When it comes to semantic search (and we should really be thinking about it as just search) the question of structured data introduces an oddity. Really semantic search is all about structured data. Google’s bot indexes the web, collecting everything it finds, most of which is in the form of unstructured data, and Google then creates a structured data image of that inside its index.
Search then is almost like a brain, applying a thin but critical layer of order upon the chaotic mass of information that gets dumped upon the web every second of every day. Within that context everything that we can do to help make the indexing process easier is a plus.
Structured data is a W3C validated way of annotating the content you produce on your website so that search engines can better understand what it is and how it fits in with everything else they have indexed across the web. Because the application of structured data requires some knowledge of programming in order to implement correctly it has always been left to those who actually can code, to work with.
This raises an interesting question. If you can’t code or if you create content using a platform like Google’s blogger or Word Press or if your website is ran by a dynamic content management system like Joomla or Drupal is there anything you can do to help Google understand your website’s content better?
The answer, obviously is “yes” (otherwise this article wouldn’t make much sense). It does however require some planning and forethought and it will also require some discipline as you move forward. So if you really want your website’s content to feature in Google’s search here are the steps required:
Create content that answers specific search queries. Rather than simply having content that is there to feature a keyword or two, think of what your online visitors really need to know about what your website does and focus on answering the questions they really have about its services or products.
Have depth in every article you write. Link to additional, external, authoritative sources that broaden the scope of your articles and further enrich the experience for your online visitors. Point to other pages on your website only when the content found there is relevant and adds further value for the online visitor who is reading the current page.
Use hashtags. Whenever you share your content in social media networks like Twitter and Google+ use hashtags that help quantify it. Be consistent in your use of those hashtags and make sure that they adequately reflect the content being shared. An article like this, for instance might appear under #marketing but really that’s a very generalized category. It would be much better to present it under #semanticsearch.
Create ontologies in your content. Ontologies are groupings of content that share a common identity of purpose. They help create a sense of order, depth and expertise in your website content.
Provided you take the care and attention required to meet all these points in your content creation plan, then your website will stand a good chance of being indexed properly and rank highly even if you have zero structured data markup in your implementation of its code. More than that it will appear exactly when it’s supposed to meaning that it will be found by those whom its content can benefit the most and that is the best win you can wish for on the semantic web.