Ready to get started with Structured Data? This hands-on guide will take you through the basics of creating and implementing Structured Data on your site. In 1998, search engines weren’t “a thing” yet. It was only when Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with an ingenious way of ranking results based on the number of links they received, that the modern search engine was born. And it looked a bit like this…
Not very exciting, right? Thankfully, the modern-day Google Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) is practically unrecognisable in comparison. Now you can easily get the answer to your questions, with clear data that is laid out in a visually appealing, and easy to understand, manner.
But have you ever wondered why certain results on a search engine results page are displayed with those extra features that help them stand out? Things like images, reviews, videos etc. Well, these are called Rich Snippets and the magic behind them is Structured Data (also known as Schema Markup).
What is Structured Data?
Basically, it is a standardised format for providing context about web content. Essentially, it’s a piece of code that is added to the back end of a website to make it easier for search engines to crawl, organise,St and display content to users on the search engine results page. With traditional HTML scripts, search engines’ crawlers are only able to determine what your data says, not what the data means. So schema markup helps communicate to search engines what the content means and why it is important. With Structured Data, you can make sure that Google knows all the important information by presenting it in a way Google can understand.
The SEO Benefits
Structured Data benefits SEO greatly by improving a search engine’s ability to crawl your site, increasing your site’s visibility in search results, and ultimately improving your users’ experience.
- Increased Visibility in Google SERPs with Rich Results (images, videos, ratings, etc)
- Increased CTR from SERPs. Google claims structured data is not a ranking signal, but a strong CTR does. So indirectly, structured data can impact rankings.
- It helps Google know that your pages are more relevant by giving them context – remember Google’s main goal is to deliver highly relevant search results that match user intent.
We know that Structured Data is a way you can give information to Google through a standardised vocabulary and format. The vocabulary is defined by an organisation called Schema.org. This organisation is a joint effort by Bing, Google and several other search engines that defines a common list of schema properties that can be used. Currently. they have created 615 types – but don’t let this overwhelm you – you certainly couldn’t (and shouldn’t) use that many.
How to Create Structured Data
A popular tool you can use is Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. This tool will generate HTML code which you can then add to your site via your CMS or by adding it directly into your source code. After search engines recognise the changes you’ve made, you should start seeing some rich snippets in SERPs.
To use this tool, simply select a type of schema, as in the example below in which we’ve chosen to add the restaurant schema. Then just paste in the URL of the page you want to place that schema on.
From this point, you can start creating tags by highlighting different elements on the page & assigning an attribute from the drop-down menu. In the example below, we’ve selected the name of the organisation and added the “name” tag.
Work your way through everything on that page you want to tag and select “Create HTML”, the tool will then create the HTML for you, allowing you to add it to your site quickly and easily (once you test it – of course!). In the highlighted boxes below you can see the different elements we have “tagged” for this restaurant.
Testing Your Code
Before adding your HTML code to your site you must remember to test the code to make sure Google can understand it. One of the tools you can use is Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Using this, you simply copy and paste the HTML into the tool and run the test. This will let you know if there are any important elements you haven’t created in your HTML (maybe you’ve forgotten to add an image URL). If this is the case, simply go back to where you built the HTML, add in the missing elements, and test it again.
However, this tool is about to be sunset by Google who are actively encouraging users to switch to the Rich Results Test, which works in pretty much the same way. Whatever tool you choose to use, the most important thing is that you are testing the Structured Data before adding it to your site.
Which Structured Data should You Add to your Site?
As mentioned above there are over 600 official schemas you can add to your site, but as always, it’s best to start with the basics. Below is a list of the most frequently used schemas that it may be worth considering adding to your site.
- Organisation/Local Business Schema
- Article Schema (for blog content)
- FAQ Schema (for FAQ pages)
- Job Posting Schema (Pull into Google Jobs)
- Website Schema (enable sitelink search box)
- Product Type (for e-commerce)
- Aggregate Rating Schema
- Event Schema
- Recipe Schema
- Video Schema
Some of these can be built using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper above, but we also recommend you try some nice third-party tools for more Structured Data templates such as the Technical SEO Structured Data Helper or Steal Our JSON-LD.
Tips for Getting Started With Structured Data
- Where to Add the Code: Google recommends adding the Structured Data code to the <head> section of the HTML
- Start Small: it is estimated only 30% of sites are using Structured Data, so even implementing just one type could help you stand out from the competition
- Focus on Your Users: what structured data is going to be most helpful for them when they are looking for your information?
- Add as many relevant and appropriate schemas as you can to your website
- Remember to update with any new content (blogs, recipes, job postings, events…)
And there you have it. A beginner’s guide to getting started with Structured Data. It certainly has many SEO benefits and could see you improve your visibility in SERPs and increase your organic traffic. So, make sure to add it to the to-do list!