What is Structured Data?

Sean Dilger
By Sean Dilger

Search engines can have a difficult time understanding the content on your website. This is where structured data is important and comes into play. Structured data allows search engines to not only crawl your site, but to truly understand the content on your website by generating rich snippets, which are pieces of information that will then appear in the search engine results page (SERPs).

In 2011, the major search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo created schema.org. According to Schema.org “Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.”

Structured Data does the following:

  • Organizes information in a clear structure using schema mark-up
  • Enables search engines to better process and understand information on your website, while displaying the information in a way that is eye catching to users

Structured data/Schema creates additional search-friendly signals, that helps increase click through rates (CTR), helping you perform better in the SERPs. As a result of adding Schema to the HTML of your site, you can improve how your page displays in the SERPs and gain informative and visual results. The more information you provide, the more likely your rich snippets will appear in the SERPs.

Types Of Schema

  • Organizational Schema Markup
  • Website Schema Markup
  • Site Navigation Schema
  • Breadcrumb Schema Markup
  • Video Schema Markup
  • Product & Offer Schema Markup
  • Schema Rating Markup
  • Local Business Schema

Organizational Schema/ Google’s Knowledge Graph

The organization schema markup helps generate brand signals, which can enhance the display of your Knowledge Graph entry in the SERPs) In other words, the knowledge graph is the collection of information about your website as a result of adding organizational schema to your website.

We recommend using JSON-LD as the type of coding language to implement the structured data/schema on your website. Of note, typically the knowledge graph will not appear if your website does not receive a lot of traffic. It is also important to have a Google My Business account.

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is a method of implementing structured data markup on a site. JSON-LD is Google’s recommended format for schema and therefore, this is the method we recommend at Power Digital Marketing.

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Website Schema Markup

The Website schema markup helps generate the Sitelinks Search Box feature for brand SERPs and can help your site name to appear in search results. This integrates with the existing site search functionality of the site.

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Site Navigation Schema

The Site Navigation Schema markup can help increase search engines’ understanding of your site structure and navigation and can be used to influence organic site links, which presents a more ideal listing for branded searches.

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Breadcrumb Schema Markup

Breadcrumb Schema markup can be applied to the breadcrumb structure on the site and helps to provide more information about the URL structure in the SERPs.

This is especially important for longer URLs where the last folders/directories will not fully display in the SERPs. By implementing breadcrumb schema, the URL in the SERPs will display similarly to as shown below:

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Google also loves a site with good navigation and user experience, therefore it makes sense to use breadcrumb schema.

Video Schema Markup

Websites can utilize schema on embedded or hosted video content via the Video Object schema. Google primarily displays video rich snippets for YouTube videos, but this will help video rich snippets to appear for videos and web pages in Google Video Search. This markup requires the following properties:

  • Name
  • Description
  • ThumbnailUrl
  • UploadDate

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Schema Product & Offer Markup

These two types of schema are very beneficial to use on both the product and category pages of the site. When used together, the Product and Offer markups can help product information appear in the SERPs, including price and status information. Note that the Offer markup is required in order for the price to appear in Google SERPs. For this markup to work properly, these are the required properties:

  • Product Schema – only the “name” property is required.
  • Offer schema – only the “price” and “priceCurrency” properties are required.

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Schema Rating Markup

The Rating schema is primarily used on e-commerce sites but can also be used for a local business site, such as a restaurant. When an item has multiple ratings that have been averaged together to produce an aggregate rating, you’ll want to use the Aggregate Rating schema. The result of this is that the SERPs will display the star ratings for the product, increasing buyer confidence and CTR for the product.

Local Business Schema

Local Business Schema allows you to markup existing business information (ie postal address) on pages such as the contact page and increases the local rankings for keywords related to the business type and location.

Why Is Structured Data So Important?

Structured Data is very important as it helps the search engine bots understand what your website is about. Additionally, it improves the quality of the SERP results using rich snippets. This gives your potential customers a better understanding as to what your site is about and how the search engines value it.

What are the Benefits of Structured Data?

There are many benefits of implementing structured data on your website. Google’s SERPs are becoming more visual and creative.

Just Look at Google SERPs in 2011 compared to 2017 when consumers search online for “buy 3d tv”

Google SERPs in 2011:

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Google SERPs 2017:

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Google’s use of Images in the SERPs in 2017 when searching for “Keven Hart movies”:

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Note, the SERPs in 2017 is less hectic compared to 2011.

  1. Improve the Quality of Your Brand Authority

By providing search engines with more data about your brand and highlighting certain elements of code within the HTML of your website, all the search engines can take this information and add it to their Knowledge Panel to learn more about your website.

  1. Increase Click Through Rate (CTR)

It may be great if you are ranking on Google, but what is the benefit of ranking well if searches do not click on your results? Therefore, this is a vital metric and Structured Data really can improve it. Check out the image from a localized search for ‘Jet Ski San Diego:

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Results with ‘Reviews and Ratings’ implemented immediately jump out at searchers and optimize the visibility of the results. I personally would be more enticed to click on results with star ratings and reviews if I was choosing a service, would you? Therefore, this helps drive more traffic to your website.

Implementing Structured Data On Your Website

There are a number of ways to implement Structured Data on a website.

In order to gain the full benefits, you can choose one of the following;

  1. Google’s Data Highlighter in Google Search Console to highlight sets of similar pages
  2. Create code using JSON-LD and apply it to the HTML of your webpages
  3. Use plugins that are available for WordPress and other widely used CMS’

Schema Plugin for WordPress

The All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin on WordPress allows the following schema to be implemented website:

  • Review
  • Event
  • People
  • Product
  • Recipe
  • Software application
  • Videos
  • Articles

This free plugin is useful for those that have no experience with HTML, but it has its downsides as you can have only ne type of schema per page and it does not support local business schema, which is vital for many websites.

Structured Data Testing Tool

Google’s Structure Data Testing Tool is excellent for testing your schema implementation. You can run a test by either providing the URL of a web page to identify if your website has schema or you can paste in your code. The tool not only displays which structured data is present on the website, but it also reports any errors the schema may have on the site. With this tool, you can easily update your code on the site to see how this affects your data and errors.

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Wrapping Up

Using structured data/schema on your website helps describe the content on your website in a way that search engines can better understand. The search engines use this information to strengthen your listing in the SERPs. This will help you attract a better CTR from sites that rank above you in the SERPs even when you rank in lower positions as a result.

Before implementing the schema on your website it is vital to test the structured data using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure there are no errors. This is one of the most important steps. Once implemented on your website, monitor for errors via Google’s Search Console.

Google is constantly evolving and structured data will continue to play a big part in that evolution. More schema types are becoming available to webmasters. If you’re still really unsure of where to start with structured data, then talk to the experts at Power Digital Marketing. The time is now to start implementing structured data on your website. Stay ahead of your competition and let the search engines look more favorably on your website as a result of using schema. For more expert advice on Structured Data contact our SEO team today!

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Sean Dilger is an SEO Project Manager at Power Digital with a passion for all things digital. He was born in Ireland and moved to San Diego in 2015. Sean has many years experience in the digital space and has worked in email marketing, PPC, social media and of course SEO. Sean graduated college in Ireland with a Master's Degree in Marketing and Management Strategy.