Over the years, Google has implemented many features that website owners can use to improve the site’s SEO. These features can also be used to create more detailed search results for things like Google Knowledge Cards or used for the information found in Snippets. However, the way Google uses the data provided by website owners changes. Recently, Google explained that it would change the way it used structured data to form snippets and that some schema won’t be used at all for search results. These changes make structured data less useful, but that’s not the same as useless. Last week, Google suggested that website owners continue to structured data guidelines even if they won’t necessarily lead to better rich results.
Structured data is coding for a site that can’t be seen by website visitors, but can be used by search engines and other platforms to learn more about the site. Google supports JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDF, three of the most popular structured data methods. The company also recognizes nearly 30 rich results types.
Because there are multiple kinds of markups that developers can use, many site owners wonder how much structured data do they really need. This question came up last week’s #AskGoogleWebmasters session.
A Twitter user asked, “We need to use structured data as per the Google Developers site (including required/recommended properties), or can we use more properties from Schema.org apart from the Developers site?”
John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, replied by saying, “In order to be eligible to be shown as a rich result, you need to make sure that the page uses the right structured data and that it complies with the appropriate policies on our side.” He went on to add, “Keep in mind that it’s not guaranteed for us to show these rich results just because a page uses the appropriate structured data.”
The main point Mueller wanted to make was that structured data is always valuable to include because it has uses that go beyond rich results. Google uses a lot of signals to help determine when a particular webpage should be included in search results and where the page should be ranked.
“Even without the structured data leading to rich results, our systems profit by understanding the pages better when they use structured data,” explained Mueller, according to media reports about the #AskGoogleWebmasters session.
Mueller also gave a statement that suggests structured data could play a direct role in SEO, and that added benefit alone is enough to make it worthwhile to set up structured data on a site properly.
Mueller stated, “Independently, you’re always welcome to use structured data to provide better machine-readable context for your pages, which may not always result in visible changes, but can still help our systems show your pages for relevant queries.”
So though Google may be using structured data less often for certain purposes, a correctly formatted structured data strategy can lead to improved SEO. For more recent advice from Google about SEO trends and misconceptions, read this article about the way Google handles pages with multiple H1 tags.