Recipe structured data provides a way to help users find recipe content by making it easier for Google to understand the content and intent of the recipe page. A common debate among SEOs and webmasters is about the impact structured data (SD) has on SEO metrics like clicks, impressions, and average position.
In fact, Google has even gone on record stating that recipe structured data does not impact ranking:
So, why does recipe structured data matter? Is the implementation worthwhile? In this article, we review the results of an accidental removal of recipe structured data and analyze the impact it has on overall metrics like clicks, impressions, and average position of a food-related website. What we found might surprise you.
Recipe Structured Data and Rich Results
Properly implemented, Schema.org recipe structured data markups can trigger a variety of visual enhancements in the search engine results page (SERP) often leading to clicks. These visual enhancements generally include rating stars, cook and preparation time, and nutrition information. Recipe structured data can also enable recipes to be featured in a recipe gallery (aka recipe carousel) which can sometimes even include Google Home integration “Cook” buttons, which send the recipe directly to users’ Google Home.
It is important to note that valid Schema.org markups are required for recipe rich results to appear in the SERP. Unlike Breadcrumbs, which Google is able to decipher from the URL path, more complex information needs to be provided via structured data.
Therefore, the accidental removal or recipe markups unsurprisingly impacted the performance of (missing) rich results.
However, Google’s statement that “structured data like this has no impact on ranking in web search” doesn’t encompass the importance of rich results for certain types of queries.
When the recipe gallery is the only thing visible above-the-fold on a mobile SERP, not “ranking” in it for a recipe website can be disastrous. The same scenario was true for news publishers, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and the Top Stories feature. AMP is not a ranking factor but is basically required (until next year) to be featured in the news carousel, which tends to lead to more clicks on mobile than the classic blue links.
Additionally, while maybe not affecting the ability to rank, missing rich results leads to less visually appealing snippets and therefore a lower click-through rate (CTR).
As a result, we saw an overall 51% drop for clicks on mobile after the recipe schema was removed, showing the significant role played by recipe carousels in driving mobile traffic to the site. That loss in overall visibility equated to missing out on thousands of organic visits.
Clicks on desktop were not as impacted (18% decrease), but for this website, desktop represents less than a third of the organic traffic. We attribute that difference to the number of visible results above-the-fold on desktop SERPs.
Note: Google has recently added new recipe search appearance filters to the Google Search Console’s performance report. These new filters would provide insightful information for this analysis (isolating recipe rich results vs. recipe galleries), but data is not available prior to May 31st, 2020.
Rich Results and Features Eligibility vs. Rankings
Not being featured in a carousel or gallery also impact the average position as these top rankings are simply missing.
It’s important to note that while we are not able to filter ranking data enough to understand just how blue links alone were affected, we did look at the number of pages ranking before and after the recipe structured data removal and found that the removal of structured data did not cause fewer pages to rank in the SERP. This confirms that recipe structured data does not impact ranking in regular blue-link listings, as Google has previously stated.
While structured data doesn’t impact the ability to rank in the SERP, it does significantly impact the overall organic performance of a site when rich results and special features like carousels are critical to visibility, especially on mobile.
When site owners ensure that recipe structured data is implemented correctly, it allows their sites to reap more benefits than just visual enhancements in the SERP. Recipe structured data triggers recipe rich results and carousel features, which drive impressions and clicks.
Recipe structured data is a necessary component to perform well with recipe-related searches, and for some sites, recipe carousels can make up a large portion of organic traffic and overall performance.