SEO basics: What is structured data?

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Andrew Raynor

 

 

You might have heard about structured data, schema.org and JSON-LD. But what do these terms mean exactly? What is structured data? What does structured data do? And what does it have to do with SEO?  For all of you who don’t know what structured data is: this post will make it clear to you! 

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What is structured data?

Structured data is code. It’s a piece of code that you can put on your website. It’s code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific way.

Imagine you have a website with a lot of recipes. If you add structured data to a page with a recipe, your result in the search engines will change. It will be much “richer” in terms of content that’s shown. That’s the reason we call these results rich snippets. This is what a rich snippet looks like:

Besides the title, the URL and the description of the search result, you can see how long it will take to make the absolute best ever lasagna. And, you’ll see how many calories the lasagne contains. You need to add structured data to your web page to get such a rich snippet.

There are all kinds of structured data. Structured data is always a code format. There’s structured data for books, for reviews, for movies, and for products in your online store, for instance. In all cases, structured data adds more details to your snippet in the search results.

We have to make one side note here. Unfortunately Google does not always create a rich snippet of your page, even if you’ve added the structured data. There are no guarantees. So all you can do, is add it to your page, and hope Google will pick it up!

What do you do with structured data?

With structured data, you can “talk” to the 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. Google will be able to instantly grasp all that information and can decide to show it in the search results.

So structured data is a tool you can use to tell Google (in a way it totally understands what you’re saying) detailed information about a page on your website. Google then will be able to use this information to create informative (rich) search results. And audiences love these rich snippets!

What is schema.org?

The big search engines have developed the project schema.org. On schema.org you can find all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. This makes Schema.org is a really large taxonomy of pieces of code.

You can use schema.org to find the markup you need for your specific page. For instance, if you sell t-shirt on your site, you could show what color t-shirts you sell and what sizes you offer in your snippet. You should investigate schema.org/Product and find out the possibilities.

On schema.org, you can copy exact code examples. After copying it, you’ll have to adapt the code to your own specific preferences.

Schema.org is a taxonomy of code formats that the large search engines understand. You’ll find examples of how the code looks like. There are other forms of structured data as well. For instance Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter cards (used by Twitter).

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 mark-ups like Microdata or RDFa. At Yoast, we’ll advise you to always use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as other markups do. You can – relatively easily – add JSON-LD to your website using Google Tag Manager. That’s not possible with the other markups.

Why is structured data important for SEO?

Structured data is important for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about. Google needs to find out what a page is about to show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google, telling Google what your site is about. That’ll help with your rankings.

On top of that, structured data will change the way your snippet (your search results) will look like. It’ll show more information to your customer. More specific information. And this will increase the likelihood a customer will click on your results. More clicks will eventually lead to even higher rankings!

How to use structured data?

Using structured data sounds hard, but everyone can do it (with the proper training). You have to get the right code, you’ll have to adapt that code and you’ll need to use Google Tag Manager to put it on your site.

Currently we’re working on a practical training to help you get structured data on your site! You’ll learn how structured data works and how to implement it with Google Tag Manager yourself. So keep an eye on our newsletter if you don’t want to miss it. 

We already have written a lot of post about schema.org and JSON-LD, which will help you to understand more about this subject.

No code hero? Use a plugin!

A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. Our local SEO plugin, for instance, uses structured data to show the location or multiple locations of your store. You don’t have to write code to get that rich snippet, you’ll just use our plugin, fill out some details and we’ll do it for you. And there are many more plugins that’ll help you to use structured data without need to struggle with any code!

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

SEO New Hampshire

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