Structured Data and Markup Explained
In this blog, I’ll share what structured data is, how it’s useful for both Google and you, how to get started using it, and some best practices if you already do.
The biggest source of data that Google consumes is the web itself. The web is a very loosely structured collection of documents. For a lot of our more modern, richer features, we need that data to be more structured. This enables us to provide visual treatments, such as product review stars or filters for how long it takes to prepare Biryani.
While Google has the technology to find that structure in web page text automatically, those systems are not perfect. That’s where you come in. When you tell us what’s on your web page in a structured way, we can more accurately interpret the contents. This means we can create visual treatments and show the web page in the correct context for searchers. That in turn can bring more qualified traffic to your website because your site can be shown in new ways to more people on Google Search.
Looking for practical examples? Google has several case studies on Google’s developer site that showcase practical gains the websites have seen for implementing several different structured data types. The most important thing you can do as a website owner is to first make sure that Google can crawl your content. If Google can’t crawl your content, then we can’t find the structured data on your page. Google primarily uses schema.org to describe the content on your page.
What is Structured Data
Data in a standardized format, has a well-defined structure, complies to a data model, follows a persistent order, and is easily accessed by humans, software programs and search engine bots.
What is Schema Markup
Schema markup, found at Schema.org, is a form of microdata once added to a webpage, schema markup creates an enhanced description commonly known as a rich snippet, which appears in search results or SERP pages. Major search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex first started collaborating to create Schema.org back in 2011.
What is Schema.org?
Schema.org is a public collaboration between several different organizations to create a shared vocabulary to describe data. It doesn’t fully represent every bit of information in the world, but it does have a lot of broad vocabulary for many different types of content. As broad as schema.org, is Google is primarily interested in certain subsets of the vocabulary that relate to features we build that connect people to what they’re looking for on Google Search.
While we never penalize you for having more accurate structured data on your pages, it’s the best use of your time to focus on the ones we actively use. That’s where our developer docs come in.
In Google’s developer site’s docs, Google showcase all the major uses of structured data in Google Search. You can use the search gallery to find structured data types that may be a good fit to the type of content on your website. There are some features that are very broad and apply to most websites, like our breadcrumbs feature, and some that are targeted at a certain type of website. For example, if you are an e-commerce website, you may be interested in the product or review features. And, for e-commerce, we have a guide of some ways to use structured data types in the link you see.
How to Implement Structured Data
Once you know what types of structured data you are interested in, how you implement it depends on how you manage your website. Suppose you use a content management system, WordPress or Squarespace, for example. In that case, your best bet is to find a plugin that exposes structured data automatically for the content you already have on the web pages.
For instance, if you have an event calendar on your website, make sure that the plugin has the capability to produce event-structured data and that you have it configured correctly per the documentation. If you have direct control over the HTML of your website, there are a couple of different syntaxes that let you express the schema.org structured data
In the HTML. There are good reasons to use each syntax.
Use JSON-LD (rather than microdata or RDFa), as recommended by Google.
Google’s recommended approach is to use JSON-LD because it’s the simplest. JSON-LD is a separate block of JSON-like syntax that you put on the web page in a script tag alongside the visual content. A recommended approach would be to add it to several pages manually on your website and test them with the Rich Results Test in Search Console to see whether we are interpreting the structured data correctly.
Test Structured Data and Schema Markup
Rich Results Test will list the structured data items that Google uses for specific features on a given code snippet or URL, and for each item, show its status and any issues. After you figure out the right way to produce the markup, you can implement it more broadly in any database-templating language you use.
Once you have the structured data implemented on your website through either approach, you will begin to get reports from Search Console on the validity of that structured data for use in our features over time.Google will notify you if there are issues with markup so that you can continue getting rich results. These reports and notifications are only possible if you are signed up with Search Console for your website.
Note that any issues just affect the use of that structured data in our features. Having issues will not negatively affect other aspects of your page in our search index, and the data might still be valid for consumption by other search engines.
Speaking of impact, after you implement the structured data, you can then use Search Console tools to verify the impact of the structured data on Google features. Many of our structured data types offer search appearance reports on this impression and interaction rate with corresponding search features.
Best Practices Adding Structured Data
Keep the structured data relevant
Using structured data that has nothing to do with the contents of the page is considered abuse and can result in penalties. But even beyond that, try to focus on describing the core meaning of the page. For instance, if you have a product page selling a particular product and you list all the related products in the markup without differentiating the main product on the page, that will make it all the harder for us to use that information.
Try to use unique identifiers
Some of our features recommend or require some sort of unique identifier explicitly. But in general, giving us a stronger identity signal helps us disambiguate the names of things in your data, so it shows up for the right queries, for example, giving the street address for an event location rather than just the city or using an ISBN when describing a book or adding a social profile link for an author of an article.
Conflicting or redundant structured data
A very common problem we see is multiple CMS plugins or separately authored JSON-LD blocks generating the same data with slightly different information. This can sometimes appear like several different things on the page, which can potentially exclude the page from having a visual feature.
Markup only what is on the page.
One key page for each business concept.
Relate to Wikipedia/websites to define topics.
Examine Search Console reports
Structured data can be a valuable resource for your website. Using it correctly can potentially lead to more and higher-quality visitors coming to your website. We continue to add more features and recommendations over time to find new ways to connect searchers with content on the web and increase our structured understanding of the page.
The information from this video is also available in our developer documentation, which has more details on all these topics, plus detailed guides for the different types of structured data that we recommend.
Best Practices Adding Structured Data
Improves site’s visibility.
Optimize Search Results Format Improving CTR
Show up search results on Google Discovery
Provide ability to Control how your brand appears in search results.
Boost Local Search traffic by Establishing yourself as Local Business
Types of Structured Data or Schema Markup
- COVID-19 announcements
- Education Q&A
- Employer Aggregate Rating
- Estimated salary
- Fact Check
- Home Activities
- Image metadata
- Job Posting
- Learning Video
- Local Business
- Math solver
- Practice problem
- Review snippet
- Sitelinks search box
- Software App
- Subscription and paywalled content