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12 Important Image SEO Tips You Need To Know

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12 Important Image SEO Tips You Need To Know

Think about the last time you uploaded an image to your website. Chances are you downloaded it from a stock photography site, uploaded it to the backend of your site, and then inserted it to the page.

This makes a shining example of image optimization, right? Not quite.

You’ve added a giant bowling ball weight to your site that’s slowing down the page speed. And, search engines can’t read your images without alt text.

Let’s change that.

Over 20% of all U.S. web searches happen on Google Images, according to 2018 data from Jumpshot.

SEO amateurs and pros alike know that optimizing images for your website is notoriously worth the time spent.

Dan Morgan at WebSpection got one of his photos to rank #1 in Google Images for “best person in Cardiff” in less than four days by optimizing his image.

And, Robbie Richards generated 150,732 visits by adding image alt tags, compressing images, and a few other SEO tricks.

Without proper image optimization, you’re wasting a valuable SEO asset.

It’s like the search engines are giving away Oreos and milk for free. But, you only take the Oreo. When in reality, the Oreo is way better dunked in milk.

Image optimization creates many advantages such as better user experience, faster page load times, and additional ranking opportunities. And, it’s becoming an increasingly more important role.

As Matt Southern pointed out, Gary Illyes’ statement on image search in a recent Reddit chat:

“We simply know that media search is way too ignored for what it’s capable doing for publishers so we’re throwing more engineers at it as well as more outreach.”

But which factors are most important to ensure your images are findable and don’t slow down your site?

Here are 12 important image optimization tips you need to know.

1. Choose The Right Format

Decoding all the various image formats can feel like your first time ordering at Taco Bell. But, before you can start adding images to your site, you want to make sure you’ve chosen the best file type.

While there are many image formats to choose from, the PNG and JPEG are the most common for the web.

  • PNG: Produces better quality images, but comes with a larger file size.
  • JPEG: You may lose image quality, but you can adjust the quality level to find a good balance.
  • WebP: Choose lossless or lossy compression using this, the only image format supported by both Chrome and Firefox.

For me, PNG is the unsung hero of image formatting. But, for my daily use, PNG is the way to go then convert those into WebP.

Just be careful if you’re using .jpg images inside an inline SVG format as Google’s systems can’t index these.

2. Compress Your Images

Yep, hell hath no fury like a bloated web page after uploading an image that’s not compressed.

Search engines will look at your web page like you might look at a big vat of Crisco: You can’t seriously be considering putting that on your website, right?

According to HTTP Archive, images makeup on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight.

That’s why I highly recommend compressing your images before uploading to your site. You can do this in Photoshop or you can use a tool like TinyPNG.

TingPNG also has a WordPress plugin you can use too.

However, I prefer WP Smush as my WordPress plugin. It reduces the image file size without removing the quality.

Whatever plugin you use, make sure to find one that compresses the images externally on their servers. It reduces the load on your own site.

Or, take it a step further and use an image CDN that detects the device and optimizes the image prior to delivery. Cloudinary and Imgix are two options to try out.

Increasingly.com improved website speed by 33%/2 seconds by compressing images.

I mean, there’s just something sexy about faster page speed when you compress your images.

If you’re unsure how your images are affecting your page speed, I recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

3. Create Unique Images

You want your photos to pop on your site. If you fill your website with stock imagery, you’ll look unoriginal – like thousands of other sites that don’t stand out.

Too many websites are cluttered with the same generic stock photos.

Think about a corporate website, a consulting firm, a business that prides itself on customer service. All these websites use virtually the same looking stock image of a businessman smiling.

I’m sure you’ve seen one that looks like this:

ImageCompression

While you may have your stock images perfectly optimized, it won’t have the same impact or potential SEO benefits as an original, high-quality image.

The more original pictures you have, the better experience for the user and the better your odds are of ranking on relevant searches.

Keep in mind that large images are more likely to be featured in Google Discover.

As Google recommends in its Advanced SEO resource,

“Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP.”

Do not use your logo as the image.

4. Beware Of Copyright

Regardless of the image files you choose to use, make sure there’s no copyright conflict.

The Postal Service is paying $3.5 million in an image copyright lawsuit. And, Skechers got sued for $2.5 million.

If Getty, Shutterstock, DepositFiles, or some other stock photo provider owns an image you use, and you don’t have a license to use it, then you’re risking an expensive lawsuit.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you could be issued a notice if you have violated any copyright issues. If the owner of a piece of content sees their content on your website, they can issue a DMCA Takedown which you must comply with.

Google Images allows you to filter results based on those available for reuse, and Mindy Weinstein shares 41 different websites to find free images.

5. Customize Image File Names

When it comes to SEO, creating descriptive, keyword-rich file names is absolutely crucial.

Not customizing your image file name is like getting a burrito with nothing in it. It just plain sucks.

Image file names alert Google and other search engine crawlers as to the subject matter of the image.

CustomImageFileNames

Typically, file names will look like “IMG_722019” or something similar. That’s like ordering from a menu in a different language. It doesn’t help Google.

Change the file name from the default to help the search engines understand your image and improve your SEO value.

This involves a bit of work, depending on how extensive your media library is, but changing the default image name is always a good idea.

Let’s pretend you have an image of chocolate for example.

I could name it simply “chocolate” but if you sell chocolate on your website, potentially every image can be named “chocolate-1,” “chocolate-2,” and so on.

I named this image “dark-chocolate-coffee” to let users and search engines understand the image.

6. Write SEO-Friendly Alt Text

Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them. Similar to the title, the alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file.

When the image won’t load, you’ll get an image box with the alt tag present in the top left corner. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.

Paying attention to alt tags is also beneficial to the overall on-page SEO strategy. You want to make sure that all other optimization areas are in place, but if the image fails to load for any reason, users will see what the image is supposed to be.

Plus, adding appropriate alt tags to the images on your website can help your website achieve better rankings in the search engines by associating keywords with images. Even Google has remarked on the value of alt text in images.

It provides Google with useful information about the subject matter of the image. We use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.

SEOFriendlyAltText

Alt text is required under the American Disabilities Act for individuals who are unable to view images themselves. A descriptive alt text can alert users exactly what is in the photo. For example, say you have a picture of chocolate on your website.

The alt text could read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”chocolate”/>

However, a better alternative text that describes the image would read:

<img src=”chocolate-1.jpg” alt=”dark chocolate coffee flavored bar”/>

Alt text is viewable in the cached text version of the page, aiding in its benefit to both users and the search engines. For further SEO value, the alt text can act as the anchor text of an internal link when the image links to a different page on the site.

7. Think About The Image File Structure

Google updated its Image Guidelines. One of the major updates they revealed was that they use the file path and file name to rank images.

Repeat: The file path and file name is an actual ranking factor.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce brand with multiple products, instead of placing all your product images into a generic /media/ folder, I would recommend structuring your subfolders to more category related topics like /shorts/ or /denim/.

8. Optimize Your Page Title & Description

Google also revealed that it uses your page title and description as part of its image search algorithm.

The Google support page states:

Check your page title

All of your basic on-page SEO factors like meta data, header tags, copy on the page, structured data, etc. affects the way Google ranks your images.

It’s like putting all your toppings on your burrito. It tastes way better with guac. So, make sure to add the guac for improving image rankings.

9. Define Your Dimensions

If you’re using AMP or PWAs, you are required to define your image dimensions in the source code.

However, if you’re not using either, it’s still a best practice to define the width and height. It provides a better user experience.

Plus, it allows the browsers to size the image before the CSS is loaded. This stops the page from jumping when it loads.

Image dimension attributes are also important for preventing Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) issues that can interfere with your Core Web Vitals optimization.

Making sure that you include width and height attributes for every image and video element is key.

This tells the browser how much space to allocate for the resource and prevents that annoying content-shifting that lowers your CLS score. Learn more here.

10. Make Your Images Mobile-Friendly

Oh, mobile SEO. At its worst, it can give you a high bounce rate and low conversions. But, at its best, it can give you more ranking power and better user engagement.

Problem is, how do you optimize your images for the mobile-first index?

Luckily, Google offers guidance on best practices for images.

In short, you want to create responsive images. This means the image will scale with the size of the site whether the user is using desktop or mobile. It adjusts to the size of the device.

Mozilla offers a comprehensive guide on using the srcset and sizes attributes to provide the browser additional source images, enabling the display of identical image content resized for the device.

It is important to format this with a different part of the attribute value on each line, as demonstrated in this example from their resource:

<img srcset=”elva-fairy-480w.jpg 480w,

elva-fairy-800w.jpg 800w”

sizes=”(max-width: 600px) 480px,

800px”

src=”elva-fairy-800w.jpg”

alt=”Elva dressed as a fairy”>

Learn more about using srcset for responsive images here.

11. Add Images To Your Sitemap

Whether you’re adding your images to your sitemap or creating a new sitemap for images, you want images somewhere in your sitemaps.

Having your images in a sitemap greatly increases the chances of search engines crawling and indexing your images. Thus, results in more site traffic.

If you’re using WordPress, Yoast and RankMath offer a sitemap solution in their plugin.

12. Add Structured Data

Structured data markup your content types to guide google and search engines to deliver better visual results. Essentially, Google could serve your images as a rich result if you add structured data.

For example, if you’re using schema markup on a product page and you label the image as a product, Google could pair this image with a price tag. Search engines skip the algorithm and use the information provided in the structured data to provide the right image.

Image Optimization Key Takeaways

So, before you begin uploading your image to your site, make sure to follow the image optimization rituals from above.

The most important thing is to make sure the image and alternative text are relevant to the page. Other key takeaways:

  • Choose the right file format. PNGs are my favorite for screenshots.
  • Reduce file size for faster page load speed.
  • Make sure your on-page SEO elements (meta data, structured data, etc.) pair with your image.
  • For crawlability, create an image sitemap or make sure your images are featured in your sitemap.

Optimizing images are no joke. With advancements in voice search technology, media is a growing importance and your entire site will benefit from taking the steps above.

Happy optimizing!


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

All screenshots are taken by author




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The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You’ll Face in 2024

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The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You'll Face in 2024

Seen any stressed-out SEOs recently? If so, that’s because they’ve got their work cut out this year.

Between navigating Google’s never-ending algorithm updates, fighting off competitors, and getting buy-in for projects, there are many significant SEO challenges to consider.

So, which ones should you focus on? Here are the six biggest ones I think you should pay close attention to.

Make no mistake—Google’s algorithm updates can make or break your site.

Core updates, spam updates, helpful content updates—you name it, they can all impact your site’s performance.

As we can see below, the frequency of Google updates has increased in recent years, meaning that the likelihood of being impacted by a Google update has also increased.

How to deal with it:

Recovering from a Google update isn’t easy—and sometimes, websites that get hit by updates may never fully recover.

For the reasons outlined above, most businesses try to stay on the right side of Google and avoid incurring Google’s wrath.

SEOs do this by following Google’s Search Essentials, SEO best practices and avoiding risky black hat SEO tactics. But sadly, even if you think you’ve done this, there is no guarantee that you won’t get hit.

If you suspect a website has been impacted by a Google update, the fastest way to check is to plug the domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Ahrefs Site Explorer screenshotAhrefs Site Explorer screenshot

Here’s an example of a website likely affected by Google’s August 2023 Core Update. The traffic drop started on the update’s start date.

Website impacted by Google's August 2023 Core UpdateWebsite impacted by Google's August 2023 Core Update
Hover over the G circles on the X axis to get information about each update.

From this screen, you can see if a drop in traffic correlates with a Google update. If there is a strong correlation, then that update may have hit the site. To remedy it, you will need to understand the update and take action accordingly.

Follow SEO best practices

It’s important your website follows SEO best practices so you can understand why it has been affected and determine what you need to do to fix things.

For example, you might have missed significant technical SEO issues impacting your website’s traffic. To rule this out, it’s worth using Site Audit to run a technical crawl of your website.

Site Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site AuditSite Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site Audit

Monitor the latest SEO news

In addition to following best practices, it’s a good idea to monitor the latest SEO news. You can do this through various social media channels like X or LinkedIn, but I find the two websites below to be some of the most reliable sources of SEO news.

Even if you escape Google’s updates unscathed, you’ve still got to deal with your competitors vying to steal your top-ranking keywords from right under your nose.

This may sound grim, but it’s a mistake to underestimate them. Most of the time, they’ll be trying to improve their website’s SEO just as much as you are.

And these days, your competitors will:

How to deal with it:

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to do these two things:

Spy on your competitors and monitor their strategy

Ok, so you don’t have to be James Bond, but by using a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer and our Google Looker Studio Integration (GLS), you can extract valuable information and keep tabs on your competitors, giving you a competitive advantage in the SERPs.

Using a tool like Site Explorer, you can use the Organic Competitors report to understand the competitor landscape:

Organic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerOrganic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can check out their Organic traffic performance across the years:

Year on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerYear on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can use Calendar to see which days changes in Positions, Pages, Referring domains Backlinks occurred:

Screenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerScreenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can see their Top pages’ organic traffic and Organic keywords:

Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTop pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And much, much more.

If you want to monitor your most important competitors more closely, you can even create a dashboard using Ahrefs’ GLS integration.

Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,

Acquire links and create content that your competitors can’t recreate easily

Once you’ve done enough spying, it’s time to take action.

Links and content are the bread and butter for many SEOs. But a lot of the time the links that are acquired and the content that is created just aren’t that great.

So, to stand the best chance of maintaining your rankings, you need to work on getting high-quality backlinks and producing high-quality content that your competitors can’t easily recreate.

It’s easy to say this, but what does it mean in practice?

The best way to create this type of content is to create deep content.

At Ahrefs, we do this by running surveys, getting quotes from industry experts, running data studies, creating unique illustrations or diagrams, and generally fine-tuning our content until it is the best it can be.

As if competing against your competitors wasn’t enough, you must also compete against Google for clicks.

As Google not-so-subtly transitions from a search engine to an answer engine, it’s becoming more common for it to supply the answer to search queries—rather than the search results themselves.

The result is that even the once top-performing organic search websites have a lower click-through rate (CTR) because they’re further down the page—or not on the first page.

Whether you like it or not, Google is reducing traffic to your website through two mechanisms:

  • AI overviews – Where Google generates an answer based on sources on the internet
  • Zero-click searches – Where Google shows the answer in the search results

With AI overviews, we can see that the traditional organic search results are not visible.

And with zero-click searches, Google supplies the answer directly in the SERP, so the user doesn’t have to click anything unless they want to know more.

Zero Click searches example, via Google.comZero Click searches example, via Google.com

These features have one thing in common: They are pushing the organic results further down the page.

With AI Overviews, even when links are included, Kevin Indig’s AI overviews traffic impact study suggests that AI overviews will reduce organic clicks.

In this example below, shared by Aleyda, we can see that even when you rank organically in the number one position, it doesn’t mean much if there are Ads and an AI overview with the UX with no links in the AI overview answer; it just perpetuates the zero-clicks model through the AI overview format.

How to deal with it:

You can’t control how Google changes the SERPs, but you can do two things:

Make your website the best it can be

If you focus on the latter, your website will naturally become more authoritative over time. This isn’t a guarantee that your website will be included in the AI overview, but it’s better than doing nothing.

Prevent Google from showing your website in an AI Overview

If you want to be excluded from Google’s AI Overviews, Google says you can add no snippet to prevent your content from appearing in AI Overviews.

nosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentationnosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentation

One of the reasons marketers gravitated towards Google in the early days was that it was relatively easy to set up a website and get traffic.

Recently, there have been a few high-profile examples of smaller websites that have been impacted by Google:

Apart from the algorithmic changes, I think there are two reasons for this:

  • Large authoritative websites with bigger budgets and SEO teams are more likely to rank well in today’s Google
  • User-generated content sites like Reddit and Quora have been given huge traffic boosts from Google, which has displaced smaller sites from the SERPs that used to rank for these types of keyword queries

Here’s Reddit’s traffic increase over the last year:

Reddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerReddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

And here’s Quora’s traffic increase:

Quora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerQuora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

How to deal with it:

There are three key ways I would deal with this issue in 2024:

Focus on targeting the right keywords using keyword research

Knowing which keywords to target is really important for smaller websites. Sadly, you can’t just write about a big term like “SEO” and expect to rank for it in Google.

Use a tool like Keywords Explorer to do a SERP analysis for each keyword you want to target. Use the effort-to-reward ratio to ensure you are picking the right keyword battles:

Effort to reward ratio illustrationEffort to reward ratio illustration

If you’re concerned about Reddit, Quora, or other UGC sites stealing your clicks, you can also use Keywords Explorer to target SERPs where these websites aren’t present.

To do this:

  • Enter your keyword in the search bar and head to the matching terms report
  • Click on the SERP features drop-down box
  • Select Not on SERP and select Discussions and forums
Example of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerExample of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This method can help you find SERPs where these types of sites are not present.

Build more links to become more authoritative

Another approach you could take is to double down on the SEO basics and start building more high-quality backlinks.

Write deep content

Most SEOs are not churning out 500-word blog posts and hoping for the best; equally, the content they’re creating is often not deep or the best it can possibly be.

This is often due to time restraints, budget and inclination. But to be competitive in the AI era, deep content is exactly what you should be creating.

As your website grows, the challenge of maintaining the performance of your content portfolio gets increasingly more difficult.

And what may have been an “absolute banger” of an article in 2020 might not be such a great article now—so you’ll need to update it to keep the clicks rolling in.

So how can you ensure that your content is the best it can be?

How to deal with it:

Here’s the process I use:

Steal this content updating framework

And here’s a practical example of this in action:

Use Page Inspect with Overview to identify pages that need updating

Here’s an example of an older article Michal Pecánek wrote that I recently updated. Using Page Inspect, we can pinpoint the exact date of the update was on May 10, 2024, with no other major in the last year.

Ahrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerAhrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

According to Ahrefs, this update almost doubled the page’s organic traffic, underlining the value of updating old content. Before the update, the content had reached its lowest performance ever.

Example of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

So, what changed to casually double the traffic? Clicking on Page Inspect gives us our answer.

Page Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerPage Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

I was focused on achieving three aims with this update:

  • Keeping Michal’s original framework for the post intact
  • Making the content as concise and readable as it can be
  • Refreshing the template (the main draw of the post) and explaining how to use the updated version in a beginner-friendly way to match the search intent

Getting buy-in for SEO projects has never been easy compared to other channels. Unfortunately, this meme perfectly describes my early days of agency life.

SEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgetsSEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgets

SEO is not an easy sell—either internally or externally to clients.

With companies hiring fewer SEO roles this year, the appetite for risk seems lower than in previous years.

SEO can also be slow to take impact, meaning getting buy-in for projects is harder than other channels.

How long does SEO take illustrationHow long does SEO take illustration

How to deal with it:

My colleague Despina Gavoyannis has written a fantastic article about how to get SEO buy-in, here is a summary of her top tips:

  • Find key influencers and decision-makers within the organization, starting with cross-functional teams before approaching executives. (And don’t forget the people who’ll actually implement your changes—developers.)
  • Adapt your language and communicate the benefits of SEO initiatives in terms that resonate with different stakeholders’ priorities.
  • Highlight the opportunity costs of not investing in SEO by showing the potential traffic and revenue being missed out on using metrics like Ahrefs’ traffic value.
  • Collaborate cross-functionally by showing how SEO can support other teams’ goals, e.g. helping the editorial team create content that ranks for commercial queries.

And perhaps most important of all: build better business cases and SEO opportunity forecasts.

If you just want to show the short-term trend for a keyword, you can use Keywords Explorer:

Forecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerForecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
The forecasted trend is shown in orange as a dotted line.

If you want to show the Traffic potential of a particular keyword, you can use our Traffic potential metric in SERP overview to gauge this:

Traffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTraffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And if you want to go the whole hog, you can create an SEO forecast. You can use a third-party tool to create a forecast, but I recommend you use Patrick Stox’s SEO forecasting guide.

Final thoughts

Of all the SEO challenges mentioned above, the one keeping SEOs awake at night is AI.

It’s swept through our industry like a hurricane, presenting SEOs with many new challenges. The SERPs are changing, competitors are using AI tools, and the bar for creating basic content has been lowered, all thanks to AI.

If you want to stay competitive, you need to arm yourself with the best SEO tools and search data on the market—and for me, that always starts with Ahrefs.

Got questions? Ping me on X.



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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

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Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results

Schema.org has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized Schema.org vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • http://schema.org/ListItem (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/ImageObject (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Organization (907,701,098 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList (817,464,472 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebSite (712,198,821 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebPage (691,208,528 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Offer (623,956,111 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/SearchAction (614,892,152 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Person (582,460,344 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/EntryPoint (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these Schema.org types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Schema.org Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The Schema.org vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific Schema.org types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the Schema.org vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

More resources: 


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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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