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Guide to Structured Data

What is structured data?

Structured data, also referred to as schema markup, are code snippets added to a webpage’s HTML to provide users and search engines with more information about the page. Structured data can be implemented as HTML (Microdata, RDFa) or Javascript (JSON-ld). There are many types of structured data accepted by search engines, from Product schema that highlights prices and reviews in SERPs to Organization schema that might populate the Knowledge Graph.

Here is an example of what structured data looks like on a page’s source code:

code_sample

And this is what it looks like on the SERP:

call_of_duty

Why is structured data important?

As stated, structured data provider users and search engines with additional information about a webpage. From a user perspective, this additional information may entice a reader to click on a result they ordinarily wouldn’t have. For example, being able to see the reviews a product got in the SERP might make someone more likely to click on that page’s link, even if it isn’t the number 1 ranked result. Therefore, your site could improve its click-through rate even without outranking your competitors.

From a search engine perspective, it has long been suspected that Google provides a ranking boost to sites using structured data. For that reason alone we recommend adding it to your site. But beyond that, structured data helps search engines understand the content they are already seeing on a page and thus helps them display more accurate search results. Schema.org uses the example of Avatar to explain this; if your page’s h1 tag is ‘Avatar’ you have let search engines know what the heading of your page is, but not what it means. Does Avatar refer to the James Cameron movie? To gaming avatars? To the Nickelodeon TV show? Structured data clears up this confusion for search engines and allows your page to be displayed to the most relevant users.

Another reason structured data is important is because right now, most websites are not using it at all! This means that adding structured data to your site will give you a leg up on the majority of your competition. Considering how easy it is to add structured data to a webpage, there’s simply no reason not to delay implementing it on your site now and reaping the benefits before most sites even learn about what structured data is.

Structured data is also important because it is an open-source initiative used by all of the major search engines; Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex. This is incredibly convenient and useful for webmasters because it means that you do not have to deal with different syntax’s or rules across search engines.

What types of structured data are there?

There are literally hundreds of types of schemas out there, from Organization to Product to Event to Reviews. Choose the schema type that makes sense for your website and/or page. To see the full library of schema types, visit schema.org.

How can I implement structured data?

Again, schema.org is a great place to learn how to implement structured data on your site. Most schema types have examples at the bottom of the page showing you exactly what the code should look like.

A good tool you can use is Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. You can use this tool to generate the code for various types of schema, such as Articles, Events, Products, and Restaurants. Select the schema type you want and then enter in the URL you want to add the schema too. Here’s an example of the setup for adding Product schema to a page:

markup_helper

After you hit ‘Start Tagging’, you’ll be taken to a new page where you can then select the various elements of the schema simply by highlighting them.

snippet

Once you’re done, click on ‘Create HTML’ and it will show you exactly what should be placed in the source code, and where.

preview

While this tool doesn’t help with every type of schema, it is helpful for the most common types of schema.

There are also various plugins and extensions that automatically add structured data to a site, so if you have a large site you should consider automating the process.

How do I check if my structured data was implemented correctly?

Google has you covered. You can see structured data errors in 1 of 2 places:

  1. Google Search Console: Under ‘Search Appearance-Structured Data’ you can see how much structured data you have on the site, how many pages structured data is on the site, how many errors there are, and how many pages there are errors on. You can then dig deeper into the data to identify the specific issue and make corrections
  2. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool: You can use this tool to check the structured data implementation on a page. Either paste the source code in directly, or just fetch the URL and the tool will analyze the entire page. Either way, the tool will show you exactly where in the code you are having issues.
testing_tool
written by: Justin McKinney

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