Web developers, business owners, digital marketers and SEO account managers will appreciate the introduction of Google’s new SEO evaluation tool that checks to see if a page is eligible for rich results. Rich snippets, rich cards and enriched results have all been rebranded by Google under the heading of “rich results,” in order to simplify top displays of information in the search engine results pages.
Rich results are collated from structured data, which is markup on a page that bots read in order to assist in indexing and cataloguing a site. The new tool tests a website to see if it will be read by search bots and produce a particular result. Currently the evaluation tool is testing for movies, courses, events and job postings.
Rich results displayed by Google in content such as books, articles, carousels of a list of recipes, sitelink search boxes, breadcrumbs (sites hierarchy in the SERP), corporate contact details and organisation logos and other information displayed in a Google knowledge graph.
Google bots crawl through a website in order to evaluate the content and categorise it; structured data added to a website makes this process far more effortless for a bot, because the structured data is compared to the content. This adds to the search engine ranking.
The evaluation tool pulls your structured data up to analyse it, and then extrapolates a result compared to how the content rates in terms of keywords and relevancy to the structured data. This helps determine its placement on the SERP. The future development of search engines means that results are going to be determined more from structured data being included in a page.
Structured Data Improves Site Conversions
With Google pushing Internet-of-Things technology such as Google Home, and conversational search now integrating where a person is located, who they are (demographics) and previous search history, websites are now needing to integrate structured data in order to be indexed.
Structured data is information embedded into a website in HTML code, that is more easily read by a robot than natural human language. This means that the site can get indexed faster, and when the structured data matches the content on the page it can be included into Google’s Snippets or other rich results on the search engine results pages.
Keywords are still going to be important, and content is going to be increasingly important as more websites spring up. User experience still trumps for authoritative content and repeat site visits. As artificial intelligence is pushing more into our everyday experience and mobile searches increase, the importance of structured data in a website is critical.
Robots are proficient at reading code, and therefore as content on a website is placed into a structured format, like as in a database, search engine spiders are far more able to make sense of the data. If your website is geared around it being easy for robots to catalogue and synthesise your information, you increase your likelihood of being displayed in Google’s Rich Results.
What Are Rich Results?
Often people are searching for a fast answer to a particular problem, and want it answered quickly. Instead of them taking hours to find the information that they are looking for, they are now able to simply speak a couple of commands into their Android (or other mobile operating system) assistant and get a quick answer. The websites that are being returned to the search engine results pages are the ones where structured data has been included.
Rich results are like small cards or excerpts that are displayed on a SERP, they can for example have the image of a recipe, and a number of different recipes and their ingredients are presented to be searched on a carousel type part of the SERP.
Take a look below at the rich snippet of SEO Shark:
The types of rich results being presented on Google search engine results pages now are items such as reviews, people, products, businesses, recipes and events. Movies come up in rich results to be displayed in snippets, and Google is bringing other types of information to their rich snippets.
Rich results were designed to give the end user a capsule version of the content on a website. This gives a better “snapshot” or overview of the content, and more relevant information increases the click through rate of a website. If a person is looking specifically for what is on your website, you are missing out on sales conversions if you fail to include structured data. It is one of the best ways to do on page SEO, and will get your site indexed.
If you are targeting traffic and potential customers with high levels of purchase intent, and they have their credit card in hand ready to buy, your structured data will be pushed through to the search engine results page in a rich snippet, and they will click through and buy your product.
What is Structured Data?
Defined by Google, structured data is a ‘standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content,’. It was created as a standard for search engines to be able to more easily map and catalogue different information on the web. Structured data is similar to an ISBN of a book, enabling information to be stored about a particular page and then Google locate it and send it to the SERP when a search query is entered.
There are different forms of structured data, one of the main forms is JSON-LD. Linked data is a way of creating standardised machine readable data that links across the web. This enables for a website that is more responsive and information that is presented in a more logical, faster way. Data can be messy and unrelated, JSON-LD is one way of writing up data that assists in linking pages across the web to improve the Internet and cataloguing of information.
Microdata is another type of format, that is an extension of HTML. There have been a number of HTML tags that have been added to support microdata and rich results; these are included in the markup language in a page.
It is generally useful for a person to be familiar with writing or understand markup language. For websites that are built using WordPress as a platform, there are extensions that automatically build in schema and easily create rich results.
RDFa, or Resource Description Framework in Attributes is another extension to HTML that is being developed by the W3C; by using this, JSON-LD or Microdata, your results get displayed in an enhanced format including images and graphic displays rather than simple text. Methods of creating structured data in a website vary according to the design of the website and the developer.
With the new Google mobile first indexing and AMP project, schemas are now important in being included in a website. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are being developed by Google to create fast page load times for mobile devices, and structured data helps to create lightning fast responsiveness in the web environment. Those results are far more quickly presented than web pages that have to be crawled through and evaluated.
Why Was Structured Data Introduced?
Structured data was introduced to make indexing of websites easier; it helps refine results, filter out irrelevant results, provide greater accuracy relevant to the search query and also provides for better display of results on search pages.
It was created to enhance user experience and with the large expansion of the web and given that in only one minute on the web around 70 domains are registered, it is important that search engines are easily able to catalogue results and quickly present those results in ways that end users are demanding.
Users have come to expect fast page load times; if a person is loading a website on their mobile and its load time is far too slow, likely it will be abandoned. The increases the bounce rate; also if a website has not been catalogued properly, it will also experience a higher bounce rate.
It is critical to ensure that for people to not abandon a website prematurely that the results displayed on a website are properly classified and the content typed in a schema for search spiders to understand far better.
Structured data was introduced to improve website and search engine result page performance. Desktop sites don’t display well on mobile devices so the mobile first index that Google is pushing, particularly in the early part of 2018 will cause a need for web developers to adjust websites accordingly.
Mobiles are used increasingly for searching, and when schema is included in a site, and it is able to be easily displayed in a mobile in an attractive manner, it increases the click through rate. In short it was introduced to create a better mobile user experience on search engines.
Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines are all integrating structured data into their crawls in order to put results in enhanced displays. These enhanced displays read and appear far better on mobile devices.
Best Ways To Include Structured Data on Your Website
For websites that are already written in HTML5, it is a matter of the web developer simply going in and adding the markup, either with JSON-LD, RDFa or Microdata. Using Google’s recommended JSON-LD means that a website can be adapted across multiple programming languages, and it is far better to integrate with web applications databases.
For WordPress sites, extensions can be downloaded and added to WordPress. Simply installing these and then implementing the extension will create a schema across the website. Ensure that your markup is both relevant and accurate, and then run it through the various testing tools.
How Structured Data Can Be Tested?
Google’s new testing tool can be used to evaluate your website for its ability to display structured data. There is a code snippet testing tool that can evaluate your code prior to it being added to your website. Once you have created, tested and debugged your schema markup, it is important to test it once the website is deployed and published.
This is where the Google rich results testing tool can assist. Although it is in a beta development stage at the moment, as more types of schema are added it will prove itself to be invaluable to test all your old legacy websites and improve and update them. For new websites you have built (or had someone built) it will be valuable to assess your site’s ability to generate rich results.
The rich results testing tool explains that it “tests your publicly accessible page to see” which type of rich results can be generated by the structured data included in the page.
The normal phases of developing websites can include designing the content type and classification of the website into the code; design of the pages, content creation and user experience testing and then testing once the website is published on the web.
Regular testing and evaluation of your website it critical to ensure that you have ensured every facet of your site’s design working to prove that its SEO is functioning to the best of what is currently best practice.
When you stay on top of current trends, you ensure that your customer base is able to find the right solution and answer to their required change to their circumstances. Proper and well designed SEO, both on page and off page enhance’s your customer’s experience of your website, and is good customer service.
It also pushes site conversions higher when your results can be displayed in a graphical manner on a search engine with information that is easily understood by the user.
What do you think about this new tool introduced by Google? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Lucas is the Managing Director and the Head of SEO Strategy at SEO Shark. He has over 15 years of experience in achieving SEO results for small and medium businesses as well as multinational and ASX-listed brands. He is also an author of multiple publications about digital marketing.