SEO is moving to an advanced phase where consultants now need to know much more than just optimising pages and building links. While a lot of attention is being focused on social media and marketing, there is still a lot to learn when it comes to straight out SEO–albeit a more advanced form. Structured data has become one of the issues that SEO consultants (and web developers) have come to terms with in recent years.

search monkey

What is structured data? The best way to explain structured data to a novice is by way of an example. Let’s take a web page that provides instructions on how to make a humble cup of tea. The instructions would look something like:

  • boil water
  • place tea leaves in pot
  • add boiling water and let steep for five minutes
  • pour a through strainer into a tea-cup
  • add milk and sugar to taste

Now a person reading that can follow the steps with ease. To a search engine, they are really just a bunch of words that appear on a page dedicated to making tea. If the search engine could read the data a little differently, for example:

  • boil water (to make a cup of tea)
  • place tea leaves in pot (to make a cup of tea)
  • add boiling water and let steep for five minutes (to make a cup of tea)
  • pour a through strainer into a tea-cup (to make a cup of tea)
  • add milk and sugar to taste (to make a cup of tea)

The search engine would then link the term boil water to that of making a cup of tea–and likewise the other steps. It provides some structure to the data that the search engines can understand. It’s a very basic explanation, but I hope you get the idea. The data has some structure and relevance to the page as a whole.

There are numerous way to achieve this, the two methods generally recognised now being micro format and RDFa HTML tags. These tags don’t alter the way the data is presented to users. In fact, they don’t even know these tags exist without looking for them.

How do they help with SEO? Google is looking to use structured data to build on the information presented in search results. Yahoo has gone a step further with an application known as Search Monkey. With Search Monkey, you can create your own display for the search results – visit Yahoo to see an example.

What you can do is add product information, embed videos, show comment numbers and ratings, local information like telephone and address details, and even game previews. The end result is a much better display in the search results–one that stands out and catches the eyes. If you’re comfortable with structured data, then enter the world of advanced SEO and re-create your search results display in Yahoo.