Executive summary: 

This post is part of a series that dives deep into the power of data for e-commerce. You can find the other posts here:

  1. The Power of Product Knowledge Graph for E-commerce
  2. Touch your SEO: Introducing Physical SEO
  3. The GS1 Digital Link explained for SEO Jedis (and their clients)
  4. The Only Thing Missing in Your Omnichannel E-commerce Strategy is…

In this post, part of our Product Knowledge Graph Series, you will see the connection between search engine optimization, GS1 Digital link and product page optimization for e-commerce web sites. You will read about a lesson learnt by implementing what is arguably the next SEO frontier. Last but not least, you will leave with a guide to help you explain the importance of GS1 Digital Link to your clients.

Now is an exciting time for SEO. The practices related to search engine optimization help people find precisely the data they need and businesses to show precisely the data they want.

“You don’t need to be a technologist to understand there is something amazing in our ability to find precisely the data we want—and only the data we want—in a song, email or restaurant review. It’s like finding a diamond in a coalmine—every time we search—without dirtying ourselves in the coal.”

Excerpt From: Scoble, Robert. Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy.

To use author’s Robert Scoble’s comparison, technology today helps us “find diamonds in a coalmine.“ In search, these diamonds (i.e. the chunks of information relevant to the query) are created with structured data. And here we are not talking about rich snippets only, although they are paramount to SEO success. We are talking about how on one hand structured data underpins a business-critical aspect of SEO and that is semantic search, and, on the other hand, it powers e-commerce SEO by optimizing product pages with a product knowledge graph for e-commerce SEO.

And I know so far I didn’t tell you anything new. The force of structured data has been with SEO jedis for quite some time and its strategic value is recognized now. To get back to the rich snippets – powered by structured markup, these “diamonds” drive quality traffic, build brand awareness, increase click-through rates – ultimately connect people to businesses in a cost-effective way. They are a major tool for mobile visibility and click-throughs too. What hasn’t been on the radar of SEO, though is an element worth considering in an environment where people want “diamonds” quickly and easily.

This is a structured data element and it is hot off the press. The GS1 Digital Link.

  1. What is GS1 Digital Link and Why Is It Important for SEO?
  2. Great, but how does exactly GS1 Digital Link Work?
  3. How Can You Use GS1 Digital Link for SEO [Spoiler: Visual Search]
  4. Two Visual Search Scenarios
  5. How E-commerce page optimization can benefit from GS1 Digital Link
  6. GS1 Digital Link as only the Tip of the Iceberg called Product Knowledge Graph
  7. GS1 Digital Link Quick Reference for Your Next Client
  8. Structured data on!

What is GS1 Digital Link and Why Is It Important for SEO?

GS1 Digital Link (GS1 DL) is a descendant of the well-known barcode but can carry much more data than its antecedent. And this alone reduces the need for multiple codes on a pack. Something more, GS1 DL provides a standard way of expressing data in a format that can be used on the Web, which can directly put a product through its barcode in a linked environment. 

Case in point, a GTIN (the unique product identifier that provides accurate and rich product information to Google, Bing and other marketplaces) can be encoded into a Web address, following GS1 Digital Link standard specifications. The latter is essential, as GS1 standards are the most widely used system of standards in the world, much like W3C are, and with them, anyone can convert a GTIN into a web address. 

Great, but how does exactly GS1 Digital Link Work?

So here is how GS1 Digital Link works.

Let’s look at “Dal Giardino Extra Virgin Olive Oil Exclusive Selection” as a reference product. Its unique product identifier is GTIN 9506000134369, which corresponds to a GS1 barcode that you will find printed on its bottle label. Using this unique ID we can obtain its web address https://id.gs1.org/01/9506000134369. Now this one looks like a normal URL, but it’s a linked data URI instead and can: 

  • Redirect the end-user to the product information page
  • Provide structured information about the olive oil that machines like Google understand (using schema.org or GS1 Web Vocabulary)     

Technically speaking, GS1 digital link specifications express GTINs as URLs. Also, GS1 Digital Link is an element of the structured data pack in https://schema.org/Product and provides the structure for information about a product, such as expiration dates, nutritional and medical product data, warranty registration, troubleshooting instructions, even social media links. 

It is important for SEO because with GS1 Digital Link, as with any unique identifier, the product URL and Unique Identifiers are separated, meaning together with the web page, a URI contains all the data good for the crawlers separated from the page. 

Case in point, visual search.

How Can You Use GS1 Digital Link for SEO [Spoiler: Visual Search]

When there is search, there is search engine optimization. In this case, we might call it, as Semrush did, visual search engine optimization. 

We know that due to mobile devices’ dominance in the shopping journey, 62 percent of people want visual search capabilities. It’s crucial to enable them to search quickly, discover and identify the products on their mobile devices that they’re inspired by and seek to purchase. 

To clarify, below we have listed two scenarios. One of them is the one we, as users, have all experienced: we see something that we like, we scan it with Google Lens and then we get some results to sort through by ourselves. The other scenario is the one with GS1 DL, where we scan the barcode of the thing we liked and access a network of information about it. With one snap.

Two Visual Search Scenarios 

And visual search is only part of the puzzle. E-commerce page optimization as a whole is another. In the paragraph below we explain why.

How E-commerce page optimization can benefit from GS1 Digital Link

As Aleyda Solis aptly advises: 

Our goal with category pages should be then to feature information that confirms the features/functionalities/USPs of that particular set of products, clarifies any common doubts about them, informs about any existing offers and why/how the user is in the best place to buy them, as a salesperson would do at a physical store at that point in the customer journey.

(Cit. Optimizing Content in Category Pages while Keeping its Commercial Nature)

Now add to that some algorithmic power a GS1 Digital Link. The content for category and product pages will serve the user’s intent and, on top of it, provide them with a richer than expected experience by serving machines what they want – clean and structured data.

Further, once connected these data can be accessed via the GS1 Digital link, that is from any store through a scan, given there is a barcode on the product.

Optimizing content with markup will also allow Google and other search engines to populate search features, such as product Knowledge Panels or Google’s mobile Popular Products carousel (Learn more at https://wordlift.io/blog/en/seo-trends/#_ecom1). And what is more important in the age of entity-based search: create connections within the Knowledge Graph for easier entity recognition

The more structured data we enrich content with, the better we will serve the transaction experience by readily providing information about prices, availability, reviews, videos, accessories, and other product details.

GS1 Digital Link as only the Tip of the Iceberg called Product Knowledge Graph

“For My Ally is the DATA, and a Powerful Ally It Is.” 

Just like structured data became a thing for SEO with the introduction of Google’s Knowledge Graph and gained popularity as more SEO professionals began helping online retailers leverage unique identifiers and structured data, these days another tool for greater visibility in search and quality traffic is on the way – the product knowledge graph. It is one way to approach structured data in a novel way from an SEO perspective.

Put simply, a Product Knowledge Graph is an e-commerce specific form of knowledge graph built to improve product findability and end-user experiences by enriching a brand’s content with data. Made of structured data and extended product markup, injected across both editorial and product content, a product knowledge graph is built on top of the product database to link all data together combining both structured information, (for instance, the list of products for a brand) or unstructured (for example the descriptions related to a collection of products). 

Structured DATA and GS1 Digital link can be part of this product knowledge graph, playing an important role in better customer experience and richer results

Structured data binds the data about products, brands, product categories, product features, reviews, hi-resolution images, shipping data, FAQs and a lot more. And GS1 Digital Link just serves as the portal to this ecosystem of product information. As a standard, it helps us bring the data (in the product knowledge graph) into the end user’s hands.

In the example below, you can see what a product knowledge graph can render in terms of rich results across a number of Google services. 

This pretty much is product-graph powered SEO – it is about enriching the content about an entity with a cluster of other entities and pages. We believe this is the Holy Grail of SEO.

To use the table we used and the visual search scenarios, creating your own product knowledge graph is the other logical step. And it can be taken by using the GS1 Digital Link. And that is enriching the network of data with more connections – a structured data in your physical product code included. 

More on Product Graphs and Joe (the hyperconnected customer using them) is available here.

WordLift can help you build your product knowledge graph. Let us show you how!

GS1 Digital Link Quick Reference for Your Next Client

To circle back to the coal mine metaphor (i.e. helping people find diamonds without dirtying themselves in the coal), SEO is all about finding ways to give readily structured precious pieces of data to search engines. And as SEO is turning to data graphs, (as Bill Slawski put it “The Web as a data is the new direction for SEO), the better the data, the more valuable diamonds. 

On the Web, better data means highly-connected data. And this is what SEO professionals have been doing – weave content, data and links together to connect the dots (actually, the nodes) for crawlers and ultimately get more sophisticated data to appear in search results. 

However, with the ever-increasing sophistication of search engines, the time has come to add another element to the SEO value proposition. The SEO community now is to communicate to potential and existing clients the mission-critical role of links between data to the talk about why keywords, content, relevancy matter and traffic.

To help spread the word about the Web of data and SEO’s role in it, we created this list as an executive summary for the client who needs more context for your next SEO move.

  • What is structured data and what is GS1 Digital Link?

Structured data is data that describes objects in a formal way. On the Web it is used to mark up pages, one of the most popular standard for markup being schema.org. In Plain English, it is this thing that makes types of snippets like review, recipe, video, and news article snippets appear when you search for something on the Web. Read Our Web Story

GS1 Digital Link provides the standards-based structure for the data about a product. GS1 Digital Link carries information such as expiration dates, nutritional and medical product data, warranty registration, troubleshooting instructions, even social media. In Plain English, this is a barcode that can carry tons of connected data. Read Our Article

  • How structured data and GS1 Digital Link benefit SEO? 

People scan, search, compare, look for all kinds of data on the Web. The more structured and granularly linked these data are, the more visible and easy to digest they are by people’s (serch engines, apps, APIs and assistants – think Google, Alexa, Google Merchant centre) 

  • Give me the numbers [Gimme ROI]

1. Increased Google Real Estate for 2 months.

2. In 2 months, we generated 20.500 additional organic clicks that would have otherwise cost our client 51.250$ on Google Ads.

Check more numbers from structured data success stories here .

Structured data on!

Undoubtedly, winning SEO strategies increasingly rely on working with structured data. And this what SEO has been about for many years now – finding the right balance between content, data, and links to make a business visible and easy to interact with to the right people. Yet, an unharnessed element in the field remains: the GS1 Digital link and the product knowledge graph. It is a challenging force to harness, yet we believe it is worth it for it brings more sophisticated results for users and more reusable (and valuable) data to clients. 

Remember, the diamonds. Every time we search.

We believe SEO is powerful enough and ready to bring these diamonds to people. 

Let’s talk.

Must Read Content

Why Do We Need Knowledge Graphs?
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SEO Automation in 2021
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The Power of Product Knowledge Graph for E-commerce
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Touch your SEO: Introducing Physical SEO
Connect a physical product to the ecosystem of data on the web

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