A steady decline in organic click-through rate has posed a real challenge for SEOs over the last few years.

With organic ranking becoming increasingly competitive, the best way SEOs can continue to excel is to shift their focus to SERP features and rich results, according to Tanner Zoromski, SEO manager at Merkle, a customer experience management company.

Technical SEO is an effective way to increase this type of visibility, using structured data and schema markup. He explained:

  • “Essentially we want to make search engines’ lives easier by using these techniques because as a result, they will reward us with our content ranking higher in the SERP and we’ll have more interaction from searchers.”

Below is a summary of how structured data and schema testing can increase SERP visibility, as presented by Zoromski at SMX Advanced.

Search is changing

Search is always evolving. As new features are deployed, structured data can provide sites with the edge needed to effectively and efficiently communicate with search engines, Zoromski explained:

  • “I want to highlight here that Google is continuing to test and implement search changes, relying more on information scraped from sites. And we are seeing more results resembling product listing pages – which lends clues to the direction Google is looking to take its product.”
  • “This means we need to question how to stay at the forefront of this. How do we communicate most effectively with search engines? And how do we make sure that despite these different changes, we’re still present and showing up first?”

Understanding the breadth of schema

The SEO expert went on to explain the importance of knowing what schemes are available and how to correctly deploy them for maximum impact:

  • “There are more than 32 different types of schema that can be implemented to interact with over 16 different SERP features.”
  • “Whether we’re publishing articles or blogs or we’re reviewing movies, it’s important to understand what schema we can leverage to help search engines to index our sites.”

Winning with product schema

SEOs can implement product schema, images and descriptions across all pages to win feature snippets – otherwise known as position zero, as Zoromski explained:

  • “Implement this type of schema to prevent traffic from going to competitors.”
  • “Make sure your brand is putting its best foot forward and answering the questions that consumers want to know about their products.”
  • “Additionally, make sure that the narrative stays on-site and on-topic for what your brand needs, so you are winning at position zero. Schema is the way to do that on this one.”

Results to shout about

Zoromski shared a case study that he had personally worked on, in which his team was able to double organic sessions for a recipe website by correcting microdata and replacing it with structured data:

  • “My team were presented with a challenge – to review and address some improperly nested microdata that was causing error recipe videos and article markup on a blog.”
  • “When we looked at the SERP for this keyword, the top organic listings all had structured data – there wasn’t an organic listing in the top search results, which hammers home the need to implement structured data and be visible.”
  • “Our approach was to recommend the client remove the microdata and replace it with the JSON LD markup instead. As a result, we provided JSON-LD templates for the structured data types Article, Video, Recipe as well as Recipe with Nested Video.”
  • “As a result, the recipe and article structured data returned 101% increase in organic sessions.”
  • “This is a pretty clear demonstration that having schema on those pages really elevated their visibility and their engagement with searchers.”

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Tracking performance

From a testing standpoint, Zoromski advised building and monitoring your own SEO testing to track performance and taking multiple factors into consideration, such as:

  • Establishing the metrics and dimensions being impacted.
  • Building customized reports to monitor KPI performance.
  • Defining testing timelines to ensure results within a specific period.
  • Controling for internal and external variables such as dev releases and site promotions.
  • Allowing room for assumptions that could impact results.
  • Relaying findings across teams.

AI and the future of schema

Following recent advancements in AI, Zoromski added that schema will most certainly play a role in this area moving forward – and it’s a situation SEOs need to monitor closely. He concluded:

  • “With all the buzz around ChatGPT, Bing and Bard, we are seeing ramifications and effects across digital – and SEO is absolutely going to be affected.”
  • “Search behavior is going to change as AI provides more natural language answers as opposed to a list of links.”
  • “As SEOs, we need to make sure that in the future, our sites are equipped and able to effectively interact with these different changes. So keep on the lookout and make sure that you’re at the forefront of this.”
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