As a digital marketer, I came from a world of pay-per-click content marketing. For five years I worked within the balance of cost and revenue, and was always seeking new opportunities to improve profit margin. What I loved about digital marketing was the control over what content you were advertising and who you were marketing it to. What I didn’t realize was that structured data gives you a different kind of control: how your content appears in organic search.
As I entered this new world of advanced search engine optimization, it took me a while to understand exactly what structured data is and what it can do. I had this amazing chance to learn from, and work closely with, schema markup experts—my new coworkers at Schema App. Within just a few weeks, they showed me where they see value in structured data based on years of experience. It was difficult to adjust my digital marketing mindset to focus on technical SEO, but I knew I had this powerful window of opportunity to evolve my own approach to web content and audience development.
This is my story: a digital marketer’s perspective on learning the value of structured data, from the inside out.
Google Search: SEO vs PPC
The fundamental difference between paid search and organic search is the cost. With pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you are paying for visibility in paid search rankings. With search engine optimization (SEO), you are focusing on unpaid rankings in organic search. You can improve your SEO performance by making your web pages more relevant to users. But you can’t pay for a better ranking in organic search, and it’s a common misconception that Google Ads improves your SEO rankings, because “Google is committed to keeping [its] search content useful and trustworthy”. If websites could just pay to rank higher in organic search, users wouldn’t be getting the most relevant or authentic content for their search queries.
From a content perspective, SEO is the practice of including content on your website that will improve relevancy and visibility to search engines and their users. This doesn’t mean keyword stuffing to improve rankings, because you still want to write for users who will be using your website. Having inlinks, which is when other sites link to yours, can also help your organic search rankings as this increases your E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) for Google as it crawls your web pages.
Google Ads, which is Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising solution, allows website owners to bid on the chance to show their content for searches on Google.com. You have control over how your ad appears in search results, what group of people will see your ad, what time of day your ad will appear, and much more. For many smaller organizations, PPC can be a more sustainable option because they can’t maintain their SEO to reflect content changes, sales, promotions, etc. PPC doesn’t have the same results as SEO and won’t improve organic search rankings, but paid ads can grab a user’s attention at the exact moment they’re searching for a business like yours. What’s exciting is that structured data can achieve a similar result within organic search, because you are helping Google to read the content on your site more easily, and better match it to a user’s search query. SEO may take longer to get right on your website, but you’re setting your online presence up for long-term success by building that credibility with search engines and users alike.
My introduction to structured data
One of the first things I learned about structured data is that I’d already experienced the power of it through my personal search engine use. I just didn’t understand what I was seeing, or how it affected my own interaction with search engine page results. Once it clicked that those enhanced search features were achieved through schema markup, it was like opening my eyes to a whole new world of content opportunities.
Schema.org was created in 2011 by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Yandex, as a standardized and centralized structured data vocabulary. So why was I only learning about structured data now, and not five years ago?
The simple answer is that from a digital marketing perspective, structured data is an SEO practice and schema markup is relatively new for many SEOs. Working with Google Ads, I already had a sphere of influence where I didn’t need structured data for my day-to-day work. I could use the data I already had from paid ads performance to inform editorial decisions, based on what content users were engaging with. To me, structured data was an organic search game that I had no business playing as a digital marketer. What I didn’t realize is that these two efforts, PPC and SEO, actually compliment and supplement each other. Think about it this way: at Schema App, our customers typically achieve more than 10% more clicks and impressions from schema markup. When factored into what you’re spending on Google Search Ads, you’re actually saving 10% of that cost from this organic traffic. For my digital marketing team, this would have been a HUGE win. Investing in SEO is also more sustainable for your business as a whole, because organic traffic doesn’t dry up as soon as you stop paying.
Just like any organization is a sum of its parts, your digital strategy should function in a similar way. Search engine optimization and paid ads shouldn’t be siloed, because they can inform your content strategy in different ways. Data from paid ads can inform content decisions for your Google Ads campaigns, but you should also consider structured data when building out content on your website. Depending on the products and services you offer, different search features can highlight the unique value proposition of your business. Understanding what rich results are available, and for what forms of content, can help you build a more robust, comprehensive site for users to navigate. Satisfying search intent is a search engine’s number one goal. This is why Google recommends including structured data on your web pages, so that it can better understand and contextualize the content it finds there. The goal of SEO is to help search engines understand the content and purpose of your web pages so that Google can better match a search query to the information you’re providing. You’re building meaningful connections with users through relevant content, and with search engines through structured data.
Building meaningful connections with structured data
A big part of my work as a digital marketer was audience development, which is the process of growing and nurturing your user base or “audience”. You’re building and establishing relationships with your website visitors, which when you think about it applies to both digital marketing and structured data. PPC advertising is a laser-targeted way to get in front of potential customers, but with organic search you can cast a wider net. There are new search queries every day, and with SEO you’re increasing the scope of your organic visibility. You’re capturing users that your PPC ads may not be prepared for. Structured data empowers your digital team to drive more brand awareness through engaging search features, getting your content in front of users at different stages of their customer journey. You can educate potential customers about your business with rich snippets like FAQs, Product reviews, LocalBusiness ratings, and much more. The best part is, once you’ve established yourself in organic search your competitors can’t just buy their way ahead of you.
As a beginner, structured data isn’t quick or easy. I was lucky enough to be able to learn from schema markup pioneers Mark van Berkel and Martha van Berkel, which is why I wanted to share my story. Schema App was founded to provide a SaaS solution with expert support to help businesses like yours harness the power of structured data. We’d love to help you start building your own meaningful connections!
Are you ready to unleash the power of structured data?
As the digital marketing manager for Schema App, Elise Marion digs into the details of SEO, content marketing, and authorship for the Schema App website. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Classics from McMaster University, a Masters of Arts in Comparative Literature from Dublin City University, and a post-grad certificate from Conestoga College in Integrated Marketing Communications. In her spare time, you can find Elise enjoying a good book, planning her next trip, or taking long walks with her Labrador Retriever Jude.