Google recently released a new episode on their Podcast, Search Off the Record called “Structured data: What’s it all about?”.
As a Structured Data enthusiast, I was over the moon when Google released this podcast. At Schema App, we live and breathe structured data every day of the year. This podcast provides some insights from Google on how structured data compliments their machine learning work, along with the challenge of keeping structured data up to date and how structured data is here to stay. I highly recommend the 30 min show.
I’ve summarized my takeaways from the lively conversation between hosts Martin Splitt and Lizzi Sassman and guest Ryan Levering, a Google software engineer that works on structured data.
Machine Learning & Structured Data
We often get asked at Schema App, whether machine learning will make structured data obsolete. Ryan Levering shared how machine learning and structured data work together. Structured data is something you can control and give to Google, enabling Google to build features. Then they can further enhance the search experience using machine learning.
“Most of our features over time migrate to that approach where we ingest it. Maybe we start with one approach where we’re just using ML. And then we eventually add markups so people have control. Or it’s the opposite way around. And we start– we bootstrap with markup in an eco-system approach where people are giving us data. And then we enhance coverage of the feature by adding ML long run.”
Ryan Levering @ 8:34
Structured Data beyond Rich Results
Their answer was vague (funny when the topic is about disambiguation, ha!). They use machine learning to identify the topic of the page, and will “sometimes” refer to structured data to help. It sounds like if you are using structured data to clarify the topics on the page, it can be of value.
“So structured data is just one signal in that overall calculation. But it can help us with certain disambiguation in terms of what the actual page is about. So, it is useful, but just in a more implicit sense right now.”
Ryan Levering @ 16:06
Challenge: Keeping your Structured Data Up to Date
One of the challenges for Google is to ensure that the structured data matches the content on the page, what Martin Splitt refers to as drift. Basically, is the human and machine-readable (structured data) content in sync?
Google checks this, and it’s costly to them. Depending on how you implement structured data, this can be very time-consuming and complex. Ryan recommends not doing structured data manually, but finding a way to build it on the content. This in itself has its challenges, keeping templates up to date, ensuring content performs to load in time, etc.
We’ve worked hard to solve this problem, and that is why we built Schema App’s Highlighter. The Highlighter builds structured data from your website content, so it is easy to solve this challenge of keeping it up to date.
“I think the key is to make sure that the thing that’s generating– like Martin alluded to– the thing that’s generating your content is coming from your database directly and it’s not really manual.”
Ryan Levering @ 22:20
The Future of Structured Data
Good news! The future for structured data is bright. Ryan shared that in the mid-term, they will be looking to add new features and start leveraging Structured Data universally to enhance the Google experience.
“I mean we continue to flesh out the structured data usage in terms of adding more features and looking into more ways we can use it in cooler things that are not just visual treatments but actually help with more understanding on the page” Ryan Levering @ 27:07
In the long term, Ryan shared his vision of finding ways to consume structured data programmatically, removing the need to have structured data on the webpage, while still linking it to the webpage.
“I would like to move to where we are adjusting more and more data through structured data-specific channels rather than necessarily conveying all of our information on the web page itself.”
Ryan Levering @ 27:20
As I mentioned previously, the future is bright for structured data, and we are so excited at Schema App to solve these challenges with our Schema App Highlighter – the best tool on the market that deploys structured data at scale, enabling you to reap all the benefits and take control of your brand in search.
Martha is the CEO and co-founder of Schema App. Schema App is an end-to-end Schema Markup solution that helps enterprise SEO teams create, deploy and manage Schema Markup to stand out in search. She is an active member of the search engine optimization community, and the work that she does through Schema App is helping brands from all over the world improve their organic search performance.