Google I/O 2019 – Enhance Your Search and Assistant Presence with Structured Data review

May 13th, 2019

Structured data is important – we know this. In fact, anyone that has come within hearing distance of me over the last three years or so will also know this. In addition to a recent Google Webmaster Blog, Google dedicated a talk at I/O 2019 to the topic – allowing Google to again push the importance of schema to the future of search

I’m going through the talks as fast as possible, and hope to analyse a few more over the coming weeks, but I’ve skipped ahead to this talk as it looks to beat the same drum I have for a while now – and gives me an opportunity to find out a little more about what’s planned. This talk – from the conference’s second day – followed the announcement, during the developer keynote, of the new rich results for FAQs and How-tos and the talks began there.

Aylin Altiok intro

Altiok began with an overview of how ‘Google has been helping users discover great content’ on more than a billion devices – covering how the typical user journey has changed over the last 20 years – including the emergence of the mobile device, smart speakers and digital assistants.

google assistant commute

Google’s motivation, she says, is to bridge the gap between that great content and these new devices. That – and not the desire to render click-throughs redundant and stealing traffic and content from brand sites – is why Google are implementing new rich results. For example, they are now allowing video to be included in recipe schema.

Altiok then moved on to offer use cases for the new rich result types – demonstrating them in action with a site built to show how to make origami flowers, and producing a “how to” carousel across multiple devices.

how to carousel

Will Leszczuk

Following the use cases from Altiok, Leszczuk talked about implementation – beginning with an overview of the schema.og project. He recommends live editing code using the Google tool Rich Results Test – which offers a preview of the possible rich result achievable (this is the successor – I found out through this video – of Google’s structured data testing tool, apparently I was a little behind on this). The live demonstration took only a few minutes to implement a basic how to JSON-LD mark up and preview it, which should set a few minds to rest.

rich result preview

Leszczuk also talked through some new Search Console reports – including ‘Enhancement Reports’ and ‘Unparsable Structured Data’ report abd a ‘Search appearance’ report for both the how to and FAQ types. Following this, he walked through some of the top level features of the FAQ rich result.

FAQ rich result preview

A braver man than I, Leszczuk then makes his third device switch in a single talk (the idea of one switch is terrifying) – demonstrating the ability of the Google Assistant to return the right answer from an FAQ both when the query matched a specific FAQ question and even when it didn’t match exactly but the assistant was able to infer a connection. He then proceeded to offer some implementation tips for the schema attached to both new rich result types.

FAQ schema tips

Aylin Altiok on YouTube ‘How To’ Templates

For those content creators that don’t maintain a website, Altiok says, creators can create a host of rich content on the Google Assistant. The latest of which is a ‘how to’ type – requiring only time stamps for steps and some description in a Google Sheet template – producing a step by step video guide available on a range of Assistant enabled devices.

how to template
how to steps
how to preview

While this is only available as an ‘Action’ at the moment – meaning the user will essentially have to know what they’re looking for in advance, it seems reasonable to expect that this will roll over in to search at some point in the future – most likely with the addition of the video element to the how to schema (as has happened with the recipe schema), though the main obstacle would seem to be the necessity to either split the video in to multiple sections, or create a way for the schema to refer to specific timestamped URLs as they would an image URL. As things stand, I find it difficult to imagine that summoning specific actions for this kind of thing will become widespread, but it really depends on how the UI evolves over the next year or so.

how to video tips

Will Leszczuk session recap

Leszczuk offers a recap of the talk at the end, but the summary of this summary is that: Google is trying to take the strain off the developer community at large, attempting to do so by using an easily implemented form of structured data as a bridge between your great content and a growing number of rich results.

Some thoughts

Without getting too tinfoil-hattish – I do foresee a time when Google will use the content on the web to build custom experiences for each of its users; essentially providing a unique web for everyone from content available throughout the massive, distributed database it has at its disposal. Rich results are the start of this – mining your content to provide in SERP experiences for the user. Whether this will force a revenue sharing model remains to be seen – especially as many YouTube creators will have monetised such videos and are unlikely to want Google lifting these videos with no compensation, and publishers more generally are likely to lose traffic as the rich results cover more and more aspects of the user journey.

However, unless things change, brands are going to need to ensure that they’re implementing structured data to take advantage of these rich results in the short term – aiming to build their relationship with their users in SERPs.

The whole subject is one which greatly interests me and developments are coming thick and fast – with more of search and digital becoming reliant on correctly structured data. A few things we can assume with relative certainty are – structured data is going nowhere for the time being and will only increase in importance. Beyond that, we just have to make sure we keep up to date and see where it goes.

For more actionable advice on structured data and everything else in search, you can check out our resources section. Or you can come along to our Benchmark conference to hear from Richard Wallis – one of the founders of Alternatively, you can contact us today to see what we can do for your brand.

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