WHAT IS STRUCTURED DATA?
Structured data is data created using a predefined (fixed) schema and is typically organized in a tabular format. Think of a table where each cell contains a discrete value. The schema represents the blueprint of how the data is organized, the heading row of the table used to describe the value and the format of each column. The schema also imposes the constraints required to make the data consistent and computable.
A relational database is an example of structured data: tables are linked using unique IDs and a query language like SQL is used to interact with the data.
Structured data is the best way for computers to interact with information. As opposed to semi-structured and unstructured data.
- Semi-structured data is characterized by the lack of rigid, formal structure. Typically, it contains tags or other types of markup to separate textual content from semantic elements. Semi-structured data is “self-describing” (tags are a good example, the schema is part of the data and the data evolves with the content but lacks consistency)
- Unstructured data can be found in different forms: from web pages to emails, from blogs to social media posts etc. 80% of the data we have is known to be unstructured. Regardless of the format used for storing the data, we are talking, in most cases, about textual documents made of sequences of words.
Structured data on the web
Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying that content on the page; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time, the temperature, the calories, and so on.
Structured data on the web uses Schema.org as a reference vocabulary and can be embedded in web pages using three formats:
Imagine a book supported in three different formats: ebook, paperback, and hardcover. Each has different weights, sizes and so on. So does Schema.org.
The Semantic Web movement, the creation of the Schema.org vocabulary and the importance that these technologies have on semantic search engines like Google, Bing, and Yandex have resulted in publishing online structured data on a previously unprecedented scale.