It's sometimes difficult to keep up with the changes and opportunities that happen and appear in search these days, so we've compiled a list of items worth noting from Google. Some of these you may be aware of, while others may have slipped by you. Regardless, it's worth reviewing these to determine where you stand and where you still need to do some work.
Google Has Added Structured Data Markup (Schema Markup) to Their SEO Starter Guide
This is a clear indication from Google on the importance of properly marking up your website. Both Google and Bing have been championing markup for years, and it's a trusted way to ensure search engines see all of your marked up content in ways that enable it to be used in rich results. Check out Google's SEO Starter Guide for the basics, and more in-depth links to related topics, or skip directly to the deeper, more technical information from Google on Structured Data.
Enhance Your Appearance on Google with Structured Data Markup
If you're still on the fence about structured data markup and it's value, Google has this to say:
"Proper structured data in your news, blog, and sports article page can enhance your appearance in Google Search results. Enhanced features include entry in a top stories carousel and rich result features such as headline text and larger-than-thumbnail images."
A deep dive into the code-side of this conversation can be found here. The value of being able to appear in these rich results is obvious, but there's even more. The newest addition of value comes in the form of having your content converted into an action for use in voice search scenarios.
In Google's words, "By structuring your content according to this guide, your content may be automatically turned into an action on the Google Assistant. You can learn more about*Content Actions* on the Actions on Google docs." Working with structured data to mark up your content has always been an opportunity, and now we're seeing those opportunities expand.
Google Releases a Rich Results Test
Google has released a Rich Results Test, and is now officially calling results "Rich Results," when they are marked up and served alongside, or in place of, regular organic results. Similar to the Google Structured Data Testing Tool, the Rich Results Test checks to see if your content is properly marked up for Google's Rich Results. As of this writing, the test only works for the following content categories: Job Posting, Recipe, Course, and Movie. While this is a limited subset, you can expect expansion across other verticals to follow, and it is yet another example of proof that proper Schema markup is extremely important to Google.
Store Locator Pages are Necessary
For multi-location businesses, Google has noted that in order to bulk verify locations (greater than 10) in Google My Business, an accurate store locator page is necessary. Individual Postcard Verification for each location can be a painful, time consuming exercise, though is still possible. If you have 10+ locations, are not bulk verified, and do not have an accurate store locator page, we have solutions that can help — Pagesand Store Locator. These are not the only solutions, but what's important is that you take advantage of services that can streamline your workflow and minimize errors.
Page Speed is a Ranking Factor
While not a surprise to anyone following search in the last few years, Google has officially announced that page speed is/will be a ranking factor, and feedback collected from consumers explains why this is such an important area of focus for the engines:
- A three-second page load time sees an average abandonment rate of 53%. As page load speed for a page increased from one second to five seconds, for example, the chance the visitor will bounce reaches 90%
- Another study of consumer data found that roughly 50% of mobile users state that page load speed affects their loyalty to a site.
It's excellent to have Google state publicly what the search marketing industry has believed for several years, yet the fact remains: by and large, the vast majority of businesses could stand to improve their page load speeds, especially as mobile enters the conversation. If you want to learn more about page speed directly from Google, check out their PageSpeed Insights.
Google is Storing Your Data for Longer
In terms of data sharing, Google is updating Google Search Console (GSC) to increase the time data is stored from 90 days to 16 months. This has been a major issue, and a big request from the search marketing community. It's extremely difficult to view trends unless you have a year or more of data. Previously, you were left on your own to collect data and create your own reports if you wanted a long-term view.
While you should still create focused views of data that matter to your business, this makes it a lot easier for day-to-day efforts. This is a very big investment for Google, as the volume of data it has to maintain now adds a substantial cost to a program that is not a revenue generating product. In addition to the extended time range for data, the new GSC now includes reporting on Search Performance, Index Coverage, AMP status, and Job Posting data.
The common thread we see through most of this is structured data. It matters and unlocks inclusion in richer consumer experiences. The world of SEO today is about as complex as it's ever been, and consumer demands have never been higher. Just a couple of years ago you had time to wait and develop a mobile strategy, and decide if marking your content with structured data was worth the effort. Today, that's no longer true.
To succeed today, you need speed, accuracy, and trusted data that's marked up — and a laser focus on consumer engagement. Increasingly, that engagement is via mobile devices, and Google's own move to a mobile-first index underscores the needs to align. It appears we are increasingly living in a mark-up-or-get-out world.