Done with Basic SEO? This One Thing Should Be Next on Your Checklist

I’ve got 2 words for you: “Machine learning” and “screenless devices.”

Yes, I know that is more than 2 words, but you get the gist.

Let’s get to the point of what this all boils down to: Structured Markup.

To all of my non-technical readers out there, DON’T LEAVE. Hear me out, okay?

While structured markup is not the sexiest of terms in digital marketing today, it is one of the most important things you can learn about as we progress to the next level of search engine marketing sophistication.

To get to the next level with your SEO efforts, your SEO foundation has to be top notch and up to date. That’s a given and I know you’ve “been there, done that.” So after you’ve checked off all of the best practices important for your industry, it’s time to revisit your structured markup strategy.

Structured data tells Google what our site is about.

First, a word about why this is critical to the future of SEO:

  1. Screenless devices
  2. Machine learning

Screenless Devices and SEO

The prevalence of screenless devices in our world today is growing at a lightning fast pace due to: the Internet of Things, wearables, personal assistants, and home “smart speakers” (like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo).

We still don’t have a lot of concrete information about what businesses are going to come out on top.

However, we have to make it easier than ever for Google to understand in a micro-second what our content is about.

As a side note, the idea of structured markup isn’t new. SEOs have been touting for years now about the importance of marking up your content because of rich snippets and rich data that are displayed in the SERPS. We need to do everything we can these days in order to get clicks, right? We’ll get to that in just a moment.

Machine Learning and SEO

Did you know that 15% of Google searches done by users each day on Google are brand new? And that Google processes over 5.5 billion searches per day?

According to one of my fave SEO experts Eric Enge, the idea that Google has to quickly and accurately serve up quality results for approximately 825,000,000 new searches a day underscores the power of machine learning capabilities, which introduces us to Google’s RankBrain. (And yes I definitely just googled 15% of 5.5 billion thank you).

RankBrain is confirmed and widely known to be one of the top 3 ranking factors. It is Google’s AI system that instantaneously sorts and ranks web results. Adjustments and assessments are baked into the algorithm and no longer have to be “pushed out” (like was done in the past).

SEO Rankbrain

(image source: Distilled)

In order for us to rank for the queries of tomorrow and next year, we need to make it easy for RankBrain to understand, display, and rank our content. Structured data is how much of that will happen inherently.


Structured Data and Its Importance for SEO: Getting Started

There are no less than a bajilion fantastic articles that talk about structured data and schema. I’ll link to a few below. But to get you started (or to give you a refresher), here are the deets on the who, what, where, when and how for marketers:

WHAT: What is structured data?

At its most basic, “structured data” is a piece of code you put on your website. According to Yoast, structured data is how you can “talk” to the search engines and allow Google to instantly grasp information and share it in a “richer” format. It tells search engines what the content means – not just what it says. Structured data produces beauties like this:

Recipe Structured Data - Yoast example

 (image credit: Yoast)

Recipe Structured Data - Kissmetrics example

(Image credit: Kissmetrics)

Recipe Structured Data - Google Carousel example

(image credit: Google)

WHO: Who needs it?

Do you think you might be the one business where structured data doesn’t apply? Think again.

Unfortunately and fortunately, there are no less than hundreds of different elements you can mark up for business types, such as:

  • All Businesses -> sitelinks, organization (logo), breadcrumbs, business name, social profile info
  • Ecommerce SEO -> star ratings, prices, inventory, reviews, products, breadcrumbs,
  • Local SEO -> local business schema, events,

Here are two great guides:

  • Google Developers guide: this VISUAL GUIDE with examples shows how structured data can produce rich snippets. Glance through to see which are relevant to your business and industry
  • Search Engine Land: this article details structured markup opportunities by the type of site you have. Genius!


This code gets added to individual pages or posts through your CMS or source code.


While this is not an item that upon doing will skyrocket you to success overnight, it is one that you have to add to your “near future” SEO checklist if your website is dependent on SEO and traffic and staying relevant in the future (hint: that’s all of us).

HOW: How do we get it on our site?

Here’s where non-technical people like me often want to throw up. Let’s talk about your options:


SEO is a critical piece of your website marketing plan. If you  haven’t had an audit done in some time, this will be an important part of assessing opportunities.

What are your experiences with structured data? Share below!

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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