Following on from our recent digital marketing seminar, we’re running through the topic of rich data and its use in modern e-commerce sites. We’ll be highlighting the SEO benefits of properly tagging up your product data and trying to demystify any problems you might experience.
Understanding the difference: Schema, Structured Data, Microdata, Rich Data & Snippets…
Firstly, you can make a sigh of relief, as essentially, they’re all the same thing! Structured data, microdata and schema at a basic level, are little bits of code that tell search engines what is what. For example, which number on the product page is the price, which bit of text refers to the product description and what image on the page is the product picture. The term Rich Snippets refers to the way this data is displayed in the search engines which we’ll show examples of later on in the blog.
Over 10 million sites use Schema.org to markup their web pages and email messages and many search engines like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex use it to enhance what you see in the search engines. The best way to highlight this is by looking at an example, a page without schema and a page with it:
The example above, has been taken from the product page of a website that sells microwaves. In it’s basic format, we as human beings can determine a few things about it by scanning the text. We know that it’s a white, Kenmore microwave that costs £55. We can see it has a few features like the six preset cooking categories and a child lock. We can also determine that it has had mixed reviews, a lady called Ellie who only gave it 1 star and a guy called Lucas who rated it 5 stars. Google, however, isn’t able to tell (yet!) the difference sometimes so we help it out by using schema data, like below:
The mock code above is exactly the same data, however this time it’s marked up to tell the search engines what’s what. The blue text is the Schema tag (or microdata), and the purple text is the data which relates to that. So again, we’re telling the engines that the word ‘Kenmore White 17 Microwave’ is the product’s name and are going into more depth by marking up the reviews with the reviewer’s name and date at which it was left.
You can view more examples of how to implement the code by visiting schema.org
Schema in the Search Results
Now that you’ve marked up your information using the correct Schema, you can start enjoying the benefits in the SERPs by taking advantage of the opportunities they provide. Below, you can see some examples of what Google calls an enriched search result (formerly called a rich snippet), which is only possible through correct structured data implementation.
The above image shows 4 types of rich results:
- A book snippet, which displays extra information such as the number of pages, the publication date, the publisher and the author.
- A recipe snippet, displaying the recipe rating, the cooking time and even the number of calories.
- A person snippet. In this case for Arnie, one of my favourite people, which shows attributes such as his weight, height, nickname and even his relatives.
- A video snippet, which displays the length of the video over the thumbnail and the uploader
There are also other types of content available ranging from articles, which display the publish date, to product reviews which will display your star ratings.
All of this data is fed into Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is Google’s own database. It often displays on the right-hand side of the search results on a desktop or at the top of the page on mobiles. In the example above, you can see this data in action, under the ‘critic reviews’ section. Here, Google has pulled a review for Ready Player One, from Common Sense Media, a very powerful position to be in.
To highlight the power of Schema, we’ll take a look at how it aids you in the SERPs by enriching your results. I’ve used the example phrase; Samsung Easyview microwave, to break things down.
Now the first thing Google determines isn’t the name of the product or the price, it’s what is the searchers intent. Now because I’ve used the word Samsung, and the word Easyview, Google can assume that I’ve already done some research on what kind of microwave I want. Maybe I’ve had a positive experience with Samsung in the past or maybe I need an Easyview because I’m scared that if I keep pressing my nose against the glass it’s going to fry my brain.
Because of this, Google assumes I’m already pretty far down in the buying process and is therefore serving me product page results. Firstly, it’s giving me the paid results but I’m also seeing a lot of rich data that is helping me make up my mind before I’ve even visited a site.
All of sudden, the coveted first position is less valuable because of the rich snippet data. In the above example, the AO website is giving me more information on the product such as the capacity. This might not be that useful to some people, but what it’s doing is giving AO a lot more real estate in the results. AO has almost double the amount of space on the page than the listing above it, and even more than the second paid result which Samsung are bidding on.
Further down the page, there are price snippets from PriceSpy, showing that I can get this microwave for between £179 and £250. Because I’m quite thrifty, I’m likely to skip the first organic result from Currys, which shows a price snippet of £199, and go straight for the PriceSpy result as I can see it’s cheaper.
Now the most prominent results here, deliberately so, are the Google Shopping results – surprise, surprise the ones you have to pay for. These results are golden when it comes to SERP value; they highlight the price, the ratings and even show you a nice little picture. If you can see what you want and are comfortable with the price and the brand, there’s little reason you wouldn’t buy after clicking on these results.
Although these are paid results, the same schema markup is required to get a good looking result – particularly, the review Schema. If you sell many products, Schema can help you populate your Merchant Centre product feed by pulling in all this information from your website (and whatever review platform you use), a much more efficient way than using spreadsheets to manage your feed manually.
The proof is in the click-through-rate (CTR)
The main caveat of implimenting schema, or structured data or whatever you call it, is that the data may not show up in the search results at all. Google has the final say on whether to show rich data and will only do so if they believe it will improve the users’ experience. Thankfully, there are a couple of tools to help you debug your pages and see if they’re eligible to show as a rich result:
- Rich results tester: search.google.com/test/rich-results
- Structured data testing tool: search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/
Depending on your niche, rich results can improve your click-through rate anywhere between 5 and 30%. A recent study by Blue Nile Research proved that results in position 2 with Rich Data, get an average of 27% more clicks compared to results in position 2 with no rich data.
To summarise, if you’re not marketing up your data using schema, you should be! Although Google has stated that schema is not a direct ranking factor, it’s pretty apparent that rich results have non-direct benefits. Mainly due to the fact that your click-through rate is going to be higher. So long as your content is good when people arrive at your site, you should experience a boost in your average positions. If you’re stuck on where to start with structured data, get in touch with one of our team using the form at the bottom of this page.