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Structured data: What it is and Why You Should Implement It

By Lydia Barley

What is structured data?

Here’s how Google defines structured data:
‘Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.’

So, basically, the term structured data refers to information or code that has been formatted in a specific way so that search engines can understand it.

You can see structured data whenever you do a search in Google. For example, when searching for a recipe for a lemon meringue pie you can see that some of the results show more information than others. Some of them have ratings attached to them, photos attached to them, preparation time attached to them and calories attached to them, while others don’t. This is the result of structured data that has been added to those sites.

structured-data-lemon-meringue-serp

How Do Search Engines Use Structured Data?

Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo use structured data to:
• More accurately index your site
• Refine search results
• Filter with greater accuracy
• Enhance the way that results are displayed

The Benefits of Structured Data

The primary benefits of structured data include an increased likelihood of your page receiving search result enhancements, such as:

1. Rich search results, where the search engine provides more information about your actual page as opposed to just displaying the site title, URL and meta description.

rich-search-results

2. Knowledge graph card, where the search engine displays a small box on the right that is full of information. This information is based on relevant facts, images and related searches.

knowledge-graph-card

3. Breadcrumbs, where the search engine displays the breadcrumb trail to the specific page that has shown up in the SERPS.

breadcrumbs

These features can improve your click through rate simply because they are more visually appealing and provide additional information to searchers. The use of structured data mark-up on its own is not a direct ranking signal, however it can help search engines better understand what your content is about and therefore contribute to a stronger relevancy signal.

General Tips for Structured Data

Below are some general tips to follow when implementing structured data on your site.
1) Most search structured data uses schema.org vocabulary, but don’t rely on it. For Google rely on the documentation on developers.google.com rather than the schema.org documentation.
2) Don’t create blank or empty pages just to hold structured data.
3) Don’t add structured data about information that is not visible to the user.
4) Don’t use structured data everywhere in your mark-up. It’s best suited for highlighting specific pieces of information such as the subject of the page or an important piece of content that needs to be indexed accurately.
5) Include all the required properties for an object so it is eligible for appearance in Google Search with enhanced display.
6) Test your structured data using the Structured Data Testing tool during development.
7) Check the Search Console Structured Data report to monitor the health of your pages.

For more information on what to do and what not to do when implementing structured data on your website, check out Google’s structured data general guidelines.

Conclusion

Structured data is not often included within SEO strategies as it does not directly influence ranking. However, by taking advantage of structured data you can create sites that are more meaningful, that have greater relevance to search engines and that are more likely to have a higher click through rate.