Structured data and local SEO at Corona times.

New markups and features in Google My Business? We give you tips and an overview!

What are structured data and what do they have to do with Local SEO?

Structured data enables a search engine like Google to better understand the content on a web page. The data has a fixed format: JSON-LD, Microdata or RDFa (JSON-LD is recommended by Google). This structuring enables the data to be displayed directly in the search results. You have certainly noticed these results when searching Google. These can be contact data, addresses, FAQs, events, job ads, recipes and much more.

Übersicht
Example views of structured data in search results. Source: https://www.more-fire.com/blog/strukturierte-daten-guide/

This data is particularly important for local search engine optimization, as it is displayed on the search results page in Google Maps and Google Map Excerpt. This should not be confused with the Google My Business entry. Here you can also maintain data on the location, but it is a separate system. We recommend optimising both, as structured data can provide even more information. 

With a structured data generator, such as the Merkle Schema Markup Generator, you can easily create the Structured Data Code for your site.

Which Structured Data Markups are new to Corona?

In response to the Corona pandemic and the changes in public life worldwide, Google has introduced new or modified markups for structured data. Why? Relevant content should be more easily accessible in search results. This message was not only shared by Google via Twitter and news media such as SEO Roundtable, but also via a pop-up in the Google Search Console. Have a look at your Google Search Console account.

We will take a closer look at the following markups & innovations here:

  • Special Announcement Markup
  • Event Markup
  • Local SEO: What's changing for restaurants and retailers in Google My Business?

SpecialAnnouncement markup.

The so-called SpecialAnnouncement Markup is intended for public organisations and institutions that wish to make urgent announcements, for example about opening hours, closures or new medical facilities. According to Google Developers, this is still a BETA version that is being actively worked on. Therefore, it is possible that the structured data is not yet displayed in the search results or that this display is constantly changing. Google still recommends to insert this data as early as possible in the source code of a web page or to submit it in advance in the Google Search Console, because this structured data helps Google to better understand the effects of the Corona pandemic and to keep users informed. See the Google Developers article for detailed instructions on how to insert the data and a detailed list of examples.

Google has set up a special search results page under the search term "corona". It could be that the data from the SpecialAnnouncement markup will also be displayed here in the future, or at least be included.

Google Übersicht
Screenshot of the Corona Google search results page in Germany (from 23.04.2020 10 am)

In JSON-LD format, the structured data always consists of a type (here: @type: "SpecialAnnouncement", see code example) and various properties that describe the actual content.

The following properties are required according to Google:

  • datePosted
  • name
  • text or at least one of the following properties (Google recommends providing as much information as possible, so you can use multiple properties)
    • diseasePreventionInfo
    • diseaseSpreadStatistics
    • gettingTestedInfo
    • newsUpdatesAndGuidelines
    • publicTransportClosuresInfo
    • quarantineGuidelines
    • schoolClosuresInfo
    • travelBans

These properties are also recommended:

  • announcementLocation
  • announcementLocation.address
  • announcementLocation.name
  • announcementLocation.url
  • category
  • expires
  • spatialCoverage
  • text

This is what the code of the structured data and the display in the search results would look like. Further examples and information can also be found at schema.org

 

Code Beispiel
Code Example for structured data with the "SpecialAnnouncement" markup.
Corona Googlesuche
Example for the view of the "SpecialAnnouncement" markup in the search results Quelle für beide Bilder: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/special-announcements#disease-prevention

Changes in event markup.

As far as events, trade fairs, concerts and shows are concerned, we have all noticed that most of them have been cancelled or postponed. With a view to the cancellation of the Munich Oktoberfest in autumn, this will certainly accompany us into the second half of the year.

You have already marked the events on your website with structured data? Then you should now not only adapt the information on the website, but also change the structured data. You can find out what options you have for this below. You don't have structured data for your events  yet? Then now is a good time to change it.

Until now, event markup was limited to physical locations, i.e. you had to specify an address and optionally e.g. the maximum number of seats. In mid-March 2020 Google added some optional properties.

  • eventStatus
    • You should keep EventCancelled startDate and location and all other properties and only adjust the eventStatus.
    • EventMovedOnlineHere you can enter the link to the online event as virtualLocation.
    • EventPostponedIf no new event date has been set, just change the eventStatus again and leave the rest as it was until you know something new.
    • EventRescheduledWhen a new date is set for the event, change startDate to the new date. You can specify the previous date with previousStartDate.
    • EventScheduledThis is the "normal" status for events. If you don't specify anything, Google will assume that the event will take place as scheduled.
  • eventAttendanceModeYou can now also specify whether an event takes place offline, online or on and offline simultaneously. If you do not specify anything, Google will assume that it is an offline event.
    • OfflineEventAttendanceMode
    • OnlineEventAttendanceMode
    • MixedEventAttendanceMode

Examples of event markup can be found at Google Developers and schema.org.

What's changing in Google My Business?

For companies with local businesses, the Corona pandemic has changed a lot. In many places, shops are either closed or restrictions apply. In Germany, different regulations apply in every federal state and new regulations mean that the rules change regularly.

With all these different regulations, it is all the more important to inform your own customers and to keep all data up to date both on your own website and in Google Maps. You can also mark the data on your website with structured data, e.g. the "LocalBusiness" markup.

  • Indicate whether your shops are temporarily or permanently closed.
  • Update the opening hours if you are still open. Many users look at Google or Google Maps first before visiting the website.
  • Add a COVID-19 post to your Google My Business profile to inform users about hygiene measures and special offers.
How To Local SEO in times of Corona.
How To Local SEO in times of Corona.

Additional functions for restaurants and retail stores.

Google local view
Source: Seroundtable.com

Google has also published special tips and features for restaurants and retailers. These features are currently available in the US and will be rolled out to other countries on a piecemeal basis. It is not yet known when they will be available in Germany.

Restaurants can use the Google My Business listing to indicate whether they are currently delivering food or whether you can pick up food from them (see picture below: Dine-in, Delivery and Takeout). In addition, Google currently allows you to add terms such as "Takout available" to the restaurant's name. This would not be accepted under normal circumstances. In addition, it is also recommended to update the menu if another selection of dishes is available.

Various delivery and pickup options are also available for retailers: Pickup, delivery, curbside pickup or in-store shopping. This information can also be uploaded via an Excel spreadsheet collected for multiple locations.

Would you like to learn more about Local SEO, are you interested in a structured data concept or need support in implementing structured data? We are happy to help! Just get in contact with us.