Structured data is a topic of conversation that you’ll hear people discuss with increasing volume throughout 2019 and beyond.

And there’s a good reason for this, as structured data provides websites with the perfect tools to liaise with Google’s crawlers with an advanced level of clarity.

The correct structured data means that pages can appear in knowledge graph areas (such as featured snippets), which can increase organic click-through rates and send relevant traffic to sites. They can also add rich results onto to your listings in the SERPs such as golden review stars, breadcrumbs, and more.

What’s more, in the future, Google will also be using structured data to help answer questions offered to smart devices (at the moment however, this is currently in Beta).

What is structured data?

In the words of Google itself: “Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.”

This means that, for example, if you had a commercial page selling a specific laptop, you would likely markup its technical attributes using some form of specialised “Product” structured data.

By adding structured data to your pages, you are also opening them up to other features and enhancements, such as the opportunity to appear in graphical search results.

You can find out and read about which features might best suit your website in this guide.

Getting structured data right

The data itself is coded in a page’s markup, where it should accurately describe the content of the page.

This means of course, that you wouldn’t have structured data on a blank page or provide structured information that wouldn’t be replicated for users within the content of a page.

Pages or websites that violate Google’s guidelines could “receive less favourable rankings” or could be marked as “not legible” for rich results in Google search.

If Google suspects that your structured data or content on a page is spam, you will find a manual action on your Manual Actions report in Search Console.

Even when you get it right (find out by testing here), Google does not guarantee that your work will show up in the search results, and there are a variety of reasons for why this might be:

  • Structured data only enables a feature to be present, but it does not guarantee it. This option relies on many variables such as search history, location, and device type.
  • The structured data is not representative of the main content of a page.
  • The structured data is incorrect in ways the testing tool cannot find.
  • The content referred to by the structured data is hidden from users.
  • The page does not meet structured data guidelines.

It’s also worth noting that the Fetch as Google tool will catch most technical errors/

Formatting

Google Search supports structured data in three formats that can enable rich results and knowledge graph enhancements.

JSON-LD

This is the format recommended by Google and should not be interleaved with visible user text, as already mentioned. This makes nested data items easier to access.

It’s worth noting that Google can also read JSON-LD data when it is dynamically injected into a page.

Microdata

Microdata is an open-community HTML specification. This is used to nest structured data in your average HTML content.

It uses HTML tag attributes to name properties and can be found (more commonly) in the page body, and (less commonly) in the head.

RDFa

This is an HTML5 extension that supports linked data by introducing HTML tag attributes. These correspond to user-visible content. Like Microdata, it can be used in both the body and head of a page.

Ensuring quality structured data

It’s important to remember that the testing tools mentioned don’t necessarily evaluate certain aspects of quality, as they focus more on rules, and whether they have been broken.

With this in mind, ensuring that structured data is of good quality is also important, and there are various guidelines that you should follow to enjoy the best results.

Content

Aside from following the original Google webmaster quality guidelines, there are a range of content considerations that you should bear in mind.

If you’re hosting some sort of event, service, or product that would no longer be relevant after a certain date, then make sure this is reflected on page and in structured data as Google does not rank outdated content.

Like any kind of content on your site, it should be original and not be stolen from other sites. This can be tricky when it comes to user generated content (UGC), but effort should be made to combat UGC ‘spam’, UGC ‘fake reviews’, and even UGC fake news.

As you can imagine, Google does not accept information that promotes “pedophilia, bestiality, sexual violence, violent or cruel acts, targeted hatred, or dangerous activities.”

Relevance and completeness

As mentioned, irrelevant data is not welcomed by Google and it uses an example of a “sports live streaming site labelling broadcasts as local events.”

Google also recommends that you specify all required properties required for a rich result and suggests that more information means higher quality data.

Location

This may seem obvious, but Google goes out of its way to ensure that people only place structured data on the page it describes, unless specified otherwise.

You can put structured data on a summary page that links to other pages, and you can do this on your own site or another (unless it is a summary carousel page).

Google specifically advises webmasters against marking up “top ten” articles that provide links to each item, and against job list pages that link out to individual jobs.

If you have duplicate pages for the same content therefore, it is recommended that you place the same data on all duplicates, not just the canonical page.

Images and multiple elements

For those using images that need specifying within structured data, ensure that the images belong to the correct instance.

You must also make sure that all image URLs are crawlable and indexable, as Google would not be able to display them in SERPs.

In the case of multiple structured data objects, these can be included as long as they describe page content that users are able to see.

That said, if you are making a list, all items must be included in markup. So, if your page contained laptop specifications, as well as a video about the laptop, you would mark each up separately.

For ecommerce sites with several products, each entity should be marked up with the correct schema.org type for product category pages.

If you’re unsure, Google has published a very comprehensive list of common structured data errors, which is well worth reading.

How SALT.agency can help

If you’re interested in an SEO campaign that is underpinned by high quality and thought provoking technical SEO, and you want to know more about how we can help you with your structured data and more, get in touch to see how we can help.