Website data can be structured or unstructured. The latter means that the data is stored in its original format without adjustment or translation; the former means the data is stored in defined and easily searchable formats.
Of the many techniques used to improve click through rate in search engine results, structured data is one of the most useful. Because it is largely technical and relies on tags or microdata, its effectiveness is relatively easy to predict. It is analogous to conducting business in a universal language.
The principle behind structured data is to communicate descriptions of a site to search engines in a shared, easily understandable vocabulary. Because it conforms to a pre-defined tabular model and operates through a logical relationship between rows and columns, it makes analysis of the data very straightforward. Each piece of structured data is stored in a separate, discrete field, accessible individually or in conjunction with data from other fields. More widely, examples of structured data include SQL databases and Excel files.
Structured Data, Schema.org and SEO
The major search engines have been collaborating since 2011 to create a resource called Schema.org which houses a vast collection of code which a website owner can use to identify all the structured data mark-up through which the search engines operate. By copying the relevant example code – for a particular product or service, for example – and adapting them for specific purposes it is possible to make individual entries and page content instantly readable by the web crawler bots.
Structured data can be used to mark up a wide variety of products, people, places, events and services. The use of these defined pieces of code also has the potential to increase the amount of information through ‘rich snippets’ shown to the searcher in the search results.