Ask the SMXpert: SEO markup and structured data

The Ask the SMXpert series continues the question and answer (Q&A) segment held during sessions at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West 2018.

Today’s Q&A is from the Successful SEO Using Markup & Structured Data session with Alexis Sanders. With an introduction from moderator Chris Sherman.

Chris Sherman

At first glance, using markup and structured data can seem intimidating. There’s a lot of jargon to understand, and even making a small error with punctuation can lead to unintended or even disastrous consequences.

But as Alexis demonstrated at SMX West, succeeding with structured data needn’t cause ulcers, and can even be fun when approached with the right attitude. In this question and answer (Q&A), Alexis offers solid technical advice with straightforward answers and pointers for finding additional resources.

Alexis Sanders

Question: Do you recommend implementing microdata over JSON-LD for e-commerce sites?

Alexis: In terms of Google, no. Either [will] suffice — whatever is easier for your site’s development team to implement.

If Bing is a concern, then I’d opt for microdata. Although there are a few instances of Bing supporting JSON-LD for Recipe and Product markup, it’s still a bit spotty for Product.

Aaron Bradley maintains a community-driven Bing/JSON-LD tracker on GDrive. I recommend checking it out and updating with anything you see!

Bing hasn’t added JSON-LD to their structured data documentation.

Question: How can we do markups for review pages, where content is getting constantly refreshed?

Alexis: There are a few different approaches. Here are two common ones:

  • Use a template with microdata wrapping elements that are updating (I prefer this approach).
  • Dynamically update via JavaScript widget.

Question: We recently embedded automatic reviews from Google My Business to a client site. However, we cannot mark up the reviews via AggregateRating because it is embedded content. We add the data from Google My Business reviews manually in Restaurant Markup, but this is not the perfect solution. What is your advice?

Alexis: It’s against Google’s guidelines to use third-party reviews, which means we can’t use Google My Business (GMB).

This point is hard to find on the review of structured data documentation Google provides:

I hope Google changes their stance on this and allows GMB to be used, as it’s a useful source to draw information.

Question: What are use cases for markup data for business-to-business (B2B) enterprise software companies like IBM, Cisco, etc.?

Alexis:  For B2B companies, I’d recommend prioritizing contact, product and organization information. Here are some supported markups:

High priority 

  • Product. Mark up product pages with product information, potential to include pricing (items with price ranges can also be marked up via AggregateOffer) and review and/or rating information (and get stars within SERP, which typically have a higher click-through rate [CTR] that results without rich results).
  • Corporate Contact. Signals appropriate contact information for each section of the business.
  • Logos. Signals desired logo for Knowledge Graph.
  • Social Profile. Signals desired social media profiles for Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Medium priority

  • Breadcrumb. Indicates breadcrumb navigational links, may result in cleaner, consolidated uniform resource locator (URL) on search engine result page (SERP).
  • Sitelinks Searchbox. Combined with SearchAction signals to send Sitelink Searchbox traffic into internal site search.
  • Software App (Beta). This includes MobileApplication and WebApplication. Mark up for software applications including web and mobile apps (Note: Since this is in beta, a site would likely have to reach out to search engine representatives to be included in beta).
  • Local Business. Brick-and-mortar location, if applicable.

Low priority

  • Article/Blog Posting.  If the website has a blog, mark up articles with relevant information. Might also be worth considering accelerated mobile pages (AMP) for blogs only.
  • Job posting/Occupation. If you actively recruit new hires, this is structured data to support jobs appearing within Google’s SERP features.
  • Course. If online classes or sessions exist, consider marking up with Course structured data.

Extended markups not yet actively supported by search engines:

Here are some rich results Google supports:

  • Star = star rating
  • Dollar signs ($) = prices shown in SERP
  • Carousels = SERP carousel
  • Calendar = event within SERP
  • Magnifying glass = visual change in the SERP
  • Twitter bird = social media in Knowledge Graph
  • Video reel = video content within SERP

Question: Does metered content that doesn’t use flexible sampling markup risk a cloaking penalty? 

Alexis:  In the flexible sampling documentation, Google states:

I (personally) don’t think flexible sampling constitutes cloaking, as it’s not done maliciously or with the intent of damaging search results. But it’s not up to me; it’s at Google’s discretion.

The setup has potential to be flagged (i.e., serving Googlebot the article and the user the message, “You’ve reached your monthly five-article quota, pay now please”), and, since a solution exists to technically describe this situation, it’s worth implementing and circumventing any issues.

Have more questions for our SMXpert Alexis?

Complete this form and we’ll run your question (giving you full credit for asking) and the SMXpert responses shortly!

Interested in the rest of Alexis’s program?  Click here for the full “Successful SEO Using Markup & Structured Data presentation.”

About The Author

Debra Mastaler is Features Editor at Search Engine Land. She is an internationally recognized authority on link building and is an OMCP Certified Link Building Trainer. Based in Washington DC, Debra is also a columnist for Search Engine Land, has written for or been featured in numerous tech publications and is active on the search marketing conference circuit as a speaker and trainer. Debra serves as a judge for the Landy Awards and is the President of Connect with Debra on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay in touch.

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