This may come as a surprise to you, but web crawlers are still struggling to understand the content and context of your webpages. Even Google's web crawlers are not 100% on this. I'm not saying that your pages are not getting indexed or that they are not ranking in the SERPs, but what I am saying is that you may be missing a huge opportunity to get more people to click through to your webpages.
The opportunity is in using structured data, or rich snippets, within the code of your webpages to pass more information to the web crawlers.
The web crawlers then pass this information on, giving the search engine more information to build into your SERP result where it decides they are deserved. Basically, rich snippet markup gives you an opportunity to help Google to deliver an enhanced search engine result to the searcher, which can increase their chances of clicking on your link.
But structured data is still not widely used or understood and as such the opportunity is being missed too often. So let's give you some information on how you can use structured data on your website.
What Exactly Is Structured Data?
Structured data is also known as microdata, schema markup, or sometimes just markup.
Whatever name is used, it is basically a form of semantic markup language that is embedded within the code base of your website to deliver more information about the webpage to the search engine crawler (bot).
It helps to describe in detail elements on your webpage. When combined with the more typical HTML properties, it helps to more clearly define what your webpages are about.
The most widely used format is that provided by Schema.org. This markup is almost universally supported, especially by the major search engines Google and Bing.
This format basically offers a standardised markup that is understood by most search engines and is compatible with the major structured data formats, Microdata, RDFa and JSON-LD.
How Can My Site Benefit From Using Structured Data?
There are hundreds of ways you can use structured data markup on your website. But generally, the more information you give through markup data, the more likely it is that your search engine result will also contain rich snippets information.
Rich snippets are enhanced search engine listings that can increase your clickthrough rate. For example, if you have done a review, by including review data within your markup, you can pass information to Google that will allow them to display a rating in stars or percentages and include more information about your review.
The more information you offer, the more chance you stand of having rich snippets appearing in the SERPs. It's not guaranteed and as with everything online, you just have to hope you get a break sometimes.
But the bottom line is that if you implement Schema.org markup on your site then you increase your chances of enhancing your results and potentially attracting more click throughs.
How Do I Implement Structured Data On My Website?
Implementing structured data markup manually on your site, while understanding what you're doing, could be the subject of an incredibly detailed article in its own right.
However, Google offers an easy route that will allow you to implement the main features easily and quickly, without understanding everything you are doing.
It's structured data markup helper (https://www.google.com/webmasters/markup-helper/) allows you to select the type of markup you wish to create.
You can then highlight the elements on your page that you wish to include in your markup, create the HTML and embed it in your website codebase.
The great news is you don't have to do this for every single page. If you use a CMS such as Wordpress, you can create the markup for a blog post for example, embed it into your single post template and it will then generate the correct code for the web crawler every time.
Once you have implemented data it's vital that you then test your structured data markup before you let it go running in the wild. If you don't test then you run the risk of your site being re-crawled and finding errors, which could mean your site has errors for a significant length of time.
I would also advise that after implementation that you routinely monitor your Google Webmaster tools account to see if any errors occur in the future. You can view structured data errors under the search appearance menu item.
Does Implementing Structured Data Markup Increase My Rankings?
There is no clear answer to this question. Back in 2012, Matt Cutts did state that "Just because you implement Schema.org doesn't mean that you should necessarily rank higher."
I think that the implication is clear though, Matt did not say you would not rank higher.
Thinking this through, if you provide Google with more information than the other sites around you, and Google wants to present its searchers with the best results, then it seems to make sense that structured data can be a gateway to at least a more consistent SERP presence.
Another consideration is that although it may not increase your rankings now, as with everything in search, that does not mean it won't happen in the future.
Google is always looking to implement changes to refine its results and with structured data offering such a wealth of additional information about the quality of website, if it's not being used now, it could well be something that is used to determine quality in the future.
So getting ahead of the game by using Schema.org markup now could be a very wise move for the long term.