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How to Optimize Your Structured Data for SEO and Semantic SEO

This Article is written in honour of Bill Slawski, one of the greatest SEOs of all times; where his career started before the word SEO became a thing and before Google existed. Bill was a specialist in semantic SEO and google patents. Bill was a mentor for me and thousands of SEO enthusiasts worldwide.

Bill and I were working on this Article until the last days of his life. This Article contains Bill’s final SEO advice before he passed away.

While this article talks about how to implement SEO and semantic SEO for structured data, Bill demonstrates his profound semantic SEO technique with the sheer genius of writing the content in a way that translates into structured data using triples. To learn how that can be done, let's go back to the basic building block. The (thing).

The word 'real' is derived from the Latin word res, which is often translated as 'thing'. The word 'thing' is often used without a presupposed meaning, not needing an explicit philosophical definition because it belongs to ordinary language. Nevertheless, what is a thing? How to define it? And the question of how things are related? These three questions are the main concerns of semantic SEO.

Semantic SEO is the science of describing the types of entities in the world and how they are related. One way to do that is to define a vocabulary for things and the contextual relation between them, the vocabulary that today makes Semantic SEO possible is called Schema.org.

Schema.org is not the only vocabulary for Semantic Web, but it's the one maintained and supported by Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex. However, it's important to note that structured data is not the only method to optimize for semantic Web, but it's one of the effective methods if you have good content.

Suppose your website contains a large amount of content. In that case, structured data can help describe, categorize and connect your content together in a way that helps search engines have a better understanding.

Many people know how to create and install structured data, but not so many know how to optimize structured data for Semantic Web. In this article, we are going to explain the followings:

Let's Start

What is Data?


Data is a collection of information.

One purpose of Data Science is to structure data, making it interpretable and easy to work with.

Data can be categorized into two groups:

  • Structured data
  • Unstructured data

Unstructured Data

Unstructured data (or unstructured information) is information that either does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner. Unstructured information is typically text-heavy, but may contain data such as dates, numbers, and facts as well.

Structured Data

Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

The purpose of structured data


The goal of structured data is to make human language machines readable. Structured data is data that has descriptions and is formatted in a standardized and accessible manner. Data descriptions are what we call metadata. Therefore structured data gives machines and search engines the ability to understand your data and parse it.

Why is structured data important for SEO


Structured data is important for SEO because it will make it easier for Google to understand what your pages, services, and your website are about.

The benefits of using structured data include but are not limited to boosting your organic traffic, increased click-through rates, greater search visibility, faster indexing, feeding Google knowledge graph and announcing special events.

1. Boost your website’s organic traffic

Structured data can increase your organic traffic, By enabling structured data, search engine algorithms can better understand the content of your web pages, and you can raise your SEO game.

Browse google SEO case studies and success stories to see first-hand how structured data can help you reach more people with your website.

2. Increase your organic Click Through Rate (CTR)

Structured data can trigger your organic rich results. One of the benefits of rich results is increasing your website’s click-through rate. Rich results can include carousels, images, reviews, Q&A or other non-textual elements. Does your page support rich results? Find out with Google rich result test.

3. Faster indexing

Structured data can help Google crawl your website easier and index it faster. crawling is expensive, and there is a lot of duplication and low-quality content the search engine wants to keep out of its index, so make your crawling budget count.

4. Match User Intent

Machines such as semantic search engines use structured data to read and understand the primary entities of your website with relations and reasoning systems, which can help users find what they are looking for by understanding user search intent.

5. Feed Google Knowledge Graph

Structured data provides Google knowledge graph with relevant information about you, your business and your website. In addition, this data can be used to feed Google’s Knowledge Graph. A knowledge Graph can be seen as a database connecting all kinds of data Google finds on the web. This data is displayed via google knowledge panel.

By feeding Google's knowledge graph, Your structured data helps Google connect the dots. In this way, you will offer the necessary data about your website's search results in the best possible manner.

6. Announce Your Special Events

Structured data can help Google display special events such as baseball game live scores, the timing for graduation parties, current employment opportunities and more.

The event experience on Google makes it easier for people to discover and attend events through Google Search results and other Google products, like Google Maps. This feature brings many benefits, such as More interactive results and Increased chances of discovery and conversions.

Semantic Triples: How Schema Markups Work


simple triple

A semantic triple, as its name indicates, is a set of three entities that codifies a statement about semantic data in the form of: subject–predicate–object (ID, Property, Value) expressions.

Google crawler parses your data and transforms it into a triples that can be inserted in a graph database. Triples are the universal and fundamental atom of information. Therefore, understanding the semantic triple is a key to optimizing your structured data and your content for semantic Web.

How can metadata describe data using the triplets? Example: (e.g., "Bob →is → 35", or "Bob → knows → John"). This format enables knowledge to be represented in a machine-readable way. Every part of schema.org triple is individually addressable via a unique ID. URI can be used to represent those IDs — for example, the statement "Bob knows John" might be represented in schema org as:

{ "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "Person", "@id": "Person1", "name": "Bob", "knows": { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "Person", "@id": "Person2", "name": "John" }}

In schema.org, every fragment of information is stored and accessed as triples.

It is always possible to break an object down into a precise set of triples. Single triple pattern matching, as shown above, is undoubtedly useful, but there’s a limited number of things that can be expressed as a single pattern of triples; therefore, triples can create more complex models by using triples as objects or subjects of other triples, for example, Susan → said: (Bob → knows → Jhon).

complex triple

Quick tips from bill Slawski on how to use triples to write content that translates easily to structured data

Instead of using structured data to describe your content, Bill demonstrates his profound semantic SEO skills with the sheer genius of how to write your content in a way that translates into structured data using triples. bill slawski

According to Bill Slawski

Semantic search engines such as Google have been Using Knowledge bases such as Wikipedia, musicbrainz, Yahoo Finance as sources of data to describe data.

Those are often filled with semi-structured or structured data, which is easily usable. Google has also started using data from unstructured data sources such as authoritative and enterprise sites.

If you are writing such content, write in ways that translate easily to structured data.

  • Write in Triples or subject-> verb-> object formats.
  • Use title pages with the subject of the page as the title and heading.

A Triple is what a search engine wants to see when it comes to data.

Unstructured data tends to be inflexible but more unique than structured data. It brings more variety to the Semantic Web.

I remember when Deepmind was extracting data from CNN and the Daily Mail. They chose those sources because they liked how they were formatted.Wikipedia is formatted in a way that makes it easy to take data from.

And Google can use 2 row delimited colon lists as key value pairs from Wikipedia - making it structured data. If you are going to build content that is semi-structured, you can use rows like that in the content that you create too.

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In the following sections, we will learn the elements of each triple and how to optimize it. More importantly, we will learn how to apply our knowledge to a semantic network describing three different relevant entities.

To optimize the semantic triple, first, we have to understand its elements (ID, property and value) Each ID is an entity, and each entity has properties; the value of an entity can be an ID of another entity, so the value is the ID of another entity which also has its own different properties; as you probably can see, these elements are interrelated and yet distinct, their value depends on their context.

To simplify this concept, we can divide the schema into three different parts (Type, Property and ID) and learn how to optimize each piece, but first let’s review the schema markup rules.

How to Optimize Your Schema Markups for SEO?


1. Follow the general guidelines

  • Be Simple: A simple yet a powerful SEO rule is that your markups should represent the primary entity of your page. According to Google's John Mueller: From our guidelines, we want to make sure that the structured data you have on your page matches the primary element on your page.

  • Be relevant: In SEO context is king, find other relevant entities and describe their relations to your primary entity. According to Google's John Mueller: So if you’re saying that you can add an FAQ to a random page on your website, sure you can do that. But is this FAQ the primary part of the page? Or relevant for the primary entity of the page? That’s something that you kind of need to figure out.”

  • Don't markup irrelevant content: In order for your SEO practice to be sharp and focused, you don't really have to markup any irrelevant content, such as navigation bar, main menu, footer, etc. as long as these entities are not relevant to your primary entity.

2. Optimize your schema type

  • Be Specific: Choosing the right schema type is the first building block to optimizing the value of your entities for search engines.

For instance, if you are about to describe a dental clinic, would you choose a localbusiness schema? Or would you rather choose a medical organization? Both answers are partially correct but not entirely because if you choose any of them, you will lose some properties required by the other type; you can use both types together, however the best solution is to select a dentist schema. The dentist schema combines both properties from local businesses and medical organization, and it is the most accurate description of the dental clinic.

Use the most specific applicable type and property names defined by schema.org for your markup.

  • Be accurate: The more accurate you are the better for SEO. Your schema is simply a description of what is on your page; therefore, it is not recommended to add more information on your schema that does not exist on the page; if there is a discrepancy between your schema and the information on your page, according to Google your website may receive less favorable ranking or be marked as ineligible.

  • The more, the better: when describing an entity on your website, the more information you provide, the better for SEO. Only make sure that all the data exists on your page.

  • Multiple items: Describing and relating multiple items is an advanced SEO practice. Multiple items on a page mean that there is more than one kind of thing on a page. For example, a page could contain: A recipe. A video that shows how to make that recipe. Breadcrumb information for how people can discover that recipe. All of this user-visible information can also be marked up with structured data, making it easier for search engines like Google Search to understand the information on a page. When you add more items that apply to a page, Google Search has a fuller picture of what the page is about and can display that page in different search features.

3. Optimize your schema Properties

Properties are the description of your entity. To optimize your schema properties for SEO, define your primary entity using mainEntity, and describe its relations to other entities using URL, sameAs and About.

  • Define your primary entity: To define your primary entity, the mainEntity property allows you to explicitly express the relationship between the page and the primary entity. For example, use mainEntity to clarify which of several entities is the primary one for that page.

  • Use URL: The URL property should be reserved to refer to more official or authoritative web pages, such as the item's official website.

  • Link your data: The sameAs property also relates a thing to a page that indirectly identifies it. Such as a Wikipedia page or for a product sameAs can be a manufacturer's official site with specs.

  • About vs mainEntity: about is similar to mainEntity, with two key differences. First, about can refer to multiple entities/topics, while mainEntity should be used for only the primary one. Second, some pages have a primary entity that describes some other entity. For example, one web page may display a news article about a particular person. Another page may depict a product review for a particular product. In these cases, mainEntity for the pages should refer to the news article or review, respectively, while about would more properly refer to the person or product.

  • Use Images: Tt is a good SEO practice to make sure that the image is relevant to the page on it. Use the image URL to identify it. All image URLs must be crawlable and indexable.

4. Optimize your Schema ID

The schema identifier property or ID represents any identifier for any Thing, such as ISBNs, GTIN codes, UUIDs, URL, URI, sameAs etc. Schema.org provides dedicated properties for representing many of these, either as textual strings or as URL (URI) links.

ID is used to define entities and connect them, sasmeAs and URLs are special cases of ID.

You can call your ID any name you want, but it is preferable to give it the HTML ID tag for the same entity you describe.

SEO Tip: If there are more helpful items when they are linked together (for example, a recipe and a video), use @id in both the recipe and the video items to specify that the video is about the recipe on the page. If you didn't link the items together, Google Search might not know that it can show the video as a Recipe rich result.

How to optimize your structured data for semantic SEO?


One good way to tell google about your real-world connections is by building semantic networks. In short, a semantic network puts your data into context via linking and Nesting your semantic metadata. This will help you shift away from single disconnected schemas and allows you to build semantic knowledge graph networks that better represent your entities and their context.

SEO Tip:If you would like to learn more about the SEO tools required to apply the following steps, I wrote an article about semantic web and the semantic SEO tools required

1. Provide context by linking your entities to named entities

The ability of the structured data to link information from multiple sources is a desirable and powerful feature that can be used for semantic SEO.

Naming entities is the task of assigning a unique identity to entities (such as famous individuals, locations, or companies). For example, given the sentence "Paris is the capital of France," the idea is to determine that "Paris" refers to the city of Paris and not to Paris Hilton.

car simple knowledge graph

Use case example: How to link Nissan company as the manufacturer to a car schema

According to Tim Bernard Lee: In hypertext websites, it is considered generally rather bad etiquette not to link to related external material. This is because the value of your information is very much a function of what it links to, as well as the inherent value of the information within the web page. So it is also on the Semantic Web.

Entity linking techniques that map named entities to Wikipedia entities are called wikification.

2. Use nesting for relevant entities

nesting

Nesting is a poweful semantic SEO practice which is based on defining the nature of relationship between entities.

Entities that are separately identifiable but also part of a larger entity are said to be nested within the larger entity.

Additional items are grouped under the main item when there is one main item. This is particularly helpful when grouping related items (for example, a recipe with a video and reviews).

Use case example: Example on how to nest a car schema into an auto dealership., to show google that the auto dealer is the one providing the offer, and the car is the primary entity of the page.

3. Build a semantic network.

A semantic network is a knowledge base representing semantic relations between concepts in a network. This is often used as a form of knowledge representation. I am working on a video about how to create a semantic network for a service website.

A semantic network may be instantiated as, for example, a graph database or a concept map. Typical standardized semantic networks are expressed as semantic triples.

Semantic networks help crawlers recognize all the entities on your website, especially your primary entity and understand all the information about it and its relationship with your other entities.

4. Match your site with rich results


Qualifying schema markups for rich results requires webmasters to provide more specifications about their entities, such as pictures, reviews, prices, etc. These rich result requirements and specifications are a beneficial data source for the semantic web. Thus it is a proper semantic SEO technique.

The rich snippet result test can check your markups against the general guidelines that apply to all rich snippets. These guidelines must be followed to enable structured data to be eligible for inclusion in Google-rich results. Click here to check your markups against those guidelines using Rich Snippet Result Test.

Conclusion


Use structured data to describe your content.

Write in a way that translates into structured data.

To optimize your schema markups for SEO, it is recommended to do the followings:

  • Choose the right schema type.
  • Define your primary entity using mainEntity, and describe its relations to other entities using URL, sameAs and About.
  • Stitch your schema ID with the html id tag of your entity.

To optimize your structured data for semantic SEO, it is recommended to do the followings:

  • Link your entities to authority websites to provide context.
  • Nest your entities with other relevant entities to describe their relationships.
  • Build semantic networks to give the whole picture.
  • Match your site with rich results.

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Comments

  1. Levantine Chronicles

    Levantine Chronicles on #

    Nice article, thanks for sharing in such a simple understandable language.

  2. Praphulla Hada

    Praphulla Hada on #

    A great article indeed. Now, I need to learn how to write in triples.

  3. Gabriella Sannino

    Gabriella Sannino on #

    Thanks for doing this... I know Bill would have smiled!!

  4. Maudy Pedrao

    Maudy Pedrao on #

    Thanks guys for the excellent job!

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