In the past couple of months, many marketers have rapidly shifted gears in the face of sudden budget limitations and realigned priorities. Investments into long-term projects or new software may have been put on hold, yet key performance indicators (KPIs) still need to be met. Many are left wondering what they can do to promote their brand without feeding into growing consumer discontent.
Along with intelligent and targeted advertising efforts, marketers need to invest in the long game by implementing technical on-site search engine optimization (SEO). SEO thought leaders have been tracking volatile ranking changes caused by COVID-19’s impact on search habits. In some cases, this is leading to record low organic inbound traffic, which you may have seen on your own website. You’re not alone. These wild fluctuations are happening across several industries as the algorithms used to rank search results are struggling to adjust to new consumer behaviors.
Once states lift stay-at-home restrictions and reopen commerce, I believe search habits will begin returning to normal. Marketers who take the time now to ensure their on-site technical SEO is in order may benefit most and possibly leap ahead of key competitors, maybe for the first time.
What You Should Do
If you are the one responsible for your website’s structure and content, you likely have the basics down already. These would be simple items like having your meta title and description in order, having well-structured robots and configuration (.htaccess) files, and having proper internal links sitewide.
One of the more time-consuming and advanced items people tend to put off “until they have time” is adding structured data to every single page and post. What is structured data? Structured data is a special type of code written specifically for search engines. Several years ago, the companies behind the major search engines (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex) collaborated to found Schema.org. This site establishes a shared vocabulary that webmasters can use to identify written content and categorize it by entity.
For example, at Ameri-Force, we use “@type”: “JobPosting” on each of our job posts to signal to the search engines that the piece of content is a job post. This helps our posts to be included in search engine features like Google’s job posts.
But it doesn’t stop there. You’d be surprised to find out how granular Schema’s categorization gets. Nearly every conceivable industry has its own subset of code to identify content items. For example, the restaurant “Schema Type” includes identifiers for whether or not a restaurant accepts reservations or what type of cuisine they serve. Having a thorough knowledge of the Schema surrounding your industry, and knowing how to implement it, can result in a serious payoff.
Why It Matters
When you put in the work to identify specific components of your website, the search engines take notice.
Both Bing and Google incorporate structured data into various sections of their search engine results pages (SERPs). For example, a search for “welding jobs Jacksonville” brings up a separate section within the results that focuses exclusively on jobs. Based on my experience, companies that have included the proper Schema markup on their job posts have a higher chance of being listed here than those that do not.
This also applies to online reviews. By identifying your company’s reviews and linking to the source of the review, the search engines can then include star ratings with your company’s search listing.
If all of this is new to you, don’t worry; Schema provides a comprehensive guide on how to get started, which will walk you through each step. There are several ways to incorporate structured data into your site’s framework. From my personal experience, JSON-LD works the best and has the smallest learning curve.
Start small and test Schema on a page with low traffic. If you break it, it won’t be as noticeable as if your homepage went down. Of course, as with any significant coding change, make a full backup of your site beforehand and know how to revert if needed.
Once you have added the Schema markup and posted the live page, check that the page works and is free of errors. Then use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to examine your code. This will highlight any errors or problematic lines of code and allow you to make changes within the tool until all issues are resolved. Once your code is free of errors, update your test page, push it live and test it again. After successfully updating a few pages, you will feel comfortable with the new coding language and can move forward with the rest of your website.
While time-consuming projects like this are often pushed to the back burner, dedicating some time to this project now will allow you to really dive in. Take this time to invest in your website, play the long game and we’ll see you at the top of the search results.
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