Any eCommerce store owner looking to increase sales by driving Website traffic from organic search needs to pay close attention to what structured data (rich snippets) is all about.
Structured data allows Google and other search engines to understand more about your products, and transfer that information to potential buyers using search.
From a technical point of view, structured data is implemented by using additional markup in your HTML code that uses an agreed upon vocabulary for representing data in webpages (defined at schema.org).
But, why should you, as an online store owner (or entrepreneur), looking to develop a new eCommerce website, care about yet another technology that adds additional complexity to your website?
This article will show how using structured data will help increase sales, and which eCommerce software (hosted shopping carts) solutions make it easy to implement.
SEO & structured data
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about generating as much high value Web traffic from organic search results in Google and other search engines.
There are two ways you can increase Web traffic to your online store from search results:
- higher page rankings: appear high up in as many search results as possible
- higher CTR (Click Thru Rate): get more people to click on your search results
Google has already stated that websites implementing structured data (that Google displays as rich snippets) will not affect page rankings.
In other words, from an SEO perspective, implementing structured data isn't going to help with point 1.
However, point 2 is just as important for generating traffic. After all, there is little point in doing lots of great work to get your products and content to the top of search results, if no one clicks on them, and visits your site.
Structured data provides eCommerce sites with a huge advantage when it comes to increase CTR because the rich snippets it displays are more meaningful and visually attractive than generic search results.
Here's what normal Google search results look like:
and here's what search results using rich snippets looks like:
Obviously there is a substantial advantage in being able to display critical product information right there on the results page (Note: the second result even has a calorie count for that particular recipe).
Schema allows for some flexibility in the type of data that can be structured. So you can be sure to find a way to get the right product info across, as early as possible.
"Structured data provides a method of getting important product information to customers to help them make a buying decision while they are still searching."
Not only that, but while it won't help your page rankings, it does allow Google to "understand" your content better, so it may help to ensure that your products rank well in the right search results (i.e. not higher, but more closely related).
If you ever need to test whether your product pages have implemented structured data correctly, use Google's Rich Snippets Testing Tool.
eCommerce software with support for structured markup
If your online store is based on older technology, or you are still in the process of developing an eCommerce site, then it is important to choose a high quality eCommerce solution that supports rich snippets.
It is possible to manually add structured markup to the HTML on your pages, but believe me, this is a long and arduous task that you will soon get tired of.
In order to do things properly, you need a shopping cart solution that builds structured markup into its product pages at the template level, or from the ground up. Fortunately, some do!
The following list (taken from our list of the most popular eCommerce software), shows how they implement it:
* SD - Structured Data
** The difficulty is assigned a number between 1 and 5, with 1 being really easy, and 5 being very difficult (i.e. requiring technical skills).
So, if you haven't yet begun to implement structured markup for your online store, now is the time to start developing with one of the leading eCommerce solutions.
Get it sorted out now, and you will enjoy a brief period (say, about 1 year) of increased traffic and sales from the search engines before structured data is adopted everywhere.
Are you already using rich snippets to sell products online? What other benefits arise from implementing structured markup on your site?
Share your eCommerce SEO and rich snippets tips and advice in the comments.