Structured Data Could Become a New Ranking Factor

Earlier today, John Mueller hinted at a potential new Google ranking factor: structured data. Although Google has recommended using structured data for years, this is the first time that an employee has suggested that someday, structured data could potentially help sites rank higher in search results.

Here’s the quote from John Mueller:

“Over time, I think [structured markup] is something that might go into the rankings as well. If we can recognize someone is looking for a car, we can say oh well, we have these pages that are marked up with structured data for a car, so probably they are pretty useful in that regard. We don’t have to guess if this page is about a car.”

You can watch his full response below:
[youtube id=”QWL864VlW7I” align=”center” maxwidth=”500″]

What is structured data?

From a general technology standpoint, structured data (also referred to as structured markup or semantic markup) can mean a number of different things. In this particular case, structured data refers to a specific set of predetermined rules and parameters that are used to help search engines (and people) understand what specific pages – and entities within those pages – are about. Schema, RDFa, rich snippets and microformats are all examples of structured data.

Why is structured data important?

As John pointed out in his car example above, the more information that you provide about the content on your site, the easier it is for Google to provide the most relevant results for users. Relevancy works both ways. In addition to improving SERP click-through rate, structured data can help send more qualified traffic to your site.

Structured data isn’t a one-trick pony

Keep in mind that even if structured data does become a ranking factor, it will be a secondary factor at best. Content quality still takes precendence. John also mentioned this in this morning’s Google+ Hangout:

“So I think in the long run, it definitely makes sense to use structured data where you see that as being reasonable on the web site. But I would’t assume that using structured data markup with make your site jump up in rankings automatically. So we try to distinguish between a site that is done technically well and a site that actually has good content. Just because it is done technically well, it doesn’t mean it is as relevant to the users as content that is not done as technically well.”

How to get ahead with structured data

If you’re interested in learning more about structured data, there are some really great online resources available that can guide you through the benefits and implementation process. A few resources I would recommend are, Moz and Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Also, Lee Wilson recently wrote this awesome post that outlines some of the most popular uses of structured data.

If you have any questions about structured data or anything else mentioned in this article, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter at @beymour.

Image Credit: Flickr User: Leon Brocard

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