Google wants to understand the content of web pages so it’s sure that users can easily find the best content for them. Naturally, it makes sense for you to tell Google in any way possible that your content is the best for users… structured data is here to help!
Structured data (schema markup) helps Google understand your pages as it helps explain the meaning of a page; it’s a standardised format for classifying page content.
Google search also uses structured data to enhance search results, with features such as recipes being shown in a format that quickly shows the user how long the recipe will take, the calories and reviews. Examples like this are where you might be familiar with rich snippets because information like reviews is key snippets from web pages.
Schema markup is incredibly useful to users using search engines because it can tell them key bits of information that might help their decision-making. For example, suppose I were looking for a recipe for a victoria sponge cake recipe, and I searched for this in Google; I’d see the following search results:
Now, believe it or not, the information in the screenshot above, from the reviews to the ingredients, to the time of baking, is almost entirely made up of rich snippets (a type of schema markup).
As a user, if I was short on time, then I might go with the Tesco Real Food recipe because it’s only 45 minutes compared to an hour. Or if I were concerned about the quality, I’d probably avoid Mary Berry’s BBC recipe due to the lower rating and fewer reviews. Without rich snippets, it would take me a lot longer to find this information and compare it.
So now we’ve covered the importance of schema markup and rich snippets for you and your customers. Let's do a deeper dive into the world of structured data.
There is a big knowledge gap in understanding the difference between structured data, schema and rich snippets, especially as people tend to use these terms interchangeably! Not to worry, here’s our quick guide to understanding their differences:
Structuring data makes search engines’ lives much easier because they can more efficiently read, understand and categorise the information on your site as the content is in a standardised format. Since it makes search engines’ lives easier, it can help your SEO because it knows what your site content is about and which search terms it’s relevant for.
That said, ensuring that your structured data markup attributes are high quality, complete and accurate is vital, as this is favoured over multiple recommended attributes with inaccurate data. So even if you have structured data on your site, it needs to be high quality to benefit your SEO.
Various types of structured data markup are used to describe the contents of web pages and provide additional detail about said contents. Technically speaking, you can implement structured data in several ways. Most structured data is snippets of code entered into your web page or around certain elements of the web page - i.e. the parts that you want to ‘mark up’. The type of implementation you use might depend on technical requirements or the structured data you use. Here are the core types you should know about
Another common type of structured data, but Microdata, differs from JSON-D in that it directly uses HTML tags and attributes for data definition on web pages. You can usually find this type of structured data within the page body, or in the page head.
RDFa is an extension to HTML5, which is similar to microdata in that it uses HTML tags and attributes. Much like JSON-LD and microdata, you can use RDFa either in the head or body of your source code
The different types of schema are more likely to be names of things you will recognise: reviews, videos, recipes, events and more.
Featured Snippets - Articles/blogs
These provide quick information that might answer the query (e.g. when putting a question into Google) without needing to read the full article.
Review snippets are a great way of providing at-a-glance information about the item being reviewed, including the star rating (out of 5), the reviewer (name), and the pros and cons of an item or place.
This allows information such as product pricing and stock availability (In Stock / Out Of Stock), letting users quickly compare retailers’ pricing and availability
Videos provide users with the video thumbnail, the publish date, and the uploader's name.
Allows users to quickly and easily see the difference in recipes in terms of their reviews, time estimates, and ingredients at a glance.
Provides users with the date, the time, the location, and a thumbnail image of the event.
Google has taken huge steps to make our lives easier when implementing structured data markup. Their Structured Data Markup Helper provides step-by-step assistance with implementation.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting started:
Assign data tags to your site’s content - You’ll see the webpage you’re working on on the screen's left-hand side. You simply highlight the content of the page you want to markup, and different data tag options will be listed (e.g. author, image, publish data).
Create the HTML and add the markup - Click “Create HTML” in the top right-hand corner of your screen. You should see a box appear with the markup code in JSON-LD form that you can then download and copy and paste into your own source code. You can also view the code in other forms via the dropdown where it says JSON-LD.
There you have it; you’ve got your structured data!
Next, you’ll want to check that Google is receiving your structured data as you want it to be.
Testing your structured data has been made much easier by, you guessed it, Google, which has created its own ‘Test Your Structured Data’ tools designed to help you as much as possible.
There are two available tools:
Testing your data is crucial to including schema markup on your pages because you need to know that your hard work hasn’t been in vain and that your structured data is doing what you want/expect it to do.
Tracking the effects of implementing/improving structured data on your site is similar to tracking the progress of any site changes. You’ll need to note what your data looks like before implementing any changes and come back to this later once you’ve got your structured data up and running on your site.
In terms of what we recommend for data tracking, click-through rate (CTR) is a key metric. If you’ve successfully implemented your structured data, we’d expect/hope to see an increase in your CTR because the information you’re detailing should draw users to your site.
However, structured data can also work in the opposite way. If you’re giving users more information in the search engine results pages, your CTR might decline because you’re reducing the need for the user to click on your website for the desired information.
It’s worth noting here that even if you do put structured data onto your site in the hope that it will be featured in a rich snippet, it’s not a guarantee that search engines like Google will automatically prioritise showing the information. However, having structured data on your site will more likely help your SEO and website metrics than hinder them (when implemented correctly).
To summarise, structured data is the best way of telling search engines more about the contents of your website.
This information is something that the search engine can feed back to users when and if they believe the content would be useful to them. For example, if I were looking to bake a cake in a short amount of time, then knowing the time length of a recipe would be beneficial to me as a searcher, so Google would show this to me as a rich snippet in the search results.
There are various types of structured data and schema markup (a common type of structured data), some of which are for backend and behind-the-scenes content. Others are more focused on the visible elements such as reviews, photos, events etc. All types have their own time and place for usage.
Measuring the impact of structured data can be tricky because it’s not something that search engines are 100% guaranteed to use, but when they do, it can positively impact your site, such as improved rankings and/ or increased traffic.
Do you need help implementing or monitoring structured data on your site? That’s one of our specialities. Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Andy drives high-quality, high-converting organic traffic to a wide range of businesses, from local companies to global brands.
A strategic search marketer, Andy’s expertise lies predominantly in ecommerce websites and technical SEO, and is particularly adept at finding opportunities to provide quick wins and long-term return on investment.More about Andy