What is structured data to begin with?
Structured data is a standardized way of providing relevant data to search engines. It helps by giving clues about the purpose of a page or piece of content on your website.
For example, on a recipes page, what are the ingredients that belong to the recipe? What is the total cooking time? The calories and so on.
You’re not only using this for Google to better understand your content. By using structured data, Google can highlight your content in the search results. These highlights are called rich results. It basically means your content will be shown in a way for users to better understand and interact with it.
These highlights exist in a couple of forms, rich snippets, rich cards and featured snippets.
Step 1 — Figure out what options there are
To rank higher in Google using structured data, you will have to figure out which rich results do you want to use?
Let’s dive deeper in the 3 forms of rich results.
By enriching the content on your website Google does not only learn more about your content, but can also use it to show results differently. These results are so-called rich snippets.
A great example of rich snippets are the review stars. These show the average review of products or a company.
In March 2017 Google announced that rich cards are globally available. Rich cards offer website-owners like you the opportunity to stand out in the search results.
Google has expanded the number of forms of rich cards greatly since its release back in 2017.
Rich cards are used for a number of different kinds of content. Here we can see an example for recipes.
But rich cards are used for so much more such as: News articles, blog postings, restaurants, people and so on.
Also known as a Position Zero (P0). A highlighted piece of text as a direct answer to your search result.
A featured snippet or a Position Zero result is placed as the first item on the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) and its content is crawled from a website, hopefully yours!
Maybe you want to know, what is the best time to book a flight:
Or, you know, maybe what the secret krabby patty formula is:
Jokes aside, featured snippets are crawled from any page where Google can find an answer. Although that is true, it helps tremendously to user structured data in order for it to be YOUR website which is used for the featured snippet. Which, obviously, is what we want!
Step 2 — The different types of structured data
Google continues to release new ways of structured data. And with that, the potential it offers for your website.
Each structured data type has its own set of attributes that need to be set in order for it to be valid. In addition to the required attributes, most types also offer some extra attributes to enrich the data provided to Google.
A list with all structured data types can be found on Schema.org. This is a collaboration between Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex. (So you’re not limited to only Google!) Although Schema.org offers more variations of structured data, I would advise to primarily use the ones provided by Google.
Step 3 — Choose the right data type for your website
Now it’s time for you to decide what structured data type is right for you.
Do you organize events and show them on your website? You might want to use the Event data type to show your events directly on the Google Search Results Page.
Step 4 — Choosing the right format
Implementing structured data in your website can be done in three different ways: JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.
Google recommends using JSON-LD
But, for ease of use, you might want to use Microdata or RDFa since it just uses your already existing content.
To decide what way is the right one for you depends on what Content Management System (CMS) you’re using and what your development company prefers. In the end, all three types do the same. But one might be a better fit for you than the other.
Tip: If you’re using WordPress for your website, you might want to use Yoast SEO. Besides offering great support for SEO, they also offer basic functionality for structured data using the Organization or Person type based on your settings.
Step 5 — Testing your structured data
If you want to implement specific types of structured data which can not be done by using a plugin like Yoast SEO, you might want to contact your web developer.
When the structured data has been implemented in your website, you can check it with Googles structured data testing tool.
Simply enter your site URL and Google will check your page if all required attributes are entered correctly. The tool will tell you if there are any errors or warnings. Make sure to solve every error, since these attributes are required by Google. The warnings, on the other hand, can be ignored since these are not required. Although I would recommend resolving these too as it can improve your featured results.
Structured data does not have a direct impact on your position in search engines. However, it does have effect on certain part of Google Search such as Google News, Shopping and even Google for Jobs!
By implementing the right data, Google can show your website more prominent on the Search Results Page. This means your website is seen more than your competitors who are not using structured data. Which eventually leads to a better Click Through Rate (CTR)!
However… getting featured using structured data can be a challenging job. But like many things in life, hard work and perseverance will eventually pay off. As long as your content is good, getting featured is possible!
So, go ahead and start implementing structured data in your website today! Have you got any experience or great results with structured data? Let me know in the comments!