If you have been working on SEO at any time over the last few years you have probably heard about the benefits of structured data. Schema markups have a variety of different types including FAQ, How-To, Review, and local business. You can even create structured data for calories and nutritional information for your recipe/food blog. Structured data helps search engines better serve search results through snippets and rich data. However, although it helps search engines, does it help your website?
Structured Data’s Complicated Relationship To SEO
Recently there has been some controversy over the efficacy of structured data. Google pushes structured data on website developers through Google Search Console and other Google products. Many users will get an email or a recommendation to add structured data to a page on their website to improve how they appear in search results. Ironically, when a few users mentioned that they didn’t want to follow Google’s suggestions about adding structured data (because they felt it was not relevant) Google responded by saying that structured data has no impact on ranking. Google went on to say that content owners should see structured data as an optional way to enhance their web page listings. Basically, Google admitted that structured data really only affects how a listing appears on the search engine but not where it appears. So if structured data is purely window dressing, is it important?
The Death of Review Schema
Before giving an opinion on the importance (or lack thereof) when it comes to structured data, let’s look at a recent development with review schema. As mentioned above structured data affects the way listings appear on Google. You may notice some listings display ratings. They often appear with stars and some text about how many ratings have been submitted. This could be created using review schema markup. However, in the last few months, Google has stopped showing review schema in listings. This is because companies could fabricate their ranking. The data was not necessarily coming from anywhere other than code. Any website could create 5-star review schema and add it to their homepage. Now, this is no longer the case. Of course, it is clear why this shouldn’t be allowed, but without a replacement, there is now a void where review schema once was. Many users question if Google will create an alternative or if users will find a way around review schema becoming disallowed. Regardless, this shows that schema is really at the mercy of Google. Structured data that was provided yesterday could be obsolete tomorrow.
Should You Still Use Structured Data?
So, if structured data doesn’t affect ranking and can become completely negated overnight, is it worth doing. We would argue that it depends. As mentioned earlier, the real power of structured data is that it provides a better look to a listing. Not only that, you can make a listing larger and take up more real estate on a SERP. You can improve how your website looks in search results with schema markups. But schema should never replace good SEO practices. Your listing has to already show up without schema before it shows up with schema. So if you have great content with great metadata that ranks well for keywords, by all means, you should think about adding applicable schema. And if you are a local business you should have local business schema because it makes it easier for users to find your address and hours. But never add schema with the hopes that it will move you up the page.
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