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5 Ways Small and Midsize Businesses Benefit From Structured Data

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Each new year we round up the top search engine optimization (SEO) trends that impact small and midsize businesses. In 2019, there’s one trend in particular that deserves your attention as a business leader—one that has implications on so many other trends we’ve covered in the past (voice search, local optimization, social media, video, etc.).

The not-so-secret sauce in this year’s recipe for SEO success is something called schema. Sometimes referred to as “structured data” or “structured data markup,” schema is a way of highlighting key information for search engines to find your business. Schema markup is code on the back end of your website that help search engines understand the meaning and relevance of the information on a website. More than an SEO strategy, it is a foundation for machines to understand your content and make your site visible in various search result formats.

In other words, schema is a surefire way to boost your page rankings, increase click-through rates, and cultivate higher-quality traffic (read: improve your bottom line). If that seems too good to be true, consider that as of October 2018, less than half of all websites were taking advantage of this powerful tool! Most business leaders don’t realize how vital it is and are intimidated by the prospect of attempting anything related to coding. After all, there is a lot of jargon to understand and the smallest of errors could lead to disastrous consequences.

You’re likely thinking: Exactly…I’m not a coder and I don’t have time to learn about, much less implement, this tool. But needless to say, it would be a mistake not to get ahead of the curve while you can. That’s why, rather than providing a technical how-to guide, here we’re going to share the top five intended results of utilizing schema in your SEO strategy. This way you have a basis from which to measure success when you assign the task to an on-staff specialist or an outsourced digital agency.

1. Featured Snippets. When a user asks a question in Google Search, a result in a special block at the top of the results page is often shown above ads and organic results. This featured snippet block, also known as “position zero,” includes a summary of the answer extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title, and the URL. In the example below, you can see that the featured snippet isn’t pulled from the most recent article or even necessarily one of the top search results. The summary is a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on a web page that answers the user’s question and is then enhanced to draw user attention on the results page. How does Google know if you have the answer to the question? Schema markup. Getting position zero for any query is a lofty goal, but one that is undoubtedly worth aiming for—and schema is the most effective way to get there.

2. Voice Search. Do you remember Ask Jeeves? Would you believe us if we told you the old search engine was actually ahead of its time? Sure, the balding-butler-themed site may be a bit antiquated, but the concept of a question-and-answer platform has come full circle. The original idea behind Ask Jeeves was to allow users to get answers to questions posed in everyday natural language. Today, this is exactly how people engage with voice search. And schema markup allows search engines to more readily find your website’s answers to their queries. If potential customers or clients are using voice search from a device that defaults to Google (i.e., iPhones and Androids), the results are pulled from the featured snippets we just discussed. Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand (the most commonly used voice service to date), pulls search results from Bing, which also supports and prioritizes schema markup. So if you want to be found by the 30 percent of all website sessions that are predicted to be conducted via voice by 2020, now is the time to get your schema strategies in order.

3. Local Business. When users search for businesses on Google Search or Maps, Search results often display a prominent section with details about a business that matched the query. This information can include business address, hours of operation, different departments, contact information, reservation capabilities, logo, and more. When users query for a type of business, such as a clothing boutique, they typically see a carousel of listings featuring clothing boutiques. This is all schema markup at work, allowing you to foreground vital information about your business and serve it up to search engine users in an easily digestible format.

4. Social Media. It likely comes as no surprise that each year, the importance of social media for businesses continues to skyrocket. Currently 42 percent of people worldwide use social media for more than just connecting with friends. They rely on social media to tell them which businesses and services to trust, obtain information from, and ultimately engage with. If your social media profiles aren’t easily accessible throughout the web, there’s a good chance you will lose out to your more visible competitors. The good news is you can use schema markup on your website to add your social profile information to a Google Knowledge panel. Knowledge panels prominently display your social profile information in some Google Search results. The below example from Google shows how your credibility and visibility can immediately be improved when users see multiple ways to engage with your organization right off the bat.

5. Video. We’ve been saying it for years and it’s not going away—video continues to be the king of content. Not only is it one of the most effective ways to disseminate information to your target audience in a memorable way, but the medium is extremely helpful for SEO as well. In fact, for certain search queries, video content often outranks entire websites. This is especially true for how-to types of content. Hosted or embedded video content can be leveraged through schema. Just as Google mainly displays video rich snippets for streaming platforms like YouTube, this schema markup can help rich snippets from your online website show up in the Google Video Search. 

The benefits of schema don’t end there. Businesses can leverage this powerful tool to get more eyes on published articles and blog posts, or even enhance recruitment efforts by boosting the presence of job postings. Bottom line? If you want to succeed in SEO in 2019, it’s imperative to engage a trusted professional with extensive experience in schema markup. Like all things digital, it’s easy to overdo, which could ultimately harm you. Avoid being spammy by only using structured data that is relevant to your content. And most importantly, stay up to date. Schema markup is not a one-and-done strategy. It’s an ongoing approach that, when executed correctly, could take your organization to the next digital level this year.

Kaysha Hanock and JoAnna Dettmann are cofounders of tSunela, a digital marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization, mobile search marketing, paid search marketing, local search optimization, web analytics, and social media marketing. tSunela is headquartered in St. Louis, MO, with an additional office in Portland, Oregon. 

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