Structured data is a more technical aspect of SEO, that helps search engines better understand your various types of content. It's also how you as a site owner - optimize the visual aspects of your search results.
Structured data allows you to display ratings, prices, breadcrumbs and other visual elements that help you stand out in the SERPS.
As a way to organize and define your content, this information will help search engine algorithms come to terms with the elements on each of your pages.
If you're looking for a way to strengthen your search engine optimization, and dip your toes into the more technical side of ranking performance – learning more about structured data will get you there.
What is structured data?
Structured data is an umbrella term for the types of code used to assist search engines in understanding the meaning of a page through distinct content classification.
Simply stated, this data provides additional information about a website and its content, to search engine crawlers and bots. This data is used to provide additional information on all sorts of things – events, organizations, products, places and people.
This data is used by webmasters to enhance how their search results are displayed in the SERPS.
How do I add structured data to a page?
There are 3 main types of structured data format, but you only need to pay attention to one of them for SEO purposes.
JSON-LD is a relatively recent format, that Google recommends webmasters use on their sites. To this end, if you're starting out – this is the format you need to use.
The other two types are microdata and RDFa, but these are not that different from JSON-LD, and can all be used to some degree for successful structured data display.
How can structured data help my SEO?
Structured data is important because it allows Google to choose whether or not to create rich snippets and features for your displayed search results that can give it a competitive edge.
So while having structured data is not a direct ranking factor, it does make your page easier to understand which improves critical features that enhance your SEO.
Some useful features include:
- Carousel results in search
- Knowledge graph results featuring your brand
- Interactive or enriched search results for higher clicks
- Inclusion in Google News, AMP and other services
- Rich snippets, rich cards and rich results for mobile search.
The main reason to use structured data is that it improves your click-through-rates and helps you stand out in the search results.
What is Schema markup?
Schema markup is the semantic vocabulary or language of structured data, and allows you to leverage the value of your content for purpose-driven indexing.
Data is described by the schema vocabulary, and when microdata formatting and HTML content are added, webmasters are able to markup their pages for stronger online visibility.
Google recommends that you use Schema.org when developing your structured data. The good news is, you don't have to know how to code to use Schema.org – it's a simple matter of adding the right vocabulary to HTML microdata.
Using this third party service you can enhance the structured data on your website for enhanced and nuanced search result displays.
What are Rich Snippets?
Rich snippets are created by Google for display on their search pages, when your website uses structured data, to add more information for the user about your page.
Strangely, Google sometimes creates rich snippets without structured data, and sometimes they don't create rich snippets even when you have it on your website. It's best to test your attributes to make sure everything is being read correctly.
Keep in mind rich snippets can take weeks to appear on Google, so give it a lead time of about 2 months before investigating why they aren't appearing, or haven't changed.
Test your rich snippets using Google's Rich Result Testing Tool.
Some examples of structured data
There are many different structured data examples available. These will help you understand what needs to happen on your website.
Google offers a live structured data testing tool which can be used to see if your attributes are displaying correctly. There's no guesswork when you use these tools.
Here's an example of an organization snippet:
The code above when run through the tool shows no errors:
Running your code through this tool will help you create quality markups.
How Organizational Structured Data Would Display
What else can you do with Structured Data?
Product information - add details about your product's price, reviews and availability of products in your webshop.
As you can see, the second snippet is more valuable, and so is far more likely to be clicked on than the first. The implication is that easy access to information attracts and converts users.
This snippet makes your search navigation clearer and applies to a lot of your pages.
Snippets that help you display future events and include details like start and end date, duration, location and ticket sales.
A great way to stand out in the search results is by showing up in the FAQ rich snippets. Here's an example from Google:
If you have an FAQ on your website, make sure to add the FAQPage snippets. Google's guide about FAQPages explain all the details.
Google has created an informative guide on structured data that should be read by all SEOs.
Here, you'll find important details on enhancing your site attributes, and how to hit on any best practices that will make the process of creating compliant structured data easier. We highly recommend taking a few hours and reading through this official guide.
As a rule, if you can apply structured data then you should. In the battle for SEO prominence, every advantage helps in the SERPS, and with 80% of sites not using this markup – you'll do well to give your site an advantage as soon as you can.
That's what you should know about structured data and helping the search engines better understand your content. Now all you have to do is get started.