This week news came out that Google did an algorithmic update to punish sites that did structured markup or schema incorrectly or in a spammy manner. I wanted to touch on this lightly just to explain what it is because most small business owners I run across are not even using structured markup so it is likely not something you have to worry about it. If you already know what it is, then you should probably make sure you are doing it right.
Basically structured markup is code you can put on your site that was universally agreed upon at schema.org to tell search engines specifically what certain information on your site is and can actually help get information indexed and used more in search engines. For the last few years it was viewed by some SEO’s as a difference maker because many people weren’t doing it and if you did it you could get certain edges, especially in certain industries. It was allowing some organic listings to be expanded and take up more page space with reviews or other bits of information. It would also sometimes allow sites to show up in the knowledge graph.
Of course any time something comes up in SEO that can help you rank, many companies will abuse it and take it too far. This is what the latest algorithm is intended to punish. This happens with every ranking factor at some point. If you do things properly and don’t abuse the system, you will usually be fine. Everything in moderation. The good news with structured markup is that Google actually has a structured data testing tool, so if you are inclined to go this way, they will tell you if you are doing it right. In other words, if you are abusing the system, it should be obvious and you know you are doing it.
The gray area here is that this was one of the things that was showing in many of the research studies unveiled at SMX as having little correlation to ranking. In many instances, people were actually recommending not using it any more. It was meant to take off and it never did. One person went so far as to say if you have been doing it, go ahead and keep doing it, but if not, don’t start now. Right now the future of this is somewhat cloudy. If Google wants to force us to take it seriously they can, and an algorithm update targeting it, to me, is a sign that they care. However there may be new ways with the upcoming http/2 that will make this more straightforward and user friendly.
Bottom line is if you are using it now, just make sure you go use the tool and be sure you are doing it right. If you are cheating, you will know it, and you can only blame yourself.