In previous posts in this ongoing series on Local SEO, I have examined many aspects of search engine optimization for local businesses, ranging from an overview of ranking factors to taking a close look at the Google 3 Pack.
In today’s article, I’ll take a look at structured data, and how it can be used to improve a local business’s visibility in search results.
What is Structured Data?
Generally speaking, the term “structured data” refers to any data that is organized in any fashion (pretty obvious, no?). For example, a drawer full of index cards with random notes and messages would be considered “unstructured.” However, if you organized these cards into categories, alphabetized them, ordered them by date, etc. this data would then be considered “structured.”
So how does this relate to local business and online search? Well, have you ever searched for details for a business (e.g. an address or phone number), and the search results include not just links to the business website, but additional relevant information right in the search results? Or perhaps you’ve searched looking for the weather in your area, and the top of the results delivers the current weather and forecast with no need to click through to a website?
These are examples of rich results (aka “rich snippets” or “rich cards”), which is really another term for Google mining for data from external websites and utilizing structured data to deliver valuable information to the searcher without the searcher ever leaving the search engine.
When a user searches for a business or service (say, for example, a gas station, restaurant, or plumber), Google uses the searcher’s location to determine which businesses’ information to deliver to the user. If a business’s website is missing correctly formatted structured data markup, they will very likely miss out on getting in front of potential customers.
This experience is increasingly common, which means it’s more important than ever for businesses to make sure that they are delivering data in a way that Google can understand and use.
When referring to structured data in terms of search, it can also be referred to as structured data markup or schema markup, and is defined by schema.org. Schema.org is a joint effort by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex to create a standard vocabulary that webmasters can use to mark up their web pages to help search engines better understand these pages.
Schema markup code can be presented in several formats: JSON-LD, Microdata or RDFa.
The table below (taken from Google) nicely summarizes the markup types:
It’s important to note the statement “Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data whenever possible.” Because of this, let’s take a closer look at JSON-LD and how it applies to local businesses.
How Can Structured Data Help Local SEO?
When a local business utilizes schema markup on their website, it becomes very easy for Google, Bing, and other search engines to “see” the relevant details of the business. The end result is that websites that correctly utilize schema markup get featured with rich results, tend to rank better on related terms, and have overall increased visibility in search results.
Some of the benefits of properly optimizing your local business schema include:
- Rich search results: Visually appealing search results, including formatting and images
- Rich cards: Similar to rich snippets and designed for mobile users
- Enriched search results: These search results Include interactive features
- Knowledge Graph: Informational panel that features details about a business, located to the right of the search results. Here’s an example:
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs in your search result
- Rich results for AMP: To have your AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) be served with rich results, be sure to include structured data markup.
- How to Implement Local Business Schema
Right about now you might be thinking to yourself “This sounds great, but I just took a look at schema.org and now I’m more confused! I don’t know code…how can I implement this?!?”
There are many tools available to help you optimize your schema markup. First and foremost, check out Google’s Developers Page for Local Business Structured Data which goes a long way to helping local businesses optimize their schema markup.
In addition, Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool can help you verify and troubleshoot your schema markup to make sure you’re presenting your data as intended.
If your business website runs on WordPress, you can utilize a WordPress schema plugin to assist you in marking up your data. There are many available, from free to premium. If you need a starting point, take a look at Schema or Schema App Structured Data.
By now you should have a greater understanding of structured data, and have a better idea how local business schema plays an important role in local SEO.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into other aspects of local SEO, be sure to check out my previous posts in this ongoing series on Local SEO, covering an overview of Local SEO services, tips on how to have a successful Small Business Saturday, the Google 3 Pack, and white label SEO.
If you would like some assistance with designing or implementing your local SEO marketing strategy, PosiRank can help. PosiRank offers an array of effective and affordable services for local business marketing. Contact us today to learn more.
Featured image courtesy seolab.org.