What is Structured Data?
Structured data is a type of code that helps search engines better understand the content of your website. By adding structured data to your website, search engines can provide better, more detailed information to users, which helps your content being highlighted and reaching a higher click-through-rate.
Why is Structured Data Important for SEO?
When you create a website or publish a new blog post, you are writing for two distinct audiences: Humans and machines. On one hand, all the content that you publish should be completely understandable to people who are browsing your website or curious about what you offer. On the other hand, that same content should be clear to search engines that crawl your website in order to analyze it and show it to users on search engine results pages.
Structured data does not replace the high-quality content that you should be featuring on your website. It is an addition to a great website, not a replacement for engaging content. However, adding structured data can improve search engine optimization, or SEO, for your page.
Structured data makes it easier for crawlers to see and accurately understand what exists on your website. Instead of guessing, albeit quite well, what your store hours are or what your contact email address is, search engines can navigate right to your structured data code in order to obtain accurate, up-to-date information in an instant.
Armed with this accurate information, search engines can enrich the snippets of information that appear for your website on search engine results pages. This means that depending on the type of information on a specific web page, the SERP can promote the most relevant information to searchers and users. Structured data clearly highlights key information that a search engine can use to offer rich snippets or display content in the form of a list or a carousel at the top of a results page. With more prominent results like these, websites may see higher click-through rates. Best of all, rich snippets make navigating a search engine easier for users. With more information visible at first glance, users are more likely to find exactly what they are looking for in less time.
Schema Markup Types
If you decide to implement structured data strategies, then you will need to choose a type of schema markup. Schema markup is a specifically formatted code that is easily understood by search engines. In a nutshell, it helps to translate the content on your page into information that search engines can truly understand and process. The schema markup type best suited for your website will depend on the kind of content you have and the goals of the page. Read on to find out about common schema markup types and what kind of data each will want to highlight.
When users on a search engine look up an organization, such as Textbroker or any other business, there are certain key facts they want to know. Through schema markup, you can highlight information like:
- Headquarters location
- Customer service phone number
- Full name of the company
- Official website
- Official logo
Since these are the most common things people want to know when they look up a company on a search engine like Google, this information can encourage users to click on the right link for more information.
While the average person may not worry much about his or her Google presence, the reality is that many individuals are searched for online. This can include high-profile artists, celebrities, politicians and executives. To help search engines better know who your content is about, you can use schema markup to highlight details such as:
- Date of birth
- Place of employment
- Job title
- Net worth
If you are part of a local business, then you know that it is a good thing when local users search for your company name online. Although users on a search engine might have several questions, schema markup can allow you to address the key issues right away. Top details to feature for a local business include the following:
- Hours of operation
- Phone number
Product & Offer
When people are looking for a specific item for sale through a search engine, they are typically looking for one key detail: Price. Including price in a schema markup can make your items more competitive online. Other important properties to include are:
- Product name
Breadcrumbs are an interesting form of schema markup that allows search engine users to see the navigation that leads from the main page of a website to the link they are about to click. For example, a breadcrumb might go from the main page to the recipes section and then finally to the recipe page for chocolate chip cookies. This approach shows users exactly what to expect from a given search result as well as how it connects to a major topic. In many cases, seeing this navigational path encourages people to click on the link and navigate around the site afterwards.
As you might expect, the schema markup for an article simply makes it easier for the search engine to understand and analyze your content. This is especially important if you’re writing about something that is in the news or is otherwise time sensitive. By specifying that it is a blog, news, or general topic article and what topics it covers, search engines can better predict which users might be interested in your content. Examples of information to highlight include:
- Date published
- Date modified
As you might expect, crawlers have a harder time analyzing video content than they do text content. To make it easier, schema markup for video can be incredibly helpful, allowing searching engines to better classify your content. This also increases the chance that your content can be found on Google’s video search and appear higher in search engine results pages. Including details like the name of the video and its duration can be helpful.
An event, such as a conference or a concert, often has key details that are pertinent to those searching for the event on a search engine. Some of the most helpful pieces of information to highlight can include:
- Date and Time
If you have ever searched for a recipe on a search engine like Google, you might notice that the information that appears below each link often includes details about the recipe. This can guide a user’s choice and determine which of the many links they click on. Recipe schema markup should include:
- How long it takes to cook or prepare („PrepTime“ or „CookTime“)
- Calories or pertinent nutritional information („NutritionInformation“)
- Required ingredients
Another popular use for schema markup is on an FAQ page. This is especially true if you have a larger organization and many people routinely search for the same few questions. Highlighting the question and answers of the FAQ can help search engines direct users to your FAQ page for more information, increasing the odds that users find the answers they seek on your website. This schema markup type can also be useful for more generic FAQs related to a specific topic integrated on other pages. It shows Google that your page is able to answer the questions that people are searching for. Ideally, Google will integrate the questions and answers highlighted into your search result creating a rich snippet.
If you are creating a how-to guide, one way to utilize schema markup is by highlighting the steps involved. For example, you might feature the first 10 steps in a lengthy process. When those enumerated steps appear in a SERP snippet under your link, users will know what to expect and may be persuaded to click through as a result.
Q & A
The Q&A markup can be applied for common questions that your target audience has about your products or a general topic. You might use it for a product support page or on a forum page. You might highlight some of the most common questions of your target personas, such as:
- How does a specific product work?
- How do I install WordPress?
- How can I implement structured data?
How to Use Structured Data
With a richer understanding of what structured data is and why it matters, you may be ready to implement it on your own website. Implementation can be overwhelming, but with a few key tips it is much easier to achieve. First, decide on the right approach to schema.
The three most common schema markup types are JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa. Microdata is implemented in-line, which means that you add annotations right to the relevant HTML. If the HTML line for the author byline of your article looks like this in HTML:
<h3>By Jane Smith</h3>
Then with Microdata, code for structured data is added right to that line, resulting in the following:
<h3 itemprop="author" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/Person">By <span itemprop="name">Jane Smith</span></h3>
In contrast, JSON-LD adds code to the head of the page, rather than adding new code to each relevant line. Overall, this approach is by far the more popular option, and it is also the one preferred and even recommended by Google. Since Google is the largest search engine on the web, it makes sense for most websites to use their supported schema strategy.
In JSON-LD, the same HTML byline for Jane Smith used in the example above would look like the example below.
"name": "Jane Smith"
A third type of schema markup is known as RDFa. This format is almost identical to Microdata, but it is becoming increasingly less common as time goes on. Typically, websites will perform better if they choose between JSON-LD or Microdata, with JSON-LD being the preferred choice as of 2020.
Tools to Implement Schema Markup on Your Website
If you are already a proficient coder, then you may be ready to implement structured data right away on your website. For the rest of us, relying on schema tools can allow for easier implementation that still harnesses the power of structured data.
If you want to learn more about manually adding schema markup to your website, then Schema.org is the best resource. This website includes all the types of schema you might want to include as well as a large and helpful community to turn to for advice.
For those with less desire, time or technical skill, it may be worth exploring plugins that add structured data to your website with far less effort. Yoast SEO, for example, is a WordPress plugin that automatically implements schema markup into your content, so you don’t have to worry about coding. Other known WordPress plugins include Schema App or Schema Pro. These plugins offer more detailed features to implement structured data in your content individually. The WordPress „Gutenberg“ editor, which is included in WordPress since the 5.0 Update, is also able to easily integrate different types of schema markup in your articles.
Higher visibility and CTR through schema markup
Rich snippets created through structured data can highlight key information and potentially increase click-through rates to your website. With the tools and resources provided in this guide, you can increase the visibility of your high-quality digital content.