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Google’s New Treatment of Structured Data

Google has been returning ‘rich results’ in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for quite some time now. Rich results put information like ratings stars and pictures right alongside the usual links and summaries. They also introduced the Knowledge Graph, which is designed to provide the answers to simple questions right on the SERPs, so that surfers don’t need to click through to a specific page in order to learn what they need.

In mid-March, Google announced the advent of a new form of rich result that they call ‘rich cards.’ A strip of side-swipable results that only show up on mobile devices, at the moment rich cards are only being used for movie and recipe results, but will likely expand. The result? Surfers will learn to swipe sideways instead of scrolling down, and any result that doesn’t produce a rich card will get a lot less visitors.

Then, just a few days ago, Google released a new guide called Introduction to Structured Data, wherein they explicitly state that if you want to get your information on the Knowledge Graph or in Rich Results, you should consider adding a load of esoterically-formatted data to your websites.

For example, if you want Google to display your company’s contact information on your rich results (if you happen to qualify for rich results in the first place, which is a process Google is notoriously silent about), you would want to put this chunk of text on your site:

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{
“@context”: “http://shema.org”,
“@type”: “Organization”,
“url”: “http://www.netprofitmarketing.com”,
“contactPoint”: [{
“@type”: “ContactPoint”,
“telephone”: “(605) 610-3139”,
“contactType”: “customer service”
}]

“contactPoint”: [{
“@type”: “ContactPoint”,
“email”: “support@netprofitmarketing.com”,
“contactType”: “customer service”
}]
}
</script>

Yeah, that’s what you need to do in order to communicate to Google that your page is about the organization NetProfitMarketing.com, which has a customer service department that can be reached at (605) 610-3139 or at support@netprofitmartketing.com.  Yes, that’s a very steep learning curve for most people. Maybe that’s why only 20% of all websites actually use Structured Data.

Or it might be that, for some purposes, using Structured Data can actually be bad for your business. Why? Because, as Google pointed out on the linked page above, when you use Structured Data, you allow Google to put up a rich result for you on the SERPs, which is good for you, because you stand out (and will thus get more clicks.) But it also allows them to bust out the Knowledge Graph — and that potentially bad for you!

I say ‘potentially,’ because whether or not it’s actually bad for you depends on whether the surfer will get what they want just by looking at the Knowledge Graph, or whether they need to click through to your site to get it. For example, if your site collates and makes lists of movie types, the Knowledge Graph will completely supplant you. But if you show up in the Knowledge Graph as one  of several bloggers about men’s health, that’s likely to be good for your traffic instead of bad.

 

So is Structured Data worth that risk? Absolutely! The traffic bump you get from rich results and from positive interactions with the Knowledge Graph is entirely worth risking the occasional click-skip due to Knowledge Graph interference. Next week, we’ll talk about how to get Structured Data working for you.

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