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June 11, 2014

SMX Liveblog: Enhancing Search Results with Structured Data & Markup

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Get practical advice on using structured data and real world examples of schema markup in this informative session featuring:

  • Jay Myers, Emerging Digital Platforms Product Manager, BestBuy.com (@jaymyers)
  • Jeff Preston, Senior Manager of SEO, Disney Interactive (@jeffreypreston)
  • Marshall Simmonds, CEO, Define Media Group, Inc. (@mdsimmonds)

Structured Data SMX Panel SpeakersComing back from lunch and there are plenty of folks who seem to be eager to learn about Structured Data. This session promises to teach us how companies are implementing markup and benefiting from it. This is one of my favorite things to recommend to clients so let’s get started …

Marshall Simmonds: Authorship and Rich Snippets

The evolution of indexation first began with crawling, when Google would come and grab your content. Then, it evolved to HTML sitemaps and eventually XML sitemaps to show them what kind of data you had on your website (image, video, news, pages). Now, indexation has evolved to include structured data.

Why do we do this?

Schema says you can expect that more data will be used in more ways. There are digital assets you, as a site owner or caretaker, can benefit from as they are served up from the SERPs. Did you know that roughly 30% of SERPs have structured data results being served? Interestingly enough, the structured data results differ across browsers — Chrome will show different results than Firefox for the exact same search only moments apart on the same computer. Factor in that Google is regularly updating their algorithms you have to realize that things are constantly changing and different results are constantly being given based on several different factors. Anytime you can capture some of that traffic on a consistent basis is a good thing, right? Structured data can help you do this.

Authorship is one of the more well known types of structured data being used today.  With Authorship, an author’s thumbnail and name appears in the SERPs. Marshall says this was basically Google’s way of rewarding people for setting up their G+ accounts. He goes on to ask for a show of hands how many people in the audience have G+ accounts and there is a large show of hands. Marshall then goes on to ask for a show of hands of how many actually use G+ and barely any hands remain in the air. Oops! Google keeps telling us it’s important and yet, in a room full of “advanced search marketers” only a small percentage of people are actually using it.

Late in 2013 Google started showing Authorship results less in the SERPs, however Marshall has noticed an uptick in the appearance in the results more recently. There are a few factors at the site level that help a site to appear in the SERPs for an authorship listing. These things include:

  • The authority of the site
  • Having high quality content on the site
  • The domain longevity
  • additional factors vary based on queries

There are also factors at the author level to consider when trying to appear for Authorship listings. These include:

  • Reputation (who you are, where you publish etc.)
  • Quality of content
  • Authority of site you’re contributing to
  • Additional factors vary based on queries

Remember, there will be times when you roll out enhancements, and you WON’T see an immediate reaction. Some roll outs will need to be looked at year over year in order to get great data on the reaction. For Reviews, it seems that these are picked up rather quickly, and you’ll see immediate reactions depending on the industry. For recipes, structured data can help results for certain searches depending on how specific the search is. Somewhat generic searches for recipes will show structured data results, but very very specific searches will not show rich snippet results. Article markups can encourage in-depth categorization with other factors involved. Video is a great area to be in and snippets greatly help.

Structured data is only one check point in your overall strategy – SEO is still important.

Takeaways

  • Authorship has a slow to medium indexation with a sporadic appearance in the SERPs with minimal traffic impact.
  • TV Reviews have a fast indexation cycle with a slower appearance (based on seasonality) in the SERPs and results in a medium level traffic impact.
  • Product reviews have a  fast indexation cycle with a  fast appearance in the SERPs and a  good traffic impact
  • Recipes  have a fast indexation cycle with a  fast appearance in the SERPs with a minimal impact on traffic
  • Articles are a little different with a hard to track indexation cycle and they don’t always require schema
  • Video currently have a fast indexation cycle and are having results appear in the SERPs very fast along with a significant impact on traffic.

Tools & Resources

It’s still very early to get in on rich snippets. If you can get in before competitors, you’re usually sitting better than they are by the time they get around to doing it too.

Use Structured data as another check point in the overall strategy. It helps compete when you can’t break through using regular SEO techniques. It helps to future proof your site from future updates that specifically deal with this area and BOTH Google and Bing want this type of data!

Lastly, remember that this is a marathon, and you have to look at the results year over year.

Jay Myers: How Best Buy Implemented and Benefited from Structured Data

Jay is going to talk about Best Buy’s Journey with structured data – Then & Now. Best Buy actually started implementing structured data as early as 2008, way ahead of the curve and even before it was really recommended to the search community. One way that they implemented structured data in the beginning was to add the markup to each individual store page. The store pages had valuable information, so using RDFa, they added the coding and this resulted in a double digit increase in traffic year over year. And remember, this was years before it was even recommended.

After seeing those types of results with the store pages, Best Buy went on to using markup on an experimental site. After marking up the site and allowing it to be crawled and indexed, they were surprised to see it outranking the main Best Buy site in Google (in 2009).

Shortly after, Best Buy then added structured data to their “shop URLs” that would serve as rich data experiences for both human and machines. Soon they found that these pages were showing in SERPs when they hadn’t before.

These initial efforts were all implemented prior to the real Schema.org push, pre-2010. When Best Buy began implementing, they focused on:

  • Publishing data that has valuable meaning beyond keywords
  • “clean” and “cool” URLs
  • Syntax: RDFa – resource description framework in attributes
  • Ontologies ( a loose set of rules to help machines understand data)
    • GoodRelations – the web vocabulary for ecommerce
    • FOAF – friend of a friend
    • GEO – basic methods for representing spatially-located things

Now, Best Buy properties all use microdata and Schema.org in order to better publish their data.  They switched from the RDFa to Schema and saw a nice uptick in their traffic. They have found that there are additional data elements that are showing in SERPs such as addresses/phone numbers on store pages is bringing in a better CTR. They are also seeing reviews for the store pages along with the store info in the SERPs and this further drives the customer engagement. The product pages have prices, reviews, availability all showing in the SERPs. This helps enhance the user experience. Best Buy is engaging with the user right from the SERP rather than the user having to come to the site and hunt for the data.

In the future Best Buy is looking to use Gmail Actions in the Inbox, which uses Schema.org to trigger the actions. This enables actions within email simply by using some basic level coding in the emails. At Best Buy, there is also a pilot being pushed to improve the visibility of product information on the web. Best Buy will also focus on enhancing their result in the Knowledge Graph by marking up data feeds things like upcoming events, recent publications, etc.

Jeff Preston: Real World Examples of Structured Data & SEO

Jeff works for Disney and has been implementing rich snippets for awhile with varied but good results.  Reviewing what others have said, rich snippets:

  • Helps search engines better understand content & markup
  • Provides opportunity to improve search engine listings, tweets, Facebook and other social posts
  • Will NOT fix other SEO problems; fix other SEO problems first before trying Schema

Open Graph markup helps with Facebook (also G+ and Twitter) listings when people share the content. The code appears in the <head> of the page code. The code allows you to define certain data from the page that will also standardize the way information appears in a Facebook share.

For Schema.org, it’s a microformat vocabulary to describe your data. The search engines support and encourage this type of markup.  Disney uses it to markup things like movie pages to call out info like the title, actors and more.  Jeff gives a good bit of advice that people should always remember – validate your coding to make sure that the proper things are tagged.

You can use Schema on the navigation.  In a test Disney did, it resulted in the site links appearing in the SERP result in Google. Disney also used Schema on an Event Microsite to see if it would help. They added the code to the site with event markup giving details like the name, start data, name of location and address.  When they pushed it live they noticed in about 2 days a rich snippet appearing in SERP showing the date, event name and location of the particular event.

Additional applications that Disney has used schema on:

  • Videos
  • Executive and staff bios
  • Official logos
  • Local search: name, address, phone number
  • Products
  • Ratings

They are seeing good results whenever they implement schema, especially on content assets that previously had difficulty getting indexed.

Another thing Disney has experimented with is Twitter Cards. Twitter cards:

  • Gives you control of how your content is displayed in tweets
  • Links together official website to Twitter account
  • Need to apply to Twitter for your cards to be approved
  • Fairly easy to implement

Twitter also has a good code validator to check the code.

Some of the things that Disney has done and have seen results in is the Knowledge Graph. Jeff has noticed that Google is pulling some data from Freebase.com, the Schema.org markup, Wikipedia.org as well as other databases that Google might be able to pull entity data like IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. Do what you can to optimize and influence this information when it relates to your site in order to have a great Knowledge Graph appearing for searches.

Structured Data Resources

Open Graph: developers.facebook.com/docs/opengraph

Schema.org: schema.org/docs/schemas.html

Twitter Cards: dev.twitter.com/cards

Overall Takeaway

Structured data is still very new even though it’s been around a couple of years and having it implemented on your site definitely helps improve your SERP results, CTR and user experience.

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