What are structured data?
Structured data is content markup created to help a search engine understand and classify site content.
The different vocabularies can be found in schema.org, an open community created by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. The result is a catalog of standardized data markups that many different search engines can understand.
Certain structured data elements can appear as rich results in the search engines results, which is why they are so relevant for SEO. What the user gets is enhanced results in the SERPs in addition to title, link and description. Common examples of this are data such as prep time for recipes or shop ratings that appear in the snippets.
In other words, the schema markup does not always appear as a rich result in organic search results. In Google, Bing, or Yandex, structured data markups will not necessarily generate rich search results, although they could do so. That said, adding comprehensive markup to your own content is the best way of generating a rich result, as this will help the search engine crawler understand your content better
Databases such as the Google Knowledge Graph also use data about entities from the schema markup.
What types of markups are there?
A few of the most important markups in the structured data repository are listed below:
- Organization: Information on the business is important because it helps ensure that this information is displayed by the search engine in branded search queries. This also includes company logos.
- Local Business: For local businesses, adding structured data to the business listing is important to enable them to present themselves business better in the search results of corresponding search queries. This can mean adding opening hours or type of business. Reservations can also be made through the Reserve with Google feature.
- Event: Structured data on events is a great way for online and brick and mortar businesses to generate additional custom, whether for a concert, a Pilates session, or an online conference.
- Article: If you typically publish articles on your websites, this can be a good way to gain better visibility in search results. This type of structured data helps the search engine crawler conduct better evaluation and placement — in the Google News widget, for example.
- Product: To generate better rich search results, eCommerce businesses can add additional information to their products such as price, availability, or reviews/ratings.
- AggregateRating: The five yellow stars that appear in Google or Bing search results are probably the most commonly known type of schema markup. For books and films, schema.org has separate review schema markup types.
- Breadcrumb: This type of markup is added to a page to indicate the clickstream visitors follow on the site. If the search engine supports this type of structured data for rendering rich snippets, the user will only see the hierarchy in the search results rather than the entire URL, enabling them to go straight to the relevant categories.
- FAQ, How-to, Q&A: If you typically have questions and answers on a specific topic on one of your web pages, FAQ structured data can be added to this section. How-to schema markup is ideal if a page contains instructions with multiple individual steps. Q&A schema markup is another effective tool for SEOs to use.
- Jobs: The job market is another area where structured data can be an effective SEO tool. Here, schema.org offer various schema elements that can be added to job postings, estimated salaries or employee reviews. This information is used by Google for its Google Jobs widget, for instance.
- Recipe: Structured data plays a crucial role here. The addition of structured data to recipes, recipe prep and cooking times, or nutritional information is an effective SEO technique for recipe content.
- Video: This schema is used to add information to a video that has been integrated into a website. This includes descriptions, thumbnail URL, upload date or length.
- Speakable: Here, information is added to indicate what section of text on the page is suitable as a voice answer. Digital assistants, such as Google Home, will then read aloud.
How can I integrate structured data?
JSON-LD data can be integrated into a website in a number of ways. Those who use a CMS such as WordPress can simply add JSON-LD to their content using plugins, like Yoast SEO. Here, markup can be implemented across the entire webpage, from organization or logo schema to category- or URL-based markup types with customized additional info.
Even if search engines do not always award rich snippets to web pages containing content with schema markup, we still recommend using as many different schema elements as possible — because structured data is useful in helping search engine crawlers understand website content better, enabling better indexing and ranking. At the same time, search engine layout is forever changing, and with it the elements that you have to consider rendering to generate rich results.
For example, virtually every Google search result once had an additional rich snippet showing the AggregateRating. This excessive use of these five yellow rating stars was then reduced to almost nothing. And today, the only way for a domain to generate ratings for its products and services is through third-party websites such as online review sites.
How can I test and validate structured data markup?
General test: With the schema Markup Validator you can check your URL against all the schema.org markup vocabularies. With different search engines accepting different markup schemas, it is definitely worth running. And if the format of the test seems familiar to some of you, the schema.org validator is the follow-up product to the Google Structured Data Testing Tool that was pulled in July 2020.
- Google test: This test for rich search results checks a URL for all the markup schema used by Google to render its rich snippets in the SERPs. Once structured data have been identified, the tool can then check for errors and display a preview of the rich result.
- Bing test: URLs can also be checked for integrated structured data using the Bing Webmaster Tool.
If a given URL has been re-indexed, an immediate check can usually be performed to establish whether an element that has been identified also appears as a rich snippet in the search results. However, since not all the markup schema identified are used to render rich results, this won’t necessarily guarantee success. In SEO, one of the main indicators of success is an increase in organic traffic. A look at the click-through-rate in the Google Search Console will show you whether the rich result has been a success, i.e., whether the enhanced or rich result has led to more clicks.
What are the benefits of using structured data?
- Structured data helps search engines better understand website content.
- For some structured data markup schema, search engines show additional elements in the SERPs known as rich snippets that can increase the click-through-rate for a search result.
- A better understanding of the website and a higher click-through-rate can ultimately improve the website ranking.