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Structured Data & Featured Snippets

What is Structured Data?

It’s a way of helping search engines to understand your content and the data that’s on your web pages. You add special data attributes to your existing HTML, or you can add some JavaScript to your page, and it highlights the important data that’s on a page. Using a rigid and standardized format, search engines can process the information easier. For example, you can tell them how many grams of flour are in a cake recipe, or how many stars out of five a reviewer rated your product.

There’s also featured snippets, which are almost the opposite to structured data really – Google extracts the content from your existing content, tables or trusted knowledge sources (99% Wikipedia). It aims to answer a user’s question within the search results, so the user doesn’t even have to click through to an external webpage. But even though that’s Google’s intent, Featured Snippets actually have really high click-through rates – sometimes more than being placed #1 in the organic search results. So it’s worth going through the pain of letting Google steal your content, to appear in these snippets.

How can Structured Data help Ecommerce websites?

There are two main reasons to use Structured Data on Ecommerce sites, in my opinion:

  1. To increase the trust of your brand
  2. Provide additional information to users, in the hope that they convert into a customer later on.

Trust is gained by providing review data to search engines, because people are getting more and more sceptical of websites these days. Publishing customer product and company reviews on your website, is a way of doing that. And if you use structured data, it helps search engines to understand those reviews. If it’s implemented correctly, you can have those yellow star ratings appear next to your search listings. These starred listings have a much higher click-through rate than a standard organic listing. It makes the person more likely to convert, because they see a peer review. Even though they don’t know these other people that are reviewing your products, they trust that multiple people have said, “This is a great company/product”.

You also want to offer the user as much information for free as you can, in an easy to digest format. It will attract links, which will help your SEO and also boost your brand recognition. If your website is always the one coming up for people’s searches, not only will people start to recognize you as an authority brand in your space, but also you’ll start to appear higher up in that person’s search result (because of “Personalized Search”). Google recognizes that the user prefers your website and therefore your website appears higher up in certain search rankings for that user.

You can then use Structured Data to surface this information, in a special Google search listings. And these have a much higher click-through rate, as I said before, than the traditional organic links.

What could Ecommerce websites use Structured Data for?

If you sell a food item, product, gadget or appliance, you could publish recipes on your website, using your food appliance or including your ingredient. That recipe information can have structured data in it, which will help highlight it in Google search results.

If you’re a home improvement or electronics Ecommerce store, you could publish “How To” articles, about how to use your products for certain things. And you can wrap those in Structured Data as well, so it’ll appear very prominently in Google search results.

If there are common questions that your customers quite often ask you about your products, you could wrap those in an FAQ schema for Structured Data, helping you to appear in Google for those questions.

There’s a whole host of possibilities and you can see a full list of the Structured Data options at Schema.org.

Once you’ve implemented Structure Data, what benefits do you get?

Google is more likely to surface your content near the top of their search results, or more prominently within them for certain queries.

For example, an Electronic store’s article on “How to change a plug” or a customer’s search for “Does X store offer next day delivery?”, or a Gym Clothing website’s content about “What ‘Lycra’ is made out of”. They can all boost your brand and the links that you get into your website.

How do I appear in the Featured Snippet box?

“Featured Snippets” are often seen at the top (or the top right) of search results. It usually states that it’s a Featured Snippet underneath it. It appears as a bordered box, often with an image from the content source. They’re mostly shown for questions, or when Google thinks that the searcher may need clarification on what something is. For example, a search for [kombucha] will show a Featured Snippet. It isn’t a question, but the searcher usually wants to know what kombucha is. The answers either come from Google’s knowledge graph, (which is basically 99% Wikipedia) or content on somebody’s website.

To appear in a Featured Snippet, it’s important to structure your content in a certain way. If you sell “Yoga Hot Pants”, for example, you want to have a <h2> heading tag on your landing page, with “What are Yoga Hot Pants?”. You then want one or two short paragraphs of content directly underneath it. The first paragraph should start with “Yoga Hot Pants are…”. With just these simple content tweaks, you’ve got a very high chance of appearing in the Featured Snippet box, above the #1 organic listing.

So if I do that, will I definitely get a Featured Snippet?

Usually, but it’s not guaranteed. It’s much more likely if you’re already ranking in the Top 10 search results for the target keyword. It’s also more likely if there’s already a Feature Snippet appearing on the search result. If there is, you’ll probably need better links than the current featured website, in order to knock them off.

Google only shows Featured Snippets on some search results. About 10% of search queries have a Featured Snippet at the top of the search result. They’re mostly shown for searches where the user might not know what something is. For example, if you Google [business insurance], it probably won’t show a Featured Snippet, because Business Insurance is quite obvious what it is. But it might show if someone searched for [public indemnity insurance], because it’s something that people are less likely to know about. And therefore they might want that information from a Featured Snippet.

There’s no way to force a Featured Snippet. It is possible to get a Featured Snippet on a search result that doesn’t currently have one though, because maybe other websites don’t have the structure needed to activate one. I have successfully gained a Featured Snippet on a search result before, that didn’t have one before and I’ve also knocked off another website, which had the Featured Snippet and replaced it with my client’s website.

Is there anything else that our listeners should know?

It’s not possible to go through every type of Structured Data in a single episode and it can very much depend on what your specific business offers. So I’d recommend visiting Schema.org. Then do a huge brainstorming session about what useful content you could publish on your site, which also fits with one of those Structured Data formats. And you can also test your Structured Data using a tool by Google.


Please Note: The content above is a semi-automated transcription of the podcast episode. We recommend listening (and subscribing) to the podcast, in case any of the content above is unclear.

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