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Structured Data Markup: How to Avoid Google Penalties That Can Badly Hurt Your SEO

For business owners and webmasters, one of the ultimate SEO punishments is to have Google penalize your site even partially.

This could mean “doomsday” for you when the popular search engine takes down rich snippets for some of your pages, for instance. There could be several other manual actions that Google will do to maintain a remarkable user search experience that they believe is being threatened by your “spammy” structured data markup.

Now before we go deeper, let’s have a quick review of what structured data markup is and how it works before getting into the details of the potential harm and penalties by Google…

What is Structured Data Markup and How Does It Work?

Also known as schema markup, structured data markup refers to code that webmasters and SEO experts place on particular webpages in order to generate more helpful information for users on search engines.

For instance, when it’s applied to your events schedule page, the search engine result may actually show not just an excerpt of the first words on the page but will clearly display the event dates and titles. Or if it’s for a product page, customer ratings and prices may appear too because of the structured data markup.

It’s certainly valuable because it tells search engines what a bunch of words really mean and how they are useful to the searchers.

How Can Structured Data Markup Potentially Hurt Your Website?

It was in March 2015 that Google updated their rich snippet (structured data) policies and began issuing penalties. After conducting reviews, the leading search engine has declared that rich snippets should only be applied on specific items and not on pages with lists and categories.

Going back to our two examples mentioned earlier— the events schedule page and the product page, we now know that the structured data markup should not have been applied to the first one. The schedule of events is a list, after all, so it runs the risk of getting penalized. On the other hand, a specific product page is where the markup should be done.

So if you get a penalty, you can wave goodbye to the rich snippets that had been driving more visitors to your website and customers to your online store. That’s how risky it is not to follow the newest guidelines of search engines, especially of Google.

What Should You Do to Avoid Structured Data Markup Penalties?

The first thing you ought to do is to review the current guidelines and policies that Google (and other search engines) has for structured data markup. You must stay updated and watch your implementation on your website to make sure that you’re adhering to the rules.

Here’s the good news— you can test your site first before going live with your applied schema markup. All you have to do is head over to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool in order to validate. Here you will be told how many errors are found in this aspect.

Take note that errors do not only refer to using the markup on lists and categories. Sometimes, you may have applied some mistakes too on specific pages.   It’s also essential that you always monitor your Google Search Console account because this is where the penalty will appear. This is also where you’ll find the reports on your structured data, as per Google.

Do you know that Google’s also got its own blog for webmasters? This is where you can stay updated on developments, news, and announcements on structured data and other pertinent matters on SEO.

If you follow the advice given above, you increase your chances of staying within Google’s boundaries and not getting a penalty. Now is not the time to insist on what you want because it can hurt your business badly. After all, Google is implementing such strict rules in order to ensure a better experience for search users who are your potential buyers and visitors.

What if You Get a Structured Data Markup Penalty?

What if you’re too late or you were not careful enough, thus leading to an actual penalty?

You can tell this by receiving an actual penalty message from Google on your Google Search Console account. Other indications of a penalty are losing your rich snippets on organic search results pages and noticing that the indexation in your structured data report is down.

When this happens, you must check for the indicated errors in the reports. Examine the specific URLs that were said to have errors.

On the report, you’ll actually see what type of error you have. For instance, a product page may not have a name or the price on the markup.

Next, you need to check with Schema.org as well as Google’s policies to ensure that these are indeed errors and to see what you have to do about them. That’s when you work on fixing them.

After you correct the errors, that’s the time you can request for reconsideration by submitting a request letter to the Google Webmaster Team. If done correctly, the process may take up to a week or so to be granted or for the penalty to be lifted.

Indeed structured data markup, like other SEO strategies, should be implemented with utter care and in accordance to the updated policies and guidelines of Google and other search engines. As a result, you can enjoy hassle-free benefits from your rich snippets.

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