What is Structured Data and How it helps with SEO?

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What is Structured Data and How it helps with SEO?

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Written by Houston
July 2, 2020
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It's time to get technical.

Google, Yandex, Bing and other search getaways use the code on your website to define, arrange and structure the crawl data.

That's why in search engine marketing you need to pay attention to items such as headers, metadata, tags, image alt tags and attributes and more.

Search Engines, including Google, use this type of data to define what your website is about.

However, to be able to break down information even further, there's a set of data vocabularies and hierarchies, known as Schema markup or Structured data.

They help search engines further understand the exact type of information that is provided on your web page.

It helps them understand what type of web page they are looking at and in turn, make a decision on how to best showcase this webpage in their search results.

In turn, they use this information, to be able to structure their results and pages better.

SNIPPETS are a great example of this.

Google Search Engine Results for "Chicken Recipes" Showing Article Snippets in the Search Results as data

As Google is able to understand the type of content on the page it is able to showcase a snippet of the webpage that features more information about the article. (in this case, preparation time, reviews and more)

To better understand the content of your website and the way it's structured, you can use Structured Data markup validation and testing tools.

We'll show you how to run a few schema markup tests to make sure that everything with your website is going great.

Then we'll talk about how you can change this data, so that it's more accurate, which in turn can help your article rank better in search engine results pages.

So let's first run a few tests and then we'll talk more about schema markup and how to update your website.

Understanding Structured Data

Now, I won't lie that getting into structured data we'll have to deal with code and the more technical aspects of SEO and web development.

But even though it might seem difficult at first, it really isn't.

Especially once you understand the general concept of structured data and why it's needed in the first place.

What is Google Structured Data Testing Tool?

The Google Structured Data testing tool is free to use web software that allows you to test a web page and understand how GOOGLE sees it in terms of structured data.

Google Structured Data Testing tool tests for TECHNICAL errors in your structured data.

It looks something like this.

Screenshot of Google Structured Data Testing Tool in Use

It showcases the code of the page that a web page has and the way the data of the page is structured.

It allows you to test how and check the way data is structured on your website.

How to use Google Structured Data Testing Tool to test your website?

To use Google's data tool, you need to visit the homepage of the tool.

Screenshot of Google Structured Data Testing Tool Homepage

You'll be greeted with a quick call-to-action prompt that gives you the chance to enter the URL of the page you want to test.

Screenshot of Google Structured Data Testing Tool Homepage with a prompt to Enter your Website

Once you do, click on the "Test" button.

Screenshot of Google Structured Data Testing Tool Results Page (Showcase of a Test that's being Run)

The Google Structured Data Testing tool will then showcase you the Schema.org structured data prompts and the way they are structured in a hierarchy and arranged on your website.

Doing a Schema Markup Assessment

Once you have your results, it's time to make your schema markup assessments.

Usually, the type of data will feature a pretty self-explanatory description and you will be able to tell whether or not the data is correct.

If everything seems ok, you can move on to the rich results test.

Checking if your Website is Eligible for Rich Results with Google Rich Results Test

Now, to ensure that your website is eligible for rich results (or snippets) we must turn to the Google Rich Results test tool.

Visit this webpage https://search.google.com/test/rich-results

Screenshot of Google Rich Results Testing Tool Homepage with a prompt to Enter your Website

Then type the website that you want to test.

Screenshot of Google Rich Results Testing Tool Homepage with a prompt to Enter your Website CloseUp

You'll also be able to select one of two Google bots - for smartphone results and for desktop results.

Screenshot of Google Rich Results Testing Tool Homepage with a prompt to Choose between Googlebot Smartphone and Googlebot Desktop

Usually, it would be best to check both. However, you can test only the device type you are most interested in. (For example, if your audience is mobile-first you might check only the smartphone version)

Once you have your selection start the test run.

You'll have to wait a few moments, while Google analyses your webpage.

Screenshot of Google Rich Results Testing Tool Analyzing Screen

After that, you'll receive a direct answer on whether everything is ok with your website, or if there is something you need to check and fix.

Screenshot of Google Rich Results Testing Tool Example of Test Results Page

In our results, everything is looking pretty good. (except the loading speeds, as seen in the top left corner)

If there's something that need fixing, Google should direct you to a page that will feature more information about your specific problem and how to fix it.

Seems too complicated?

It might be best to turn to your web developer or technical SEO expert to ensure that everything is running smoothly on your end.

Standardized Structured Data Formats

Now, it's time to talk a bit more about what ALL of this means.

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, structured data is a way to tell search engines and other web platforms WHAT the data of your website represents.

It is a standardized set of hierarchies and data types that web developers use to be able to create a web ecosystem of pages that are structured in a similar matter.

Schema.org Homepage

This standardization currently comes from Schema.org

A collective of web developers, software engineers and more, Schema is founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex, to create the standardization of data types across the web.

It is a collection of vocabularies, called schemas, that achieve this purpose.

That's why you'll often see structured data called "schema markup" or schema for short.

As schema.org says, the schemas are a set of 'types', each associated with a set of properties, which are then arranged in a hierarchy.

The vocabulary currently consists of 829 Types, 1351 Properties, and 339 Enumeration values.

Now you don't have to understand or know ALL of them to be able to optimize your website.

Schema.org Organization of Schemas Page

However, Schema.org is a website that you'll have to often check in the optimization process of your website, especially if the types of content you have are more diverse and unique than regular content.

Structured Data Best Practices

Structured data is usually found in the code of your web page.

It looks something like this.

<html>
  <head>
    <title>Party Coffee Cake</title>
    <script type="application/ld+json">
    {
      "@context": "https://schema.org/",
      "@type": "Recipe",
      "name": "Party Coffee Cake",
      "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Mary Stone"
      },
      "datePublished": "2018-03-10",
      "description": "This coffee cake is awesome and perfect for parties.",
      "prepTime": "PT20M"
    }
    </script>
  </head>
  <body>
  <h2>Party coffee cake recipe</h2>
  <p>
    This coffee cake is awesome and perfect for parties.
  </p>
  </body>
</html>

The example above, coming STRAIGHT from Google, shows structured data in it's most common form, the JSON-LD format.

The format itself is HOW the structured data is written in your existing website code.

There are three main types of formatting, when it comes structured data.

Screenshot from Google Search Support about Structured Data Tools

What we care about the most is JSON-LD, primarily because it's recommended by Google and it's the accepted industry standard.

Now, when it comes to the "HOW" and "WHY" you should always follow Google's best practices and guidelines.

Ultimately, the schema markup will be there to help tell GOOGLE what the user sees on the page and you shouldn't try any whacky tactics that might get you penalized.

How to use Structured Data on your Website (for WordPress)

To properly put structured data on your website you need two things.

First, you need the ABILITY to edit it.

If you have a custom website, then editing your HTML code should be a relatively straightforward process. (if it isn't you should turn to your developer)

But if you are running on WordPress, you will need a plugin.

(We'll get to that in a second)

The SECOND thing you need is the UNDERSTANDING related to WHAT type of structured data you need.

Now, for this, it's best to hire a Technical SEO expert, who is able to understand your website better and put the proper schema markups.

However, if you want to do it yourself, you should start by diving in deeper and understanding the ins and outs of schemas and the different type of markups.

Once you understand them better, you'll be able to select and fill out the specific markups related to your page.

Install the Right Plugin

To be able to edit out your schema markups in your WordPress website you need to install the right plguin.

We suggest something that supports AMP (we'll talk more about AMP in another article) and that is applicable for the type of articles, content, products and information you are putting out on your website.

Screenshot of Marketing Material of Schema and Structured Data WordPress Plugin

We suggest using Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP by Magazine3, but you will have to check if it works for your website.

Using the Plugin to SetUp the Right Structured Data Types

Depending on the Plugin of your choice, things might be more or less straightforward.

With Schema, the way it's setup, it allows you to create a structured data TYPE for each TYPE of content on your site.

Schema Structured Data WordPress Plugin Use Showcase

In the example above, you can see how the plugin allows you to create new schema types.

All you have to do is click the "Add Schema Type" button.

Schema Structured Data WordPress Plugin Use Screen Showcase

Then follow through with the steps to create a new schema type.

Schema Structured Data WordPress Plugin Use Type Showcase

The type should then appear below the page content that you have.

Schema Structured Data WordPress Plugin Use Settings Showcase

With the plugin you will also be able to update your global structured data information.

Of course, you can also use other similar plugins that allow you to setup your structured data in other ways OR you can edit your code directly as a whole.

Using Google Markup Helper Tool

Now, whether in WordPress or not, there's an EXTREMELY helpful tool by Google that allows you to markup your pages more easily than what you would normally do.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Homepage

The Google Markup Helper Tool is created to help provide you with technically correct code that you can put directly on your website, that's created by visually marking up your data.

To do so, first visit this page https://www.google.com/webmasters/markup-helper/u/0/

As with other tools, you have an URL prompt where you'll enter the URL of the page you want to tag.

However, you must first pick out the type of content you will be tagging.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Homepage Buttons for Selection

In our case, it's an article. Make your selection.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Homepage Buttons for Selection and Article Prompt

After that copy-paste the URL of the page that you will be tagging. Click the "Start Tagging" button.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Website Check

After a short loading screen, you should find yourself in the Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool at the second step.

On the left, you'll see the content that you've selected for tagging.

On the right, you'll see the data that you have tagged on the page.

Do note that your page might ALREADY have some items tagged. These won't show up in the Google Structured Data Markup Helper tool.

This means that you'll have to first check your page and then understand which tags you'll have to add manually and which ones have already been added.

(You can do that with the Google Structured Data Testing tool)

In this example, let's say that our article on Keyword and Search Intent is completely untagged, so we'll need to tag it.

Hopefully, your case is similar. Let's say you have to tag your whole page.

You can do this in one of two ways.

You can either click on the "Add Missing Tag" and manually enter all the tags.

Or, mark the content directly and only add tags manually that are completely missing from the page.

The second method is DEFINITELY the recommended way to do things.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Website Check marking of data

Once you click on an item that you want to tag you'll see a prompt with the expected type of information for the type of content you have selected.

In this case, it's the name of the Author, so we click that.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Website Check marking of data process

When the item is selected you should see it appear in the left section of the screen.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Website Check marking of data process with an emphasis of the Create HTML button

Once all of the data is selected and entered in the correct type you should go ahead and click the "Create HTML" button that's found on the top right portion of the page.

Screenshot of Google Markup Helper Tool Website Check marking of data Example with an emphasis of the TMLK text

The Google Structured Data Markup Helper will then create the HTML code that you can copy-paste on your web page.

Check your Results

Once everything is set and done, you might want to go through the most important pages of your website and run them through the Google Structured Data testing tool to ensure that there are no technical issues with your website.

Right now, we ourselves are planning to do a broader A/B test of the exact impact structured data has on search engine optimization and the ranking of your pages.

However, it's safe to assume that the better and more coherent your website structure is, the higher the possibility of it ranking better are as a whole.

About the Author

The name’s Houston Golden. I’m the Founder & CEO of BAMF ― a company I’ve grown from $0 (yes, really) to well over $4M in revenue over a span of 3 years.
How did I do it? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I’ve helped hundreds of business owners and executives get major traction (because when they win, we win). I tell you how on this blog.
Growth hacking is a state of mind. Follow along as I explore and expose the unknown growth strategies and tactics that will change the way you think about marketing.

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