Day 8. Structured Data

It’s nearly Christmas! So, what are we all thinking about; what is the most important thing at this time of year? Of course, structured data! Oh, yes, and something about peace and goodwill.

You’re right, that does sound interesting, much more interesting than presents. And chocolate. So, tell us more!

Firstly, structured data has actually been an ongoing effort for me, running simultaneously with my Day 7. Good, Fresh Content topic. It actually pre-dates it a little (so the date of activity below is notional and really just shown for the sake of it, because all the others have dates), but, for three good reasons I’ve chosen to show it effectively out of order.

  1. Winston Churchill. Now, if you really don’t know when his birthday is then you should have been paying more attention. And after all the effort I went to! And I’ll give you 1874 for free. You’ll be thanking me when it comes up in that Christmas quiz!
  2. Structured data is a little vague, at least in my mind, so a bit more time has helped. A bit.
  3. Just checking that you’re keeping count.

So. What is it?

You will have noticed, when you typed in stag party houses in your search bar, that Bicclescombe Grange, that perfect party venue, shows up in currently 21st position. But did you also notice that in addition to its description it also has a 4.6 star rating from currently 11 reviews, and that it shows a (very reasonable!) price range? Of course you did! But did you also wonder why very few of our competitors show this information? Again, of course you did! Do I believe you? Of course, not.

Or, if you type in ‘Bicclescombe Grange phone number’, up pops the right number: 07967 661701, which, if you would like to book our fantastic house with huge indoor pool and hot tub, is a great number to call.

But you probably do now know why these things appear. And if you don’t I’ll give you a clue: Structured Data. The basic idea of which is to tell search engines what the data on your website actually means. For example, we’ve told Google, within the code of our pages, what 07967 661701 actually is – it’s our main contact business phone line. Otherwise, for all it knows it might be a measurement, distance, coordinate, product code, other phone number, or any number of things. Without our specifically marking it, Google would have to guess. Google doesn’t like guessing. It likes to get things right, and if it thinks it has got something right it will put it at the top of the list. You can probably see where I’m going with all of this now!

So if Google knows what our phone number is, what our address is, what our logo is, what reviews we’ve had, what sentence constitutes a news item etc. (In fact, pretty much every tiny bit of data on your website can be explained to Google in further detail it seems.) Then, if it better understands our pages, it will reward us with better positioning in its search results. Or at least, that’s the idea!

Sounds easy enough! What’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a minefield. For me anyway. There are a lot of options for what you can mark up and lots of options for how you do it. It seems that you can mark-up your pages in many similar but subtly different ways. You can put all the structured data on every page, or just particular ones. You can try to put exactly the right data on exactly the right page. But who knows what is exactly right? Not me, unfortunately. So I’ve been experimenting…

Some structured data appears quite straightforward. If you are reviewing a film, selling a book, or promoting an event say, there are nicely laid out sections to fill in for things like ‘name of film’, ‘author’ and ‘date of event’. So I’ve done the obvious, such as our contact details on our About Us page and Enquiries page and our address and location details on our Location page. But what to do with our The House page or our Availability & Prices page? And what else can I mark up on our Stag Party Houses page? Don’t know yet – still working on it!

One thing I did learn, after waiting in vain for quite some time for a reaction to the data I had put on our home page, is that, Google pays no attention to structured data on your home page. You know, for a bff, it really could try a little harder!

Something that does appear to be stressed a lot is that structured data should relate to the page. If you tell Google that 07967 661701 is your phone number in your website code, then somewhere on your page that number should appear to the user. I’m alright with that, but other things are less clear. Reviews for example. We have at last count 32 TripAdvisor reviews and 12 Google reviews, a 4 star VisitEngland rating, with a Gold Award, as well as Facebook likes, blog comments and maybe soon some Airbnb and HomeAway reviews. How to show off all of this? It seems that I shouldn’t just be able to claim all this by simply typing it on the webpage; that Google will be looking for some sort of link to a verified source.

Or maybe not! It seems TripAdvisor does not offer its widget to holiday lettings listings so there is no official way to display its data on our site. Maybe I could just say we’ve got the reviews and see if Google believes us! Actually I thought I’d start with Google as, well, if it can’t check its own data then what hope is there? So on our stag party houses page I included some structured data mentioning 10 (at the time) reviews and our price range. I didn’t say they were Google reviews, they were not anywhere on the actual page that the user saw, and nor were any prices. In contrast, our hen party houses page had no such structured data. I sat back to see what, if anything, would happen.

And?

Well, the data got picked up pretty quickly and displayed in the search results. And, over a month later there does not seem to be any penalty for not making it clear what the reviews were, or not mentioning them, or the prices, on the page itself. My feeling is that the stag party houses page has, if not massively improved in position, then at least stabilised and is certainly not getting any worse. It’s also been consistently higher positioned than the hens. That could of course all be due to other factors and efforts I’ve made, but regardless, I’ve added data to many other pages now too and we’ll just have to all keep our fingers crossed!

I will just draw you back to my point number two though: My grasp of this topic is still sketchy. It’s something I will continue to work on and expand on, because I think if it can be done right (by Google’s definition!) then it could pay dividends – especially as a lot of our rivals don’t appear to have mastered it yet either!

Ok, look, that’s all very well, but how am I going to remember 1874? Simple – just count the number of words in this blog post!

Date of Activity: 1st December 2018

Planning a special party or family occasion? Looking for the perfect venue? Our large Devon holiday home sleeps 26 and has an amazing indoor pool. To find out more visit the Bicclescombe Grange website.

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