You can also read our SEO Web Story 👉 “Structured Data for SEO“
What is structured data?
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, the ingredients, the cooking time, the temperature, the calories, and so on.Source: DevelopersGoogle.com
Structured data is a way to make your website speak in the same language as the search engines, so they can easily understand what you’re talking about. To do this, you need a vocabulary to translate your content into information that Google and other search engines can understand. The vocabulary used by the big search engines is Schema.org, which you can use to structure the metadata on your website and to help search engines understand your published content.
When the search engine understands the content of your web page, then it can serve it to the appropriate search queries, providing users with relevant and helpful information about their search. Search engines can use structured data in so-called rich snippets to enhance the user’s experience.
For example, if you have a recipe website, by adding structured data to your website, the content on the Google results page might look like this:
What is structured data vs unstructured data?
Structured data is created using a predefined (fixed) schema and is typically organized in a table format. Think of a table where each cell contains a discrete value. The schema represents the outline of how the data is organized, the table header row used to describe the value, and the format of each column. The schema also imposes the constraints necessary to make the data consistent and computable.
An example of structured data is the relational database: tables are linked using unique IDs, and a query language such as SQL is used to interact with the data.
On the other hand, unstructured data can come in many 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 to store the data, we are talking, in most cases, about textual documents made up of sequences of words.
Structured data is the best way for computers to interact with information. That’s why it’s essential for SEO: by adding structured data to your website content, you allow Google and other search engines to understand what you’re talking about and show your website among the top results to users searching for businesses like yours.
Why do you need structured data?
In SEO, structured data effectively passes essential information on a web page to search engines. In particular, in a recent update, Google clarified:
Content in structured data is eligible for display as rich results in search.
In short, the search engine can provide additional features on the search results pages that will enhance the visibility of your content. For instance, when asked about structured data, that is how the search engine might extract content from a web page, and place it into an answer box, called a featured snippet:
Example of a featured snippet coming from the WordLift blog, that with the help of structured data helps the search engine extract critical information. This sort of feature has a high click-through rate. It means that a large number of users finding it will land on your website thanks to better real estate on Google’s pages.
Among other Google advanced features enabled by structured data, there is a Knowledge Panel:
A Knowledge Panel is a visualization that appears on top of search results (on mobile) or on the right side of them (on desktop) which provides authoritative information about any entity or concept. Structured data helps trigger this feature, by enabling Google to pull critical data from your web pages, thus making your brand more visible on its search results.
Other rich elements triggered by structured data are event snippets, which can pull up critical information for an event directly on the search results, thus making your brand the most authoritative on that specific event. By creating an association in the mind of users between that event and your brand:
Example of an event snippet. We created an event page by mapping our software to pass essential information about the event. The search engine was taken as an authoritative source of information on that specific event.
How do you generate structured data?
To generate structured data and add them to your website, you can:
- add the code manually to the pages of your site;
- use a dedicated plugin, but it still requires manual choices;
- choose WordLift and fully automate the process.
In the first case, you know how to work with code, and then you know how to create and add structured data to your website manually.
In the second case, these plugins do not require technical knowledge in code but still need an understanding of SEO and semantic markup. While this makes your work easier, on the other hand, it excludes you from using structured data if you do not have the proper knowledge. In many cases, you have to check the content and complete the required fields. While fast, this solution continues to ask for extra work.
WordLift solves this limitation and allows you to add structured data to your website even if you are not an SEO expert. Artificial intelligence analyzes your content and automatically suggests that the entities mark your website, indicating the best type of property to assign to it. The process is speedy, the interface is simple to use, and anyone can get started. Finally, unlike other plugins, with WordLift, you can access the same technology used by enterprise customers with any subscription.
How do you add structured data to your website?
Structured data on the web uses Schema.org as a reference vocabulary and can be embedded in web pages using various online tools, including Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, or directly adding the code to your web pages.
You can use different formats to add information to your web content implementing the schema.org vocabulary, such as JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa.
If you are using WordPress, you can use WordLift: a plugin for WordPress that helps content editors and website owners markup their content with schema.org markup without requiring any technical skills. Thanks to natural language processing, WordLift does it automatically.
Do you want to ensure that your schema markup aligns with the best practices of Google and Bing and validates against their guidelines? Do you want to know if the syntax is correct and validates against the schema.org vocabulary? Run a structured data audit by using our free app.
How do you test structured data?
To test the structured data on your website, you can use the Schema Markup Validator Tool.
To validate your structured data, and in some cases, previewing a feature in Google Search, you can use Google Rich Results Test.
How does Google use structured data?
Google uses structured data to understand the page’s content and gather information about the web and the world in general. Google collects this information about people, places and things and builds a Knowledge Graph to create interconnected search results that are more accurate and relevant.
In this way, Google better understands user searches and information and intelligently connects the two worlds.
To learn more about Google Knowledge Graph and how it works, watch this video:
What is JSON-LD and how does it relate to Structured Data?
JSON-LD is one of three formats to add structured data using the schema.org vocabulary to your website content.
The advantages of using JSON-LD to write structured data compared to other formats like microdata are the following:
- It does not affect the performance of the page because it can be loaded asynchronously;
- It is injected into the page without impacting the existing HTML structure and tags;
- It is easy to be reused by web developers as it follows the JSON syntax;
- It leverages linked data.
That is also why Google incentives website owners to use structured data on a web page in JSON-LD. This format allows entities, therefore, concepts to become linked.
There are various plugins to include Schema.org JSON-LD syntax markup to your website. WordLift is one of these options that automatically adds these tags based on the analysis of the content. WordLift uses Natural Language Processing to extract named entities proposed to the editor to tag content. These entities have unique IDs (unique resource identifiers) in the web of data. With these IDs, WordLift extracts the information and automatically injects it into the web pages using JSON-LD.