Structured data is a new tool for the search engine optimization web developer, and something that you absolutely need to be using in order to keep your site at the top of search engine results. There are three main kinds of structured data available for use: microdata, microformats, and RDFa.
Since microdata is the structured data of choice for Google’s search engine, I’ll focus on that for today. Microdata is simply a way to categorize the content on your webpage in such a way that search engines can recognize the information. For example, you can tell search engines whether your business title represents a restaurant, or a barber shop with a little extra HTML. This is a very powerful tool, and something that will not only increase your listing order in search results for relevant search terms, but also enable Google to feature “rich snippets” for your webpage. Snippets are the little descriptions underneath the page title for your search listing that describe what the search result is all about. With microdata, you can add HTML markup to things such as mp3 tracks, menu items, and products and Google will display them as rich snippets, giving the user a much better sense of the key content for the page.
Structured data is really just a way to tell search engines what kind of information is on your page. As another example, on a contact form, you might have a business name, address and business description. Structured data gives you a way to say to Google “Hey, this right here? It’s an address. This is where our business is located!” – this way, Google can index your pages more accurately for location. This helps with normal web searches and also with mobile phones that are trying to figure out which businesses are local to the person searching. Since you can also describe your business category and business type, you can help search engines to know your content even better. This is helpful to your customers and helpful to your bottom line!