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#TechInsights | What is structured data and why is it important for DMOs? 

Structured data may be a term you are already familiar with, one of those terms you have heard but you’re not quite sure what it means or why you need it, or you have absolutely no idea and are yet to explore the world of structured data. 

With this in mind, we wanted to break it down for you with a simple guide on what structured data means and why it should be considered for DMOs.

What is structured data?

By definition, “Structured data is a type of markup that is a way to annotate your content so machines and search engines can understand it.” Simply put, structured data, also known as schema markup, helps Google understand your content better and increases visibility within search features. It is a form of web coding that organises and categorises the information on your website, making it easier for search engines to crawl, understand and display your content. 

It provides users a more detailed search result known as a rich snippet which is generated as a result of the data markups on your site. As organic search remains increasingly competitive, it is important to explore ways that can boost your position in SERPs. 

What is a rich snippet?

A rich snippet adds more detail to your snippet of information that appears in the search results, most commonly seen with recipes and products. To give an easy example, when searching ‘how to make pancakes’;

Normal snippet;

Rich snippet;

As you can see, the rich snippet adds an additional layer of useful information (the grey text between the URL and description); how long the recipe takes to make, calories and rating. It also includes an image which along with the additional details, creates a more valuable and eye-catching result for the user. 

For DMOs, this could include additional details such as a rating or number of reviews for an activity or restaurant. For example, when searching for ‘flights to Greenland’, the results below show that Tripadvisor’s results include a rich snippet. As a consumer, this would be more attractive as it gives an indication of price range before even clicking onto the result.

Thinking along the same lines and in the context of DMOs, a price indication could be applied to places to stay or activities to do in the destination, which would greatly help travellers when it comes to budgeting in the planning phase.  

It is important to note that this information is automatically generated based on the details marked up on a page of your website. Google (search engines) will use this information to create rich search results and therefore it is not guaranteed what will be displayed and when. As with any SEO strategy, the algorithm constantly changes and Google makes it harder and harder to rank so it is important to always monitor your markups and test your results. 

Types of structured data

In terms of the coding format, there are 3 main types of structured data to consider;

  • JSON-LD
  • Microdata
  • RDFa

The above is courtesy of Google which is definitely worth noting as Google is generally the most common search engine used. It is also worth keeping in mind Google’s quality guidelines as this determines what can be included in Google search results, and along with constant algorithm changes, can affect your rankings and what information is displayed. 

How to implement structured data

Depending on your team and systems, there are several different tools and website plug-ins available, making it fairly straightforward to implement schema markups on your website. Here are some to look into;

Yoast SEO - The Yoast SEO plugin automatically adds the most important structured data for your site. 

WordPress plugins - The Schema App Structured Data plugin automatically creates schema.org markup for all your pages, posts, author and category content leveraging information that already exists in your WordPress website.

Google structured data markup header - Google’s markup helper is super easy to use and assists you with determining how and where to add markup to a page on your website and then generates a HTML code that you can download and add to your site. 

How DMOs could consider the advantages of structured data

So why is structured data important for DMOs? For DMOs, it is essential to hold a visible web presence in the increasingly competitive organic search space, to fulfil the 'planning' phase of the visitor journey, answering key questions that visitors have about the destination, natively in search. 

It is important to implement strategies that drive traffic to your website, one of your most important owned channels. This is also effective in then driving traffic from your site to other owned channels, partner sites or to the wider industry, successfully moving visitors down the funnel of path to purchase. 

In such a competitive space, it is important to ensure you are there to meet your visitors at every valuable touchpoint, which includes different channels and search behaviour. 

Voice Search

As we know, digital assistants and voice search continue to play an important role in consumer search behaviour and are very much becoming part of everyday life. In this case, structured data helps to define the content on your website to increase the machine’s ability to successfully match it with relevant voice queries. 

Continual advances in technology mean they can now interpret full sentences, so it is important to consider optimising your website content for this feature. 

Think about conversational keywords rather than individual keywords to build on your on-page SEO, and to make it easier when converting text to speech. 

In terms of structured data, Google Search is currently developing and testing a new markup for this exact purpose. It is called Speakable and it identifies sections within an article or webpage that are best suited for audio playback using text-to-speech (TTS). It is currently only available in the U.S for Google Home devices that are set to English. Watch this space! 

As the official authority of information when it comes to travel, it is essential for DMOs to stay on top of SEO strategies, and continue to optimise website content and search opportunities. 

To summarise, structured data is not a single SEO strategy. Along with other SEO practices such as on-page SEO and conversational keywords, structured data;  

  • Can improve click-through-rates
  • Can improve visibility in SERPs
  • Improves customer experience during search by adding more information into the search results 
  • Can help improve site rankings, however using structured data alone cannot achieve higher rankings
  • Benefits a long-term SEO strategy
  • Makes your website more relevant to your audience provided you only use structured data that is relevant to your content. It may not be necessary to markup every page on your site so start with key pages such as places to stay, events, products & experiences and articles. 

 

Have you already considered structured data within your SEO strategy? If not, is it something you are looking to explore? We hope this has been article has been helpful and would love to hear your thoughts! 

 

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