Google hints that sites not using structured markup could see their rankings fall

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Comments made by Google’s John Mueller yesterday (14 September) could signal a major ‘u-turn’ for the search engine.  Despite previously going on record as saying that rich snippets and structured data would not be a ranking consideration, the search engine appears to have changed its mind.

Speaking in a Google Webmaster hangout earlier today, Mueller said that the search engine does expect rich snippets and markup to play a part in its ranking algorithms of the future. Hear what John had to say below:

The news is a major turnaround for Google, which has always denied that structured data would ever be an SEO factor. By suggesting it will now be introduced into organic ranking algorithms, those who have previously believed Google’s assertions that the metrics don’t hinder or help SEO performance are left with a lot of work to do.

image-online-contentSo what is structured data?

Structured data allows search engines to not only crawl your site, but to truly understand it.  Yes, even search engines can have a tough time deciphering web page content!  Some elements that seem perfectly obvious to us humans are meaningless to web crawlers.

That’s where structured data comes in to play. Structured data is added directly to a page’s HTML markup. Search engines use structured data to generate rich snippets, which are small pieces of information that will then appear in search results.

Structured data helps Google to understand the type of content presented on a site. The search engine uses this information to determine how, and in what format, the content is indexed on its search results pages. If you’ve ever done a search for an airline ticket from a specific airport, and gotten a list of all flights landing from a certain destination at a certain terminal, this is one example of structured data markup in action. Other examples include event listings – if you’ve planned a vacation or looked for something to do at the weekend and seen a list of suggestions at the top of your search results, you’ve seen rich snippets in action.

the-plane-1516406-640x425Timing

While Mueller didn’t say exactly when structured markup would be introduced to an algorithm, he did say it made sense that it does happen. His comments were left open to interpretation with some thinking the introduction has already been planned.  Others believe it was more of an abstract discussion.

Regardless of whether or not a change is imminent or still a long way off, webmasters who not yet using rich snippets and structured markup to categorize their data would be wise to start doing so!

Google’s data highlighter makes it easy to add rich snippets and data markup to your web content fairly quickly. You can use this tool to flag up certain types of content to Google for a more enhanced search presence. Here’s the link: https://developers.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/

If you’re unsure how this will affect your organisation, feel free to give us a call – we’re here to help. You can reach us on 03330 124 007.

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