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Structured Data Script for Local Business Listings

How to Optimize Your Local Business Website for SEO with Structured Data Snippets

A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Structured Data Snippets for Your Local Business Site

This article shows a practical ‘How To’ for creating a structured data snippet for your Name, Address, Place profile for your business.


Review:  SEO for Local Business – 3 Techniques That Most Businesses Are Not Doing.  Be sure to check out the article here...

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • How to create make a Name, Address, Place ‘snippet’, by creating a JSON script
  • Testing the ‘snippet’ using Google
  • Installing the script on your site

It's important to know ‘why’ structured data is so important.

When somebody searches for a ‘restaurant near me’, Google’s algorithm to show results that match the intention of the search.

Google Search Near Me

Google can determine where the search is originating from by using GPS (especially mobile devices) and IP addresses. Based on your location data, it then it displays the results.

Notice that some businesses will appear more prominently in the results. The best place to be is in the Map Info window!

The Map Info window is the premium location and is placed above the standard search results.

How to show up in the Map Info Window

How do these listings show up in the Map Info Window?

Think about this -the #1 entry in the search engine results page for this search is still below the map windows! This means that if you are a local service based business - you want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to get placed in the map window.


How to get placed in the Google Search Map Info Window

How does Google know...
That a particular business is a restaurant?
That the restaurant is ‘nearby’?


The Google search algorithm is really good at figuring this out - especially when we HELP GOOGLE by telling Google that we are a restaurant!

Remember, Google is going to shows search results that are most relevant. When it comes to ‘places’, the goal is to establish authority and credibility with Google.

This is why it is important that Google knows precisely and specifically the details about our business.

We can do this with Structured Data Snippets.


What Are Structured Snippets and Why are they Important?

As humans, we understand what an address is and intuitively comprehend the purpose of an address when we see it on a website. However, Google and other search engines are not as good at making inferences. They do recognize a street address - but they don’t know specifically that a particular section on your website with an address is your address.

We’re going to create a script in a very specific format that tells Google about the business. The script will include the category of business, the name, address and contact information.


Creating Structured Snippets for Local Business Listings

The snippet is actually a JSON-LD script. If you don’t know what JSON is or what it means, don’t worry about it - just know that Google prefers JSON scripts.

Here are two tools to use for creating a JSON code snippet:

Microdatagenerator.org
Ezlocal.com

The tool from Microdatagenerator is easier to review the JSON script (cleaner and easier to read). However, the tool from Ezlocal below has better listings of local business type categories. We’re going to use both to create an example.


Step 1: Organize Your Business Listing Details

Create a central document with all of your information so it can be used as a reference.

This part seems obvious - but it’s critical to be consistent! Your name, address and contact information should be consistent across all of the platforms (Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc) where it is listed. 


Pro tip: It is surprising how many organizations have inconsistent phone numbers and contact details listed online. This reduces a website's authority with Google - so make sure to keep all of these details consistent!


Step 2: Go to Microdatagenerator.org and Fill in the Form

Make sure to complete every blank form. Note: If you don’t see your business type listed in the drop down, just select a ‘type’ that is closest to your organization. We will be able to edit this later.

Create JSON-LD Script

Create JSON-LD Script from Microdatagenerator.org

Step 3: Create the JSON-LD Script

After you have filled in all of the information in the form, choose the output type. Google prefers JSON-LD, so make sure to select this option.

Output JSON-LD Structured Data Snippet Script

You will now see a window with the JSON-LD script containing your business information!

JSON Structure Data Script

JSON Structure Data Script

Note: If you did not see a business category that matched your business, this is how you can change it.

Open up a separate browser tab to EZlocal.com.

I like to use EZ Local for this part because their form has more approved options for business type descriptions. It’s important to use an established business type. EZ Local is pulling their ‘types’ from an organized classification system that is in alignment with schema.org.

Side note: Google recognizes the schema.org classification model. This tends to be a deeper topic with lots of ongoing debate!  Just know that you should not make up your own business type description - instead, find the closest description for your business. For example, a Marketing Consultant business will use the more generic business type description of: “ProfessionalService”

In the newly created script, look for the line that says: “@type”: “Description” where description is the business description you chose from the form.

You can now replace the term “Description” with the new term that correctly matches your business.


Step 4: Test the JSON-LD Script with Google

Now that you have the JSON-LD script, it is time to test it with Google.

Open up a new browser window for Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool


UPDATE:

The Tool above is being deprecated...  New Tool HERE - Google Rich Results Test


Choose the ‘Code Snippet’ option.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

Next, paste your code into the Code Snippet test window and click on Run Test.

Google will run a test and if there are any errors, it will show exactly which lines in the script need to be fixed. Note: Make sure to fix any errors! Often, it can be a simple error caused by a type or copy/paste mistake.

After you have validated that your script is correct, save the final version as a text document.


Now it is time to install the script on your website.

The method for installing the script on your website is variable, and depends on what type of website you are using, what type of theme you are using, etc. For example, if you have a WordPress theme that allows you to install scripts, then you can copy/paste the JSON-LD script into your Body section.

Here is a method that can be used for most websites.


Note - there may be more preferred methods, but this is more an all-purpose hack that will do the trick.

Most website platforms have the option to insert custom HTML/code into a section on a page. For example, find the section on your website where you list your business address. Then, use your web page editor to insert custom HTML code in the same section.

If you use WordPress with a page builder there is usually an Element called Custom HTML

Insert Custom HTML Element

Insert the Element in the same section where you are showing your address. Then copy/paste the newly created JSON-LD code into the Custom HTML Element and save!

Insert JSON Script Structured Data Snippet

That’s it - You are done!!


Recap: Creating a JSON-LD Snippet for Local Business Listing SEO

  • We created a JSON-LD Script with our key business information including Name, Description, Address, Phone and more...
  • We Tested the JSON-LD script on the Google Structured Data Testing Tool
  • We installed the newly created script on our website.

Now that you know how Structured Data works and why it’s important, you can start using Structured Data Snippets strategically. For example, you can use Structured Data to create articles that are eligible to appear on Top Stories Carousel areas in search results.

For more information on how to create content with Structured Data, read Google’s guidelines on the Google Developer Website.

SEO for Local Business – 3 Techniques That Most Businesses Are Not Doing

SEO Foundations for Local Business

Implementing a full fledged SEO strategy can take a long time and potentially a lot of effort. However, building a proper SEO foundation for local business is not complicated and is easy to accomplish.  There are a few tactics that any business can implement to create this foundation.


These tactics ensure your site is discovered by search engines, that your details are visible on maps and can help your website to stand out on search engine results pages (SERP) with enhanced snippets and details about your website.


Here are the Steps:

Claim Your Business on Google My Business

Validate your Website with Google Search Console

Enhance You Website using Structured Data Scripts


These methods work because you are helping the search engine crawlers to do their job better.  For all of the sophistication behind search engine algorithms and AI, they are still software and need help in deciphering information about a website.  As humans, we can easily discern the intent and function of a specific website.  We recognize that a website is for a dentist, or a bakery/deli, auto mechanic, etc…  For humans, the recognition is almost instant.


The search crawlers on the other hand are constantly working to evaluate the value and worth of a website with respect to its relevance from a user’s search. The key concept here is ‘relevance’ and this concept corresponds to the basis of SEO strategy.


In a nutshell the fundamental strategy for effective SEO is to provide relevant and useful content in response to search. And there are certain things we  can do to help search engines perform this job better.


Even if you have no intent on pursuing a long term SEO strategy, implementing the methods shown below should be done for any business that wants to be discovered with localized search phrases - i.e. ‘restaurants near me’ or ‘chiropractors in eugene’.


Note: The first two methods below are specific to Google, but the exercise is relevant for search in general.  For example, once you’ve validated your business profile to appear on Google maps, you’ll see that Microsoft has a similar feature for Bing maps.


Validate your business with Google My Business


If you are just starting a business, you may not know about Google My Business. Creating a profile on Google My Business is how you get your business listed on Google Maps.


If you are already listed on My Business, then this is a good time to update your profile.  Many site owners create their profile but do not update their information on a regular basis.


Why is this important?  First and foremost, claiming your business information with Google My Business establishes ownership and validates the website and location to Google.  Secondly, this process creates what is commonly referred to as the NAP listing (Name, Address Phone) that appears in local searches on Google Maps!  In addition to the basic NAP information, you are also able to add a profile picture, photos of the business, open days/times.  


One of the most powerful features of the Google My Business listing is reviews! Creating social proof through reviews is one of the best ways to generate credibility for your business.  


For more tips on how to automate the process for getting reviews for your business, see this post on getting more Google Reviews.


If you haven’t done so already, claim your business with Google My Business.


Validate your Website with Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a powerful set of tools designed to help website owners improve their site’s performance with search.


There are many things you can do with Google Search Console, but we’re primarily concerned with two core functions.

  1. Instructing Google to index your site
  2. Testing and validating how Google sees your site

Instructing Google to index your site

Search engines discover websites by crawling through sites and detecting links.  If you have a website and contain inbound links from other websites, it’s likely that Google knows about your site.  However, if you let the search crawlers discover your site passively, it’s likely that they will not capture everything - they will only see pages that they can get to from linking.


A better way to do this is to create a sitemap.  A sitemap is a text or XML list of all the pages on your site (XML is preferred for reasons we’ll explain).  A sitemap document can easily be created with a plugin, which will index every URL on your site in a format that is readily understood by Google and other search engines.  Sitemaps created in XML format are preferred because they list additional details, such as ‘last modified date’.  


Once a sitemap is created, it can be uploaded to Google Search Console.  The act of doing this expressly instructs Google to index your site. Now, Google not only knows about your site, it knows every page and URL that you listed on your sitemap.  Furthermore, with XML sitemaps it will know to periodically crawl your site and make note of any modifications.


This last part means that Google will automatically be aware of new blog posts, post edits, and other improvements and additions.  All of these efforts help your site to be listed on search results if your content is considered relevant.


Testing and Validating How Google Sees Your Site

How do search engines really see your site?  What if you put a lot of effort into designing your pages for what you thought was mobile friendly.  If you made a mistake and your site has usability issues for mobile devices, it will hurt your results for search.


With Google Search Console, you can test your site and get alerts for issues like mobile usability.  This helps prevent performance issues that you may not know about.

Google Console will also inform you about a lot of basic and important details that you may not be aware of.  For example, the image below alerts you to an issue that Google found when trying to load a web page.  


This is not something that is easily discovered by manual testing through a web browser.  These are the types of hidden issues that can keep a website from being shown on search results pages.

Another benefit is a report of ‘inbound links’ on your site and which pages are the top linked pages from external sites.  This gives you an immediate sense of which pages are potentially seen as valuable to others - and also provides awareness if you have inbound links from sites that may be undesirable or spammy.


Google’s search console helps gives you awareness, especially if you are not a full time web-admin.  In addition, the ability to test your pages on Google Console becomes even more relevant when you start taking advantage of structured data features discussed in the next section.  


Using Structured Data to Show Enhanced Results in Search

This last topic is the most complex subject in this article.  We are talking about using ‘structured data’ to give search engines context about your website.

Although the topic is complex, (it can get very geeky very quickly!) it does not mean it’s complicated to use.


What is structured data?  

This is a fancy term that defines information on your website that is machine readable and provides specific and clear meaning to the machines that read it.  In other words, there is information on web pages that is only seen by computers and not humans. (It can be seen by humans if you look at the source - but it is not visible through the browser window).


Have you ever searched for a recipe and were shown search results that included pictures of the dish, along with step-by-step instructions?  These are examples of how structured data can be shown in search results.  In this example, the search results are called ‘carousel cards’.

For our  purposes, structured data is useful because we can place information on our website that helps to inform search engines about our site.  The type of information that is most relevant for local business are things like:  address, phone numbers, days/hours open.


For example, your website probably has all of your contact information listed already.  However, even though browsers can present this information to humans in a way that we understand that it is an address, phone number, email address, etc… - Google does not explicitly understand this context in the same way as humans do. It doesn’t know that the text and numbers are your address, or open hours, etc... To solve this, we can use ‘structured data’ to educate Google about the explicit meaning.

 

There is a very geeky world that classifies all of this information – but you can use tools to generate the structured data for you.  The output is in the form of a script that gets added to your site, or to just a page.  In the case of Name, Address, Phone, etc. you can add the script to all of your main pages.

 

Structured Data Generator Tools for NAP: 

Both of these tools will output the structured data schema in a format called JSON-LD.  The main thing to know here is that JSON-LD is the preferred format and it’s also the easiest format to load into your site.


Microdatagenerator.org

https://microdatagenerator.org/localbusiness-microdata-generator/

I like the tool from Microdatagenerator better because it's easier to interpret the JSON script (cleaner and easier to read) but the one from Ezlocal below has better listings of local business options.  


Ezlocal.com

http://ezlocal.com/tools/schema-generator/


Here’s a made up example of what the JSON script looks like for NAP type structured data.

Once you get the script output, copy it and load onto your site.  It does not matter if it is in the header, body or footer, as it does not affect loading times for your site.


This is another good reason to use Google Search Console!  Make sure to test the script before you upload it to your site.  Once you have loaded it on your site, be sure to test the URL for your specific page in Google Search Console as well.


You can test the raw script  and your URL here:

https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/


The main benefit to adding structured data for NAP is that Google understands what type of business you are, where you do business, and understands important details about your business.


This is the type of information that helps you to stand out in local searches, especially when your competitors are not doing this.


Google Guidelines for Structured Data

One very important note:  Be sure to follow Google’s guidelines for structured data. Google works very hard to detect spammy sites.  To be eligible for showing enhanced results in search queries, make sure to to comply with the guidelines.


Generally speaking make sure you only markup content that’s visible on your website or page. For example, if the page does not contains a recipe for apple pie, do not add a script with markups for an apple pie recipe.


Since name, address and place information is often included in the footer of your site, it is reasonable to add corresponding structured data markup on the main pages of your site.    


Creating Authority for Your Site as a Foundation for SEO

If you are still reading this - good job!  All of the techniques listed on this post will help you to create authority with Google for your business. If you don’t work with websites on a regular basis, some of this may seem technical.  However, this is very easy to outsource and if it’s worth knowing the general concepts about these methods.


Additional information from Google about creating authority for your business here:   https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/ 


To recap, here are the three steps:

1) Claim and update your business profile on Google My Business 

2) Validate your site on Google Search Console

3) Implement NAP information on your website using structured data scripts

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