Schema & Structured Data: Your Guide for 2024

Schema Markup

The goal of any successful website is to rank highly on Google.

And, the goal of Google is to provide the best and most relevant results to a user query.

So, to be selected by Google as the best and most relevant result, you simply need to be the best and most relevant, right?

Well, not exactly.

While ensuring your website is full of useful, interesting, and accurate content is essential, what also matters is ensuring that Google can understand your content.

One of the ways you can help it to better understand your content, and therefore give yourself a ranking boost, is with structured data.

What is Structured Data?

Structured data is coding that is formatted in a certain way to enable search engines to understand and organise any given information on a web page. This means you could mark up the name of the person who wrote an article on your web page as the ‘author’ so Google has a better understanding of what this name means and who the person is.

You could mark up the date the article was published so that Google understands this is a publishing date and not just a random date on the page. All of this type of structured data helps Google to better process the information on your website, and when Google has a better understanding of your content, it is better positioned to present your site as the most relevant to a user query.

The great news about structured data is that you don’t need to learn any new coding to use it. The even greater news is that you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to create the HTML code including structured data for you.

Benefits of Using Structured Data

The specific benefits of using structured data might vary depending on who you ask, but the overriding consensus is that it is beneficial. There is some controversy over whether or not using it can boost your search engine ranking, but it certainly won’t harm it.

Ranking Boost

Whether or not using structured data can boost your ranking on Google or any other search engine is something that is still up for debate. Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, commented in 2020 that structured data was optional, stating it has “no impact on ranking in web search.”

A few years prior in 2018, John Mueller from Google’s Search Relations tweeted, “There’s no generic ranking boost for SD (structured data) usage.” Source.

However, there is evidence that shows there is some correlation between using structured data and performing better in SERPs. After implementing structured data through their CMS, traffic to Rakuten Recipe pages increased by 2.7 times. Not only did they have a surge in traffic, but they also found that users spent 1.5 times longer on pages with structured data, compared with pages without structured data.

Another study showed that The Food Network saw a 35% increase in traffic after updating 80% of its content with structured data. Similarly, Rotten Tomatoes experienced a 25% higher click-through rate for its pages with structured data, compared with pages without structured data. Source.

While there is no evidence to suggest there is a Google algorithm linking structured data to better rankings, it’s clear that structured data is certainly improving the engagement rate of websites that are using it.

Rich Results

One thing we know for sure about using structured data is that it allows rich results to be shown in SERPs.

Rich results are the snippets of information that stand out from the usual blue text you see in a Google search result. Rich results might include an image, a star rating, or specific information the website wants you to see, such as upcoming events or a flash sale. They are important because they can drastically increase click-through rates, getting you more organic traffic and more opportunities for conversion.

Take this search for ‘homemade pasta’, for example. Are you more likely to click on the links with rich results, where you can already see that the recipe has a high star rating and has been tested by many users, or are you going to click on the link with a lack of rich results information? I know which links I’ll be placing my bets on.

Getting Started with Structured Data

Most structured data uses a vocabulary developed by Google, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo, called Schema.org.

Schema Markup Validator

The collaborative, shared vocabulary is understood by the main search engines to power rich results and enable a better understanding of online content amongst search engines.

You can refer to schema.org to gain an understanding of how to use terms and formats within structured data, however, Google recommends that you “rely on the Google Search Central documentation as definitive for Google Search behavior, rather than the schema.org documentation.” Source.

You can add structured data to your existing HTML by adding snippets of Schema vocabulary in the recognised places. For help with this, check out Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Using this free tool you can select which areas you want to add structured data to by highlighting them and then selecting their purpose.

For example, you could enter the URL for an article on your website, and select the ‘article’ option on the Markup Helper. Next, you could highlight the author of the article and tag the information as ‘author’. You could highlight the title of the article and tag it as ‘title’, and so on. The Markup Helper will then create the HTML code you need to insert into your site, with the additional structured data added in the correct places.

Before you begin implementing structured data into your website, you can use Google’s Rich Results Test to find out if your page supports rich results.

Rich Results Test

After implementing structured data, use the Rich Results Status Reports for ongoing monitoring of your pages.

Google Search Console Enhancements

Final Thoughts

Getting to grips with structured data will give search engines a better understanding of your content.

It might not result in an overnight boost to the top of Google’s organic search results (but if you know what does, let me know!).

However, it’s certainly good practice to mark up your web pages with structured data so that search engines can put your information into context, and therefore more confidently present it as a result for relevant search queries.

Need a helping hand? Connect with us to find out how we can improve your SEO.

Karli Edmondson-Matthews
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