added bonus, it can help your business rank for its team members’ names.

Job Posting markup

The final schema to consider when marking up your brand is the Job Posting Schema. This markup can be applied to any job listings on your site, helping those posting rank in the SERPs. This schema can also be applied to job title, salary, employment type, and other key factors related to the available position. 

Putting it all together

Before you run off and markup absolutely everything you can (as you should), you should remember that content is king. Think of it as building the perfect home. Before you start laying all the bricks, you need to make sure the foundation is solid. In other words, if your content isn’t well researched and doesn’t offer your audience value, all the markup in the world will never gain the relevance or traffic your business needs it to. 

In other words, when looking to achieve SEO rankings, don’t forget you are still writing for human beings and not just search engines. While using structured data helps contextualize your brand’s content and ensure that it is optimized for semantic searches, it still needs to speak to your audience and their needs. In many ways, structured data can offer your brand’s content and extra push to help it rank competitively and get the leg up on the competition, but it can’t communicate your brand’s story, value-prop, or USP for you.

Gregory Caltabanis

Content Writer at Socialed Inc. Gregory Caltabanis has nearly a decade of writing experience with a particular focus on sports journalism and most recently, digital marketing. His writing has appeared in a number of publications and magazines. When he is not writing, chances are he is yelling at his defenders on the soccer field. You can follow Greg on Twitter and on LinkedIn!