One of the most discussed topics at this year’s Search Leeds Conference was Structured Data. Time and again speakers from different industries referenced, to varying degrees, the importance of using markup languages to help search engines to understand a page.

When we visit a page on the web, what we see is different from what a search engine sees. Search engines look at the code to decipher what is there. If we open a browser, click with the right button of your mouse and go to “view source” it will show the code.

What Googlebot reads when visiting a page

We see the visual form; search engines see this code. This is where Structured Data comes in. It’s a method of showing search engines the meaning of certain things on a page.

It can range from the very simple; page title, telephone number, opening hours. All the way to the complex; allowing sites to explain the type of business, geo-location, types of product, description, brand, price, date, time and more.

Extra line with rating, reviews, price and product availability
Extra line including event date and location

This is done through using a markup language to add notes to, or ‘marks’ to, the actual text and imagery on the webpage. There are potentially hundreds of formats to ‘markup’ on any given site. Some of this information can be displayed for visitors without Structured Data, but not all.

All too regularly, sites ignore Structured Data principles. This can affect their search engine rank. Correctly applying the principles of Structured Data makes a site easier to read and this results in a higher ranking.

Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex have signed up to an initiative called Schema.org in 2011. This means they all to have one standard structured data format. So, if we optimise for Google, we are optimising for all providers.