The Beginners Guide To Structured Data

/ December 24, 2020 | 7 Mins Read

The Beginners Guide To Structured Data

Read the article below to get a basic idea about structured data, Schema.org, and JSON-LD and how it can benefit you.

If you’re an SEO or a business owner looking to enhance how your website looks in Google search results, then you’ve come to the right place.

Structured data is an important part of any great SEO strategy and whilst it may not directly influence rankings, it does help Google understand the content of a page better. 

You may or may not have heard of all the technical jargon surrounding structured data, such as JSON-LD, Microdata, RDFa, rich results, schema markup - all of it can be confusing and overwhelming but rest assured, we’ll help you become a structured data expert by the end of this post.

Let’s dive in and find out what structured data is, why it’s important for your SEO, and how it can boost traffic for your website.

1. Define It: What Is Structured Data? 

The clue is in the name, but essentially structured data is organized information that aids search engines such as Google, to understand the content of your page in a simpler fashion.

Google is a complex search engine that can understand almost every query you throw at it but providing them further information about what your pages do and what is on them still goes a long way in 2021.

You might’ve also heard phrases such as ‘schema markup’ and thought ‘what is schema markup?’, which is a term synonymous with structured data because of how you implement structured data. 

To create structured data that Google will understand, you need to “mark up” or create lines of organized code that their search crawlers will digest, use for your web pages and if you’re lucky, enhance them as rich results. 

Not every page may qualify for rich results which we’ll explain shortly, but structured data is a necessity if you want to help Google better understand the nature of your pages.

2. Schema.org & Schema Types

The official website that structured data is based off is Schema.org. 

Structured data is schema, so when we are talking about the implementation of structured data, Schema.org is the organization that creates the rules and lists the types of Schema that are eligible to be implemented on your web pages. 

The most common forms of schema markup used on websites are:

  • Articles
  • Events
  • Products
  • People
  • Organizations
  • Local Businesses
  • Review
  • Recipes
  • Medical conditions

We recommend going through each of these schema types on Schema.org to understand their purpose as some of them may not be suitable for your website. 

They also provide lots of great code examples that you can copy and adapt to implement on your own website, by changing some of the data in there.

JSON-LD code examples

This is an important type of schema for eCommerce websites and can trigger rich results that look great in Google search results, such as below:

schema for eCommerce

Keep in mind that implementing structured data does not guarantee that Google will create a rich snippet of your page - it is completely up to them to decide when they want to show rich results, unfortunately.

3. How Does Google Use Structured Data?

Google is able to scan and read all of the structured data on your pages, which makes you eligible to earn rich results. 

This means that you can obtain or achieve a different look in the search results pages (SERPS), in comparison to other results on the same page. 

You may be able to appear in search results with stars, images, featured snippets, or even full-blown recipe-rich results which Google seems to love using.

Google-recipe-rich results

Google and structured data go hand in hand because of Google’s approach to providing users with the best and relevant information. Rich results like recipes help enhance search results for users in an aesthetic and visual format that allows them to easily digest information.

Just a side note, using schema such as SiteNavigation is not something Google will take into account despite it being listed on Schema.org. SiteNavigation elements will generally only show for websites that have a high volume of branded searches or if Google deems it may help provide a better user experience.

They are also less likely to provide these rich results on generic terms even if the term is your domain name.

4. How Do I Implement Structured Data For My Website?

Using schema markup is commonly thought of as ‘advanced SEO’ but the reality is that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Implementing structured data isn’t difficult, but ensuring that there is no errors in your code is the difference between having rich results show up and none be reflected.

There are plenty of ways to implement structured data to your website, but here are the most common data structures that Google and other search engines accept.

a. The Different Schema Markup Formats

Before you implement your schema, you need to understand the different ways you embed markup into metadata in the most suitable way for Google to understand the content of the page. 

The idea here is to understand the different structured data markup languages, but we won’t dive into them too technically as knowing the “ins and outs” of the structured data types isn’t necessary.

JSON-LD is the most common form of markup for a few reasons. If it sits within the <script> tag, the rest of your webpage HTML is not affected and will only add the markup code itself. 

JSON-LD is the structured data format that is recommended by Google, so whenever possible, make sure you use this data structure to achieve the best results..

You also have the option to include schema markup written in Microdata or RFDa format which both usually sit in the <body> tags of an HTML page but if Google prefers you use JSON-LD, use JSON-LD.

Google prefers you use JSON-LD

A great structured data example for the schema ‘AggregateRating’ of a restaurant written in JSON-LD would be something similar to the below:

<script type="application/ld+json">

{

  "@context": "https://schema.org",

  "@type": "Restaurant",

  "address": {

    "@type": "PostalAddress",

    "addressLocality": "Chicago",

    "addressRegion": "IL",

    "postalCode": "60616",

    "streetAddress": "4613 Example Av"

  },

  "aggregateRating": {

    "@type": "AggregateRating",

    "ratingValue": "4.3",

    "reviewCount": "310"

  },

  "name": "Vince’s Restaurant",

  "openingHours": [

    "Mo-Sa 10:00-16:30",

    "Mo-Th 17:00-22:30",

    "Fr-Sa 17:00-23:30"

  ],

  "priceRange": "$$",

  "servesCuisine": [

    "Italian",

    "Mediterranean"

  ],

  "telephone": "(312) 771-4198",

  "url": "http://www.vincesrestaurant.com"

}

</script>

b. Common Ways To Implement Schema Markup

It is safe to assume that most websites in 2021 operate on a CMS such as WordPress given its huge market share.

SEO plugins that are widely used such as Yoast and The SEO Framework will implement some basic forms of schema such as BreadCrumbs but you may require additional plugins to help implement a wide variety of different schema markups. 

This eliminates the need to do any “coding”, making it a very good choice for beginners or people who are not very “tech-friendly”. 

If you are going to shop around for a plugin, make sure you look for a plugin that is consistently updated, has a lot of great reviews, implements the markup in JSON-LD format and has reliable support.

You can also install the plugin Insert Headers and Footers if you want to implement the schema markup yourself, without having to find and edit your theme’s files which can be a little challenging.

Just make sure that you include the script within the <head> tag for the best results. It can go in the <body> tag, but <head> is preferred.

If you aren’t using WordPress or a popular CMS, you’re able to implement schema markup quite easily but it may require a little more effort and some considerations to think about.

You may not have it easy and a plugin can’t do the work for you, so that means you need to implement your structured data through your theme’s files. 

Locating your theme’s files is dependent on the theme you’re using as they are not all located in the same spot within your web hosting directory.

If in doubt, contact your developer to help you with your schema markup but most websites will be using a CMS that allows for easy implementation.

To verify that your structured data is working, head over to Google’s Rich Results Test to determine if the schema markup you’ve put in place is valid and has no errors.

You can also use Google’s structured data testing tool as well, but it appears as though the tool is being refocused and Google recommends relying on the Rich Results Test for the best and actionable feedback.

Google’s Rich Results Test

5. Why Is Structured Data Important For Overall SEO?

Anything that helps Google understand the nature of your page is beneficial for your website.

Whilst Google may not use all the structured data to provide rich results for your web pages, it’s still integral in providing the world’s largest search engine with more valuable data.

Structured data is a necessity for every website, but the reality is that a vast majority of websites aren’t using it, or if they are - aren’t implementing it effectively. 

SEO should be taken with a holistic approach, and there is no such thing as ‘structured data SEO’ because on-page, off-page and technical elements all play a vital role in the success of your SEO campaign.

By using structured data, you’re telling Google what your pages are about, giving them specific information that can result in rich results that increase your click-through rate (CTR).

Does Structured Data Improve My Rankings?

There is no evidence to suggest that structured data improves your keyword positions and will not help improve your overall rankings.

In saying this, structured data that triggers rich results can increase your click-through rate, especially for rich results like AggregateRating and Recipes, which help build reputation and trust amongst searchers.

There is also no evidence to suggest that Google uses engagement metrics like click-through rate to determine rankings but an increase in CTR can do wonders for your conversion rate and brand awareness over time. 

The important thing when it comes to SEO is definitely keywords and visibility, as they correlate with more traffic, but CTR is an important metric. Rich results will help your website stand out in comparison to others that appear on the same search results page that lack any enhancements or structured data.

Final Thoughts

Structured data is an invaluable piece of information that gives Google information about the content of your web pages without much effort. 

Implementing structured data can ensure that your website shows rich results, improving your click-through rate (CTR) which is a valuable metric that businesses should focus on. 

By now, you should see the importance of structured data and the way it can enhance the look of your website in search results because if you don’t implement it, your competitors will. 

Lachlan Perry is the founder and managing director of SEO Kings, a digital marketing agency providing SEO services, PPC and other marketing services since 2019. With extensive industry experience in web hosting and digital marketing travelling throughout Australia and the United States, he aims to craft up specialised digital strategies for your business with ROI and performance-driven campaigns.

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