what is structured data and schema.org

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What is structured data?

SEO basics: What is structured data?

June 12th, 2017 – 13 Comments

You might have heard about structured data, Schema.org and JSON-LD. But what do these terms mean exactly? What is structured data? What does structured data do? And what does it have to do with SEO?  For all of you who don’t know what structured data is: this post will make it clear to you!

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Structured data training Info

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What is structured data?

Structured data is code. It’s a piece of code that you can put on your website. It’s code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific way.

Imagine you have a website with a lot of recipes. If you add structured data to a page with a recipe, your result in the search engines will change. It will be much “richer” regarding content that’s shown. That’s the reason we call these results rich snippets. This is what a rich snippet looks like:

Besides the title, the URL and the description of the search result, you can see how long it will take to make the absolute best ever lasagna. And, you’ll see how many calories the lasagne contains. You need to add structured data to your web page to get such a rich snippet.

There are all kinds of structured data. Structured data is always a code format. There’s structured data for books, for reviews, for movies, and for products in your online store, for instance. In all cases, structured data adds more details to your snippet in the search results.

We have to make one side note here. Unfortunately, Google does not always create a rich snippet of your page, even if you’ve added the structured data. There are no guarantees. So all you can do is add it to your page, and hope Google will pick it up!

What do you do with structured data?

With structured data, you can “talk” to the search engines. You can tell the search engines which ingredients there are in your recipe, you can tell them how long the preparation time is, and you can tell them how many calories the dish will contain. Google will be able to grasp all that information instantly and can decide to show it in the search results.

So structured data is a tool you can use to tell Google (in a way it understands what you’re saying) detailed information about a page on your website. Google then will be able to use this information to create informative (rich) search results. And audiences love these rich snippets!

What is schema.org?

The big search engines have developed a project called Schema.org. On Schema.org you can find all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. This makes Schema.org a large collection of pieces of code.

You can use Schema.org to find the markup you need for your particular page. For instance, if you sell t-shirts on your site, you could show what color t-shirts you sell and what sizes you offer in your snippet. You should investigate Schema.org/Product and find out the possibilities.

On Schema.org, you can copy code examples. After copying it, you’ll have to adapt the code to your specific preferences.

Schema.org is a taxonomy of code formats that the large search engines understand. You’ll find examples of what the code looks like. There are other forms of structured data as well. For instance Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter cards (used by Twitter).

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is one of the markups of Schema.org. It’s just a way to write code. On Schema.org, you’ll also find other markups like Microdata or RDFa. At Yoast, we’ll advise you always to use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as other markups do. You can – relatively easily – add JSON-LD to your website using Google Tag Manager. That’s not possible with the other markups.

Why is structured data important for SEO?

Structured data is important for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about. Google needs to find out what a page is about to show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google, telling Google what your site is about. That’ll help with your rankings.

On top of that, structured data will change the way your snippet (your search results) will look like. It’ll show more information to your customer. More specific information. And this will increase the likelihood a customer will click on your results. More clicks will eventually lead to even higher rankings!

How to use structured data?

Using structured data sounds hard, but everyone can do it (with the proper training). You have to get the right code, you’ll have to adapt that code and you’ll need to use Google Tag Manager to put it on your site.

We already have written a lot of posts about Schema.org and JSON-LD, which will help you to understand more about this subject.

No code hero? Use a plugin!

A lot of structured data markup can also be added to your website using plugins. Our local SEO plugin, for instance, uses structured data to show the location or multiple locations of your store. You don’t have to write code to get that rich snippet, you’ll just use our plugin, fill out some details and we’ll do it for you. And there are many more plugins that’ll help you to use structured data without the need to struggle with any code!

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »


13 Responses to SEO basics: What is structured data?

  1. Max Perzon
    By Max Perzon on 25 June, 2017

    Loved the post.
    The Yoast Local SEO Plugin has turned out to be a life saver for me and my clients. Super easy to implement structured data with the plugin, and it definitely helps ranking higher in the “Google Snack Pack”.
    Thanks Yoast Team for the great work!

  2. Desmond Parenteau
    By Desmond Parenteau on 23 June, 2017

    Great Concision in your explanations here! In the “Structured Data” section you comment that Google does not always create a rich snippet. Do you have a hypothesis as to how the algorithm decides one way or another?
    Thanks.

  3. Al Getler
    By Al Getler on 18 June, 2017

    Great information. Your column speaks to products and a specific of structured content like the recipe example. But what if you are blogging on general topics like leadership, customer service, etc. Is there value implementing structured data?

    • Marieke van de Rakt
      By Marieke van de Rakt on 20 June, 2017

      Good question indeed! I like to take recipes as an example… Also because recipes have many options on adding structured data. If your a blogger about general topics you can use the article-schema. You should check out https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/articles
      if you like to get started with structured data in your blogposts. And, Google is announcing more and more types of schema: structured data on job-posting was just announced today. So definitely stay tuned… we’ll keep you posted.

    • Scott Abel
      By Scott Abel on 18 June, 2017

      Great question.

  4. Dimi
    By Dimi on 14 June, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this information, it will help us a lot in the transformation of our site!

  5. Cindy
    By Cindy on 13 June, 2017

    I was told by a web developer that it would be a huge task to add schema markup to my woo-comerce website “Retailer”. Of course changing to another theme which allows this would be also a huge task so I can not do this. Is there anything else available?
    I am also curious for your local seo plugin can you not put in a address? I am an online shop and prefer people to not “find my location” but I would love customers who do find me online to hopefully opt in to my newsletter which will eventually be invited to my studio.
    Cheers Cindy

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 20 June, 2017

      Hi Cindy,
      You can probably find a plugin that can help you with this. We do recommend you only use plugins with a minimum of 10.000 downloads.
      Local SEO is specifically for when you have a local business and want to be found locally. If you prefer your location not to be found, Local SEO doesn’t fit your site. You can take a look at Yoast SEO Premium and Yoast SEO for WooCommerce. They would fit better.

  6. Riya dixit
    By Riya dixit on 13 June, 2017

    Really interesting, but I know only 2 main things content is a king and backlink is a queen. If u make quality content and make quality backlink. No think about structured data or schema.

    • Marieke
      By Marieke on 14 June, 2017

      Hi Riya, of course great content comes first, and backlinks are essential too. Sometimes though, especially in competitive markets, you’ll need to go the extra mile to rank and get more visitors to your site!

  7. Sirish
    By Sirish on 13 June, 2017

    Well! this post is pretty interesting…
    But I got a doubt “does This Rich snippets really impact on SEO of a page”

    • Marieke
      By Marieke on 14 June, 2017

      Hi Sirish, rich snippets might not directly affect your rankings, but what they can do is increase the engagement with your page: the extra information in the search result can lead to a higher click though rate, lower bounce rate, increased time on site etc. These are signs to Google that your page provides a good answer to the search query. Indirectly, that could lead to higher rankings.

  8. priya
    By priya on 13 June, 2017

    What a post. this is one of the posts which are very interesting and outstanding. Really very helpful. Thanks for posting it


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