Bitesize: Structured Data Implementation
So, what is structured data?
You may hear structured data referred to as many different things. You might hear it called micro data, rich snippets, schema data, or schema markup. Essentially these are all exactly the same thing.
It’s code that is hidden within the source of your website and designed to be read by machines, such as Google’s Crawlers to help them understand the elements on your web page itself.
Without structured data, Google can still understand what things are on your website such as a product or a blog article, but by giving them this extra data in the background, they have that extra level of data and don’t have to do the guesswork. You’re telling Google explicitly what is on the page that they are looking at.
Structured Data Examples
By adding this special code to your website, it might result in you getting some enhanced listings within Google search results. It’s not guaranteed, Google basically decides when and where they’re going to use this data. But these are just some examples of what you might see if you’re using rich snippets or structured data on your website.
So there’s an example here of a Boots Hot water bottle cover.
You can see, it’s got a Rating 4.1 with 27 reviews. It’s £8.19. It’s in stock. This data here is all coming from the structured data that is hidden within the code.
Here’s another one for Harry Styles tickets. So this is what we call event schema.
You can use structured data for an organisation panel or local business listing within search results. The breadcrumb links that you have across a website can also be marked up in schema data and some companies do this because they don’t want to actually display the breadcrumbs on the website. So they’ll put them in the schema data instead.
Then there’s product schema. This includes the name of the product and a description. You can also have a review rating of the product and who actually left the review. How many points out of five that review is, how many reviews that product has actually had etc. This provides really nice, useful data that Google can then use within results.
Creating Structured Data
How do you actually create this code?
Obviously you can write the code if you know exactly how it should look. But there are some tools out there that can help you generate the code much more easily. You choose what kind of schema markup you want to create, you fill out all the fields and then the tool writes the code for you on the right hand side, and then you can embed that into your website.
How does this benefit your website?
Structured data can improve organic click-through rate. So, if you’ve got star ratings or something like that on your search results that’s going to attract the user’s eye and they might be more likely to click through to your website.
Schema also increases your brand’s findability within search results. So you’re more likely to be found for your brand name and you’re more likely to show up. Your listings in search results can end up taking up more real estate, pushing other brands further down in SERPs. So again, this is useful for attracting the users and hopefully increasing your click-through rate.
Structured data also provides the most accurate and up-to-date data in search results. If you just rely on Google guessing what’s on your page, the data might be inaccurate or out of date, whereas if you provide it through schema data it is going to be the most accurate information. This can increase customer confidence. So if they’re seeing five star reviews for a company or a product before they even get to the website, that’s kind of giving them that extra boost of confidence before they actually make that purchase or even click through to the site.
Schema can give us unique features. So like I’ve shown with the price drop, you can start to get unique features that other companies might not have access to because you’ve included schema data on your site. However, according to Google and multiple sources, having schema data on your site is not a ranking factor. So we shouldn’t be recommending that we add schema data to a website, just purely to achieve higher rankings. It’s all about improving user experience in SERPs and giving people accurate information all the time.
Keeping on the right side of Google
You also need to be quite careful with schema. In the past, people have taken advantage of schema data, so if you’re going to use it you need to make sure all the guidelines are followed when actually implementing schema on your site. In previous years there have been issues with people manipulating the system to gain a commercial advantage. For example, when star ratings started to appear in search results people manually created schema data with five star reviews, embedded that into their websites and then started getting five star reviews for their products and services showing up within Google.
To combat this, Google made it so that you also have to show that exact review information on your website so they could compare that to the schema data and make sure it matched up. They also put a lot of other mechanisms in the background to make sure these reviews weren’t fake reviews. So a lot of these loopholes have been closed but people in the Black Hat world are always looking for ways to game the system – so expect to see lots more amendments made by Google in the future to ensure that schema is used correctly.
Rich Snippet Testing Tool
It’s really important when implementing schema data that things are tested properly. There is a special tool provided by Google called the Rich Snippet Testing Tool where you put the URL of your page into this tool and it tells you whether your schema data is valid or not. It will also tell you whether you’re missing any elements.
If you miss things like review elements of the schema data, in most cases this would be fine because a product might not have reviews so that’s why it’s listed as optional. But if you get any critical warnings on here or critical errors, then that is something you would need to address because the schema data won’t be picked up.
If you wanted to check a website in its entirety, you could actually use the tool Screaming Frog to check and see whether schema data is being used across the website. It will show you what types of schema data are being used.
It does require you within Screaming Frog to enable the structure data checks. Otherwise when you run the crawl, it won’t actually check for these things. So just enabling all of these within the configuration will mean that it will run these checks.
Measuring the success of structured data
We can also measure the success of any appearance within search results from implementing schema data. Within Google Search console you can see a breakdown of clicks and impressions via different rich snippet results within Google, for example, the FAQ section. This is really good if you’ve implemented schema data, left it a couple of months and then gone back because you’ll be able to see the results from implementing all of these different types of schema data across your site.
What is the future of schema data?
Schema data changes on a fairly regular basis, for example, a little while ago they changed the logo schema. So now your logo must look good on a white background. They just make lots of little changes to the way they do things. We don’t really know what the future holds for it, but with AI on the rise, it might be that schema data is not even a requirement in the future because Google is able to look at a page and fully understand it in the same way that humans would.
There are lots of other different types of schema that Google doesn’t necessarily use. So it might be the case that Google does decide in the future that they’re going to start using the auto dealer or the brand or the collection page and schema type that all provide different types of data and they’ll incorporate that into their search results.