They are a strongly increasing resource, onto which absolutely focus our attention, but it seems that a long educational work is still required: we are talking about structured data once again, because right on these past few days there has been a direct Google’s intervention to explain and clarify what are they for and why to implement them on the site. And the ranking is not really one of the reasons…
A controversial message on structured data
The whole case bursted out when Rebecca Eisenberg posted on Twitter the screen of a message received on Google Search Console reporting a “top warning”: the foodblogger launched a site that “doesn’t participate in diet culture”, but according to the Google tool the lack of calories count inside the recipes is a problem that could jeopardize the entire performance of the site in Research.
Eisenberg probably over-interpreted the message, given the fact that on her tweet she writes that Google is basically saying “enable calorie counts on your recipe cards or risk not appearing in search results“, but still the topic ended to ignite several reactions within the SEO community, forcing Danny Sullivan to step in in order to clarify the situation.
Structured data are useless to the ranking
Google’s public @searchliaison wrote a thread on Twitter to solve the misunderstanding and thoroughly explain the usefulness and whole sense of structured data. Sullivan writes that “a concern was raised that calorie information was required for recipes to be included in or to rank well for Google Search“, but he immediately specifies that this is not the case.
More specifically, “structured data like this has no impact on ranking in web search” and “content owners can provide structured data as an optional way to enhance their web page listings“.
Once again, then, he stresses that structured data have no impact whatsoever on ranking, and “using them may simply help pages that already rank well appear more attractive to potential visitors“.
The markup can activate interesting features for users
In the specific case of food-themed sites, Sullivan says that “providing calorie information through structured data may then show those calories as part of the recipeâ€™s web page listing“. But the provided example also shows that there are lots of sites that never implemented this markup or are not using structured data at all.
Besides the listing in SERP, Google Search also uses structured data to activate some “special features”, such as carousels or other rich results (we talked about this just a few weeks ago!), but in the specific case of recipe carousels as well the info on calories are not mandatory requirement to activate the feature.
Unclear communication in Search Console
Ending the thread, Sullivan goes back at the core of the issues sparked by Rebecca Eisenberg, that is the warning message received in Search Console: this “free tool is designed to help content producers do better in Search, including suggesting possible improvements or catching possible oversights with content in search”. The message about the lack of info on calories is a “standard notice” that can indeed seem a bit unclear, because it does not specify that it is indicating an optional suggestion rather than an “imperative”.
For this, the Googler announces that the team will review both the text and wording of these messages so to make them more effective and clear, in order not to unintentionally create new concerns again and, most of all, so to reach the ultimate goal of the service, a.k.a to help content producers to fully understand the kind of opportunities they are actually missing.