What Is Structured Data?

Today I am going to cover an introduction to structured data and why it is important for your website. Most people are familiar with using search engines to find results based on their search. However, what people may not be as familiar with is why your search results look the way they do.  Before we dive in, I want to start with an introduction to structured data that may seem more familiar. Take a look at the image below. You may notice a variety of differences within each result that comes up for “casserole recipe”.  This is because of structured data that is written on the backend of the website.

Google structured data in recipes

At the top of the search results are card-like structures.  Instead of a standard link, you get the recipe name, author, review ranking, and even some ingredients.  This is thanks to the structured data. Google uses data from a website’s “site map” to show more detailed results.  When you add a specific piece of code to your website that is structured data, it allows Google to augment your listing. When standing out from the competition is key, this will give you an advantage. All of this together is why structured data is becoming such an important holistic search engine optimization practice.

Where Does Structured Data Come From?

Structured data is what tells Google and other search engines what is important and what it should be displaying.  The project is primarily based on a web project called Schema.org. This is a database for a markup language that can be used to communicate with the search engines.  The communication happens by using a method of encoding data called JSON-LD. There are other ways available, but for this article, we will be focusing on Schema.org and JSON-LD.

Schema.org website information

Now you know that structured data is composed of JSON-LD markup.  The markup can be taken from Schema.org. Within the website, there are a variety of sections that highlights the type of data that can be composed.  Some great examples would be recipes, business hours, or author name. Not all posts or page types can be broken down into structured data for all search engines.  This is why it is essential to also take a look at the Google-approved markup. By doing this, you will ensure that the largest search engine can properly index your website.  Indexing a website is when Google sends out their bots who go from website to website capturing data. These bots are often called crawlers and are critical factors in how your website ranks in search results.

Website Integration

 

But now lies the question, what do we do with this and how do we integrate it within our website?

Most people are not going to want to learn the code and backend of JSON-LD.  Luckily, there are a wide variety of other ways that you can implement your Schema markup.  The most common is going to be through utilizing a plugin. Currently, there are a wide variety of broad SEO plugins on the market.  This is going to be the easiest option for most users. This will allow you to fill out data about your website and posts from a smooth user interface.  Some great examples of plugins to use would be the Moz or Yoast plugins. These companies offer both free and paid options that vary on the amount of support and options given. This is a great first step in creating an optimized website, while still being introduced to structured data.

A great alternative for people who may want to dive a bit deeper into their website would be to utilize Google Structured Data Testing Tool. Before we do that, I want to show you what the JSON-LD code for structured data will look like.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the code. If you focus on the few key points that I highlight, you will be able to use templates on most of your pages.  The first picture represents the JSON-LD code that is put in while the second represents that outcome.

JSON-LD Code from Kallen Media
JSON-LD information it tells to search engines

Google Tools

After looking at the picture you should be able to see that there is a connection between the left and right sides.  This means that you will check Schema.org for the parts of markup required. For the example above, I used an article from Kallen Media.  The “@context” and “@type” will always start on the JSON-LD code side.  Below that is where you start to describe to search engines what your page is composed of.  The reason we do this is that it is harder for computers to understand the meaning and context compared to humans.  By assigning values to names and certain aspects, it tells the search engines what it should be showing searchers. These values can change based on what type of post or page you are making your structured data markup for.

Using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool is one of my top recommendations when first getting acquainted with JSON-LD and Schema.org.  This is because it will tell you the errors that will occur for Google. This is important since Google is the top search engine and you want your website showing up!  

Once you have created the markup that you want to add to your site, there are a few options for how to install it.  The easiest, and most effective way, is going to be using Google Tag Manager.  This allows you to only have to add a few pieces of Global site code to your website, instead of every bit of structured data you have done.  If you do not feel comfortable doing this we offer search engine optimization services that include structure data creation for your website.  

Google Tag Manager homepage

Finalize Your Data

Google Tag Manager will allow you to enter in the JSON-LD to be added to your database.  This then will allow all search engines to read the structured data snippets that you have.  However, you will need to slightly change your code for Google to accept it. The easiest way to do this is to paste the code into Yoast’s Script Helper.

Once you have done this.  You can test your tags from within Google to make sure they are activated.  After this is done, your structured data should be ready to go for your website. This will mean that search engines will be able to read your content easier.  That means that your website should start standing out from competitors who invested in structured data. We are eager to see how structured data impacts businesses we work with.  If you have your website showing up using structured data snippets let us know in the comments! Finally, if you need assistance setting-up SEO practices for your website please reach out to Nathan@kallenmedia.com for more information on getting introduced to structured data.