SEO Basics What Is Structured Data?
If you’re a marketer, SEO, or someone that simply wants to improve their Google Search presence, then this short guide is for you. In this article, we’ll explain what SEO is, why you should consider it vital to your online organic growth strategy, and help you understand some of the associated terminologies.
What is structured data?
Structured data, otherwise known as schema markup, is often referred to as the “language of search engines.” It’s an authoritative vocabulary that makes it easier for search engines to contextualize, understand, and accurately match website content to relevant search queries.
Structured data is a way of describing your site to make it easier for search engines to understand. To describe your site to search engines, you’ll need a vocabulary that presents content in a way that search engines can understand. The vocabulary used by the big search engines is called Schema.org, which translates your content into code that they can easily process. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific and much richer way. You can easily put this piece of code on your website.
Why is structured data important for SEO?
The internet is growing in size and complexity every day. Yet Google continues to have limited time and resources to pursue its mission of organizing the world’s information in an easily accessible and useful way. It still struggles to serve the most relevant and helpful links to each query in its search engine. Structured data is important for SEO because it helps Google serve this mission more efficiently.
As previously mentioned, structured data helps search engines understand your content better, which in turn helps them rank your content more accurately. This helps them present more information directly on the results page in the form of rich snippets. Not only do you improve the experience of the Search Bot, but you improve the user experience as well by improving the results page with more accuracy and more information for them to resolve their queries faster.
Is Structured data a Ranking Factor?
Structured data is not a ranking factor YET, but it is highly recommended by Google developers and indirectly helps your website improve rankings.
To reiterate, by presenting information in a machine-readable context, Search Bots are able to understand the meaning of your pages, match content with more relevant queries, and display applicable rich results as well. These all have indirect effects on ranking factors like click-through rate and direct traffic because Google uses the data to put your links in front of more qualified audiences and those links are enhanced by features like FAQs, ratings, and reviews that help customers solve their queries faster and entice visits to your pages.
Regardless of the ranking question, if your goal is to increase visibility in the SERPs and indirectly influence rankings, it is a critical asset to have on your website.
Why do we structure data?
It’s quite simple, we structure data so computers can easily read, understand and categorize that information.
Structured data refers to data that is organized, while unstructured data is unorganized data. For instance, this sentence: “Marieke is the author of this post and she works at Yoast” contains unorganized data.
As humans, it’s easy for us to understand the sentence and information in it. Marieke is a person, she’s an author, she works at Yoast, and Yoast is a company. Search engines can also understand and organize this information, but it’s not immediately clear to them. They would need to do a bunch of analysis to reach the same conclusion as us, while we do that simultaneously as we read.
How Structured Data Improves On-SERP SEO
On-SERP SEO is the organic channel strategy of covering as much real estate as possible on the first search results pages for any of your target keywords in order to capture the attention and clicks of your target audience. This is done by qualifying for applicable SERP features, like Google Ads, Featured Snippets, Image Packs, and FAQs, in addition to ranking as highly as possible. Structured data improves On-SERP SEO by qualifying your content for over 30 rich results, also referred to as rich snippets, that maximize the functionality and visibility of your links with more actionable, appealing, and detailed information embedded directly in the search results. To see the impact in Google search, go to Search Console, and under Performance > Search Appearance, you can view a breakdown of all the rich result types like “How-Tos” and “FAQs” and see the organic impressions and clicks they drove for your content.
What do you do with structured data?
With structured data, you can “talk” to search engines. You can tell the search engines which ingredients there are in your recipe, you can tell them how long the preparation time is, and you can tell them how many calories the dish will contain. You can tell who made your Shopify products, for what price you sell them, and what people thought of them. Google will be able to grasp all that information instantly and can decide to show it in the search results.
Structured data is a tool you can use to tell Google detailed information about a page on your website. Then, Google can use this information to create informative, rich results. And audiences love these rich snippets.
What is Schema.org?
Schema.org is a community founded by the four major search engines – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex – with the intention of building a better semantic web by collaboratively developing schema vocabularies for structured data markup across the internet. A commonly used vocabulary in the form of schema.org types and properties makes it easy for marketers and website developers to participate in this initiative.
What is JSON-LD?
JSON-LD is one of the markups of Schema.org. It’s just a way to write code. On Schema.org, you’ll also find other markups like Microdata or RDFa. At Yoast, we’ll advise you always to use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as other markups do. Plus, it’s the format that Google prefers. Yoast SEO automatically adds lots of structured data JSON-LD to your site. That’s not possible with the other markups.
How to use structured data?
Google supports both JSON-LD and Microdata structures. JSON-LD, a more lightweight solution, is Google’s preferred data format.
From our perspective —and Google’s— there’s a clear winner: JSON-LD. It’s the most elegant and lightweight solution for structured data markup.
Microdata is a way to label various HTML elements on a page using machine-readable tags. Because microdata is embedded within the HTML source code of a web page, it takes more time to implement and is more difficult to edit and remove.
No code hero? Use a plugin!
A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. As mentioned, Yoast SEO automatically adds the most important data for your site. You can even determine per page or article what type of content is on there. So, you can describe the Contact page on your site as being a to search engines. You can do this by simply selecting the type in the Schema tab in the meta box or the block editor sidebar. In addition, you can use the free Yoast SEO content blocks to markup your FAQ pages and how-to articles with valid structured data.
Our local SEO plugin uses structured data to show your store’s location or multiple locations, while the WooCommerce SEO plugin improves the structured data of your products. The same goes for our Yoast SEO for the Shopify app and we discuss this in the Shopify SEO ultimate guide.
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