Structured Data is a way to tell Google and other search engines what the different elements on your page mean. It takes normal HTML and turns it into meaningful entities that search engines understand.
While having Structured Data is not a direct ranking factor, using it has two major benefits for SEO:
- It helps search engines understand the meaning of content on a webpage
- It helps increase the visibility of a page in the search results
Well-known examples of Structured Data that you may encounter in Google are review stars:
Another great example is pricing and availability showing directly in the search result:
This article explains the different types of Structured Data, and how you can add it to your website.
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, people and much more.
Structured Data, Schema.org, and Rich Snippets
When starting with Structured Data, the different terms may confuse you. You'll see the terms Structured Data, Schema.org, Featured Snippets and Rich Snippets used interchangeably. To avoid confusion, here are some definitions:
- Structured Data is the enriched code on your web page that helps search engines understand what's on your page
- Schema.org is the global standard of structuring the data. Google recommends that you use Schema.org when developing your structured data.
- Featured Snippets are the snippets of text or images that Google shows to directly answer a searcher's question.
- Rich Results are normal Google results with extra information: pricing, review stars, and image or things like that.
How do I add structured data to a page?
There are two recommended ways to add Structured Data to your page. 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.
Here's what a product page may look like without Structured Data:
<h1>Nike Running Shoe</h1>
<a href="/order">Order now</a>
This is valid HTML, but it's hard for search engines to figure out the exact meaning of this code. Now let's add some structured data to help search engines make sense of it.
Microdata is one way of adding Structured Data to existing code. Let's do that for our earlier example:
<article itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
<h1 itemprop="name">Nike Running Shoe</h1>
<img src="/running-shoe.png" itemprop="image">
<div itemprop="offers" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Offer">
<p><span itemprop="priceCurrency">USD</span> <span itemprop="price">129</span></p>
<p itemprop="availability" href="http://schema.org/InStock">In stock</p>
<a href="/order">Order now</a>
That's it: by adding some attributes, we've structured our already existing code, making it much easier for search engines to find out what your page is about.
Alternatively, you could use JSON-LD to add Structured Data to your page. This requires fewer changes to your existing code, and just lets you add JSON with all the data - normally in the head of the page:
"name": "Nike Running Shoe",
As you can see, although the code looks different, we've just added the exact same meaning to the data using JSON-LD.
Choose whichever works easiest for you. Google has indicated it has a slight preference for JSON-LD, but in reality, we don't see much difference between the two.
After adding Structured Data to your pages, use Google's Rich Result Testing Tool to test if you've applied the code correctly.
How can structured data help my SEO?
Years ago, Google's search results used to be a list of blue links with a short description. That's changed significantly. Google is showing more and more information that is relevant to searchers directly in the search results. For example, if we want to know Brad Pitt's age:
Or when searching for Internet Explorer market share, we directly get the result we need:
The information Google shows in these featured snippets is often based on Structured Data on the website. By applying Structured Data, you can greatly enhance the visibility of your website in the search result.
Besides featured snippets, Google may also use your Structured Data to visually enhance the search results. An example is breadcrumbs in the search results:
Another example is a recipe for Texas Chili, for which Google includes an image, preparation time and calories:
As you see, the rich results are much more enticing to click on. That's exactly how Rich Results help your SEO: generally, the click-through rate is much higher than for normal results.
Some useful examples of Structured Data
There are many types of Structured Data you can use. Google has an extensive list of Structured Data they use, and how to apply them. Don't know where to start? Here are some examples that work well, and that apply to most websites.
The Organization Schema lets you add contact information about your organization on your site. This is often a logical candidate to add to your site.
Somewhat similar to Organization, but more focused on local offices or shops. If your organization has various retail outlets or branches, Local Business is a great way to help Google understand where you are located. You could even use more specific types, like Restaurant or HealthClub.
Does your website have a blog? The BlogPosting Schema or Article Schema helps you structure the blog and indicate the title, body text, author and more. Google may include your article and is image in a carousel:
The Product Schema lets you add details about your product's price, reviews, and availability of products in your webshop.
A great way to stand out in the search results is by showing up in the FAQ rich snippets. Google describes how to add this. Here's an example of how an FAQ can show up in Google:
BreadcrumbList makes your search navigation clearer and applies to a lot of your pages.
Event Schema helps you display future events and include details like start and end date, duration, location and ticket sales.
The downside of featured snippets
As SparkToro researched back in 2018, Google is trying to keep searchers on their page. By answering a question directly on the result page, the searcher may not have to click through to the website that provided the answer. The result: fewer clicks from Google to your website.
We still think Structured Data, and the Featured Snippets that result from it, can help a website. We believe this for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, if you don't add the Structured Data, your competitor might do it, and show up in Google instead.
Secondly, there could be benefits to your branding by showing up as a Featured Snippet. This may not result in a click directly, but can still be valuable.
Lastly, Rich Results (as opposed to featured snippets) do generally lead to more clicks to your site.
Still worried that Google might steal your visitors? You can gain additional control over what they can show by using the max-snippet feature.
Structured Data in SiteGuru
Our goal at SiteGuru is to show you the full picture of your website. That includes Structured Data. Our Structured Data Report shows you which pages have which types of Structured Data on them. This helps you figure out which pages can be enriched.
Structured Data in Google Search Console
We're a big fan of Google Search Console, and it proves to be very helpful for keeping a close eye on your Structured Data. Various types of Structured Data, such as Products, Breadcrumbs, Reviews and more are checked for errors. Here's an example report for Breadcrumbs:
You've now learned what Structured Data is, what it means for SEO and how you can use it. It's time for action: let's start adding Structured Data to your website!