Rich snippets

Structured data with Schema.org
The ultimate guide

Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

January 13th, 2017 – 25 Comments

Schema.org takes care of all the structured data needs on your website. You can use it to markup products, reviews, events and menu items so search engines like Google can pick up this data and present it in an enhanced way. If you want rich snippets, mobile rich cards or a listing in the knowledge graph, you need to mark up your pages with Schema.org. This ultimate guide gives you an overview of this expansive topic.

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What is structured data?

Structured data is the data you add to your website to make it easier to understand for search engines. You need a vocabulary to make it work and the one big search engines use, is called Schema.org. Schema.org provides a series of tags and properties to mark up your products, reviews, local business listings, etc in detail. The major search engines, Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo, collectively developed this vocabulary to reach a shared language in a quest to get a better understanding of websites.

Schema.org & Yoast SEO

Our flagship SEO plugin Yoast SEO supports multiple Schema.orgs out of the box. We’re working hard on extending this list. More info in our Knowledge Base.

If implemented correctly, search engines can use the applied structured data to understand the contents of your page better. As a result, you might get a better presentation in the search results, for instance, in the form of rich snippets or rich cards. However, there are no guarantees you’ll get rich listings; it’s all up to the search engines.

Why do you need Schema.org data?

Marking up your products, reviews, events, and more with structured data in the form of Schema.org makes your site instantly comprehensible by search engines. What this means, is that you can tell exactly what every part of your site is about. Search engines no longer have to guess that a product listing is a product listing, you can now say it is.

Is Schema.org important for your SEO?

To cut a long story short: yes, structured data in the form of Schema.org is important for your SEO. Correctly implementing data might not give you better rankings, but it will indirectly make your site a better search result.

Enhanced listings give searchers an easier way to pick a result from the list of links. If your listing is rich, and your page does what your listing promises, you are a valid result for the customer and that will lead to a lower bounce rate. A lower bounce rate tells Google that your site is a well-regarded result that promises and delivers.

In addition to that, since structured data is just picking up steam, you have a viable chance to get a head start on your competitors. Just think about it, if you have a barber shop and you markup your 300 five-star reviews, you are way ahead of your competitor who doesn’t mark up his reviews. Google picks up this data and shows it directly in the search results. If you are looking for a barber shop in Google, who would you pick? The one with no reviews or the one with 300 good ones?

Structured data leads to rich results

By making your site understandable for search engines, you give them the opportunity to do interesting things with your content. Schema.org and its support is in a constant flow, so changes will happen. Structured data forms the basis for a lot of new developments in the SEO world, so there’s bound to be more in the near future. Below are the kinds of rich search results that are in use at this moment.

Sitelinks Searchbox

A Searchbox is the internal search engine of a site presented within the search results of Google. Google uses Schema.org code for this as well. Yoast SEO has support for this built in. More info in our Knowledge Base.

Rich Snippets

Different rich snippets

Rich snippets are the extra pieces of information shown in a search result. In addition to the regular black lines of meta description text, a search result can be enhanced with product information like prices or reviews, or extra navigational tools like breadcrumbs or site search.

Read more: ‘Rich snippets everywhere’ »

Rich Cards

rich-cards-recipes-movies

A Rich Card appears on mobile and is a new kind of rich search result developed by Google. Search results for certain types of items, like local restaurants, recipes, movies and courses, can get a special treatment in the mobile results. These are presented in a touch-friendly, swipeable way.

Keep reading: ‘How to get mobile Rich Cards in Google’ »

Knowledge Graph

Yoast Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph is the big block of information on the right-hand side in Google. This block details different kinds of information about a particular search result. If you have a validated company or if you are an authority on a certain subject, you might see your name, logo and social media profiles appear.

Featured snippets

This might be a sneaky addition because featured snippets are rich search results, but they do not get their content from structured data. A featured snippet answers a search question directly in the search results, but uses regular content from the viable web page to do so.

Does it work on mobile?

Yes, it works everywhere. Mobile implementation of Schema.org data is in its infancy, though. As of today, there are not many specific mobile-centric applications of Schema.org. However, Google has been pushing mobile rich search results for a while now.

If a page meets the criteria set by Google, you can now book movie tickets or reserve a table at a restaurant directly from the search results. If you implement structured data correctly, you can also be eligible for a new sort of presentation in the form of mobile Rich Cards, as explained above.

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Different kinds of Schema.org

If you look at the Schema.org website, you’ll notice that there are a lot of possibilities to add structured data to your site. Not everything is relevant, though. Before you start implementing Schema.org, you must know what you need to markup. Do you have a product in an online store? Do you own a restaurant? Or do you have a local business providing services to the community? Whatever it is, you need to know what you want to do and explore the possibilities.

Don’t go for the most obscure ones; pick the ones that are relatively easy to implement. Some Schema.orgs appear on less than a thousand sites, but others appear on millions. It’s possible to put the major Schema.orgs into two groups: Creative Works and Commerce. Within these groups, you will find the most common items to markup with Schema.org. These are the most important ones:

Creative works

The first major group is Creative Work and it encompasses the most generic group of creative works. In this group, you’ll find items that have been produced by someone or something. You’ll find the most common ones below, but the list is much longer. In addition to these, you’ll find properties for sculptures, games, conversations, software applications, visual artworks and much more. However, most of these properties don’t have a rich presentation attached to it in search engines, so they are less valuable. But, as mentioned before, if your site has items in the categories below, make sure to mark them up with Schema.org.

Articles

An article could be a new item or part of an investigative report. You can make a distinction between a news article, a tech article or even a blog post.

Books

A book is a book, be it in a paper form or in digital form as an eBook. You can markup every type of property, from the author how wrote it to the awards it has won.

Courses

In the future, anyone offering a type of course can use the new Schema.org. At the moment, Google is holding small-scale tests with selected participants to see how this Schema.org performs.

Music

Music can also receive the structured data treatment. There are a couple of Schema.org of interest for music, like MusicRecording, MusicAlbum, MusicEvent and MusicGroup.

Recipes

By adding Recipe data to the recipes on your cooking website, you can get your recipes featured directly in search results. What’s more, with the advent of Rich Cards, recipes might even be presented in a stunning new way on mobile.

TV & Movies

Movies and TV shows get their own piece of structured data as well. Searching for a movie in search engines will yield a rich result with reviews, poster art, cast information and even the ability to directly order tickets for a showing.

Videos

It’s possible to do all kinds of interesting things with video. Google, in particular, is working on new ways to get videos in the search results, with AMP for instance. Google can use your videos in AMP carousels and Top Stories listings.

Commerce

The second major group is Commerce. In this group, you’ll find several important types to mark up with Schema.org. Many site owners will find the subjects below very interesting and these should be a top priority for many of them.

Events

Marking up your event listings with the correct Event Schema.org, might lead search engines showing your events directly in the search results. This is a must have if you own a nightclub, a venue or any type of business that regularly puts on events.

Businesses and organizations

If you make money with your website chances are you own a business. If you’re a site owner or just work on a company site, you’ll find the business and organization Schema.org’s interesting. Almost every site can benefit from the correct business Schema.org. If you do it well, you could get a nice Knowledge Graph or another type of rich listing in the search engines.

Read on: ‘Local business listings with Schema.org and JSON-LD’ »

Products

Almost as important as the Schema.org mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the one for products. Using Product Schema.org you can give your products the extra data search engines need to give you rich snippets, for instance. Think about all the search results you see with added information, like pricing, reviews, availability, etc. This should be a substantial part of your structured data strategy, if you have products of course.

Read more: ‘Rich snippets for product listings with Schema.org’ »

Reviews

Reviews and ratings play an important role in today’s search process. Businesses, service providers and online stores all use reviews to attract more customers and show how trustworthy their offerings are. Getting those five stars in search engines might be the missing link to creating a real successful business.

Keep reading: ‘Grow your business with ratings and reviews’ »

The technical details

To get started with making up your pages, you need to know about how Schema.org actually works. If you look closely at the full specs on Schema.org, you’ll see that there is a strict hierarchy in the vocabulary. Everything is connected, just like everything is connected on your pages. Scroll through the list to see all the options at a glance and note down the ones you think you need.

Google Search Console

If you need to check how your structured data is performing in Google, check your Search Console. Locate the Structured Data tab under Search Appearance and you’ll see all the pages that have structured data, plus an overview of pages that give errors, if any. You can also find more insights into Rich Cards. Read this post for more info.

Let’s look at the hierarchy. A Schema.org implementation starts with a Thing, this is the most generic type of item. A Thing could be a more specific type of item, for instance, a Creative Work, an Event, Organisation, Person, Place or Product.

For example, a movie is a “Thing” and a “Creative Work”, which falls under the category “Movie”. You can add a lot of properties to this, like a “Description”, a “Director”, an “Actor”, a poster “Image”, “Duration” or “Genre”. There are loads of properties to add, so you can get as specific as you want. However, don’t go overboard, since not every property is used by search engines – not yet anyway. What you should do, is look at the specifications in Google’s documentation, for instance, to see which properties are required and which are recommended.

A sample Schema.org hierarchy

If we put what we know now in a hierarchy, this is what you will end up with:

  •  Thing
    • Creative Work
      • Movie
        • Description (type: text)
        • Director (type: person)
        • Actor (type: person)
        • Image (type: ImageObject or URL)
        • etc.

If it would be a local business, you could use something like this:

  • Thing
    • Organisation (or Place)
      • LocalBusiness
        • Dentist
          • Name
          • Address
          • Email
          • Logo
          • Review
          • etc.

For local businesses, you could pick a more specific type of business. This makes it easier for search engines to determine what kind of business you own. There are hundreds of types of local business, but your business might not fit one of the descriptions. Using the Product Types Ontology you can get more specific information if your listing is too broad.

Sticking to the local business example, you’ll see that Google lists several required properties, like the NAP details of your business. In addition to that, there are loads of recommended properties, like a URL, geo-coordinates, opening hours, etc. Try to fill out as much of these as you can, only then search engines can give you the full preferred presentation. If you need help with your local business markup, you’ll find our Local SEO plugin very helpful.

What do you need to mark up?

When looking at Schema.org for the first time, it might feel a bit daunting. The list is enormous and the possibilities are endless, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To overcome this sensation, you need to go back to basics. Find out what your site, business or product is about and write down the specifications and properties you deem important. Work your way up from there.

Having said that, there are a couple of sections you should prioritize in your plan to add structured data to your site. If you start off with these three, you’ll have the basics covered and gives you the opportunity build on that. You should absolutely start with structured data for your business details, products, and reviews. These will have the biggest effect in the short run.

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How to implement structured data with Schema.org

Don’t be frightened, but here comes the technical part of the story. However, there’s nothing scary about adding the data to your pages, not any more thanks to JSON-LD. This JavaScript-based data format makes it a lot easier to add structured data since it forms a block of code and is no longer embedded in the HTML of your page. This makes it easier to write and maintain, plus it’s better to understand by both humans and machines.

Schema.org with JSON-LD

JSON-LD is the preferred method of adding Schema.org to your site. However, not all search engines are quick to adopt it; Bing is the odd man out. Let’s hope Microsoft will soon come about and add support for this rather efficient method.

Below you see a sample product listing of our flagship SEO plugin: Yoast SEO. This is just a small product listing with only the basics; you’ll see a type, name, image, description, and brand. At the end of the code, you’ll also find an offer to buy the plugin, which has a price of $69.

If you want to learn more about working with all of this on your site, you should read Michiel’s article on how to use JSON-LD to add Schema.org data to your website or learn how to add structured data with our training on structured data and SEO

The old ways: RFDa and Microdata

The classic way of writing structured data for inclusion on your pages, involved direct embedment in your HTML. This made a really inefficient and error-prone process. It is part of the reasons why the uptake of Schema.org hasn’t been particularly fast. Writing and maintaining it via RFDa or Microdata is a pain. Believe us, try to do as much as you can in JSON-LD.

Here’s a Microdata example for marking up a movie. Because the code needs itemprops to function, everything has to been inline coded. You can instantly see how that makes it hard to read, write and edit.

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Structured data and Google AMP

The open source AMP project (Accelerated Mobile Pages) has been causing quite a stir these last few months. The project’s goal is to get pages to load lightning fast on mobile. To do that, the project uses a special kind of HTML. Google is pushing AMP pretty hard and also mentions its reliance on structured data. If you want to use AMP and completely give your pages the once over, you need to add structured data. Google uses several Schema.org items to take care of the more interactive parts of AMP elements. You can use Yoast SEO in conjunction with our AMP Glue plugin to take care of most AMP needs.

Tools for working with Schema.org

Schema.org is not too hard to work with, but if adding code by hand seems scary, you could try some of the tools out there. If you are still not sure how to go about this, ask your web developer for help, he’ll probably fix this for you in a couple of minutes.

Most search engines have their own developer center where you can find more information on the inner workings of the structured data implementations. Read these to see what works and what doesn’t. In addition to that, you should adhere to their rules, because a bad Schema.org implementation could lead to a penalty. Always check your code in the structured data test tool to see if it’s correct. Fix errors and regularly maintain the code on your site to see if it is still up to scratch.

In the end

You can’t run away from structured data anymore. If your site means anything to you, you should look into it and figure out the best way to make use of Schema.org. Implemented correctly, it can do great things for your site, now and in the future. Search engines are constantly developing new ways to present search results and more often than not do they use Schema.org data to do so.


25 Responses to Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide

  1. Let's Fly Travel
    By Let's Fly Travel on 21 January, 2017

    Thank you, I hope your advice helps us all who are new to this world.

  2. Pascal van der Tuin, SEO specialist
    By Pascal van der Tuin, SEO specialist on 21 January, 2017

    Thanks for this comprehensive and up-to-date overview for improving search result experiences using structured data.

  3. Georgi Nikolov
    By Georgi Nikolov on 20 January, 2017

    Hi Yoast Team,

    A great article and quite a lot of information which has to be turned to technical implementation. It is a bit difficult for non-tech savvy people like me.
    I would like to ask you whether you are going to publish a video tutorial on how to do the schema markup?

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

    BR
    Georgi

  4. seo services
    By seo services on 20 January, 2017

    Well explained, was looking for implementing schema markup for my personal blog and here I found the best article about how to use structured data markup. Thank you :)

  5. Power flush London
    By Power flush London on 19 January, 2017

    Very good article on a somewhat tricky subject, I will give it a go now.

  6. Grahame Palmer
    By Grahame Palmer on 18 January, 2017

    Probably one of the best “quick guides” I have read on this subject, so great stuff, Edwin. But while the “concept” of a semantic web is relatively easy to comprehend, successful implementation of the schema.org protocols can be very challenging. I know yoast’s expertise in in WordPress, and you’ve created many excellent add-ons for that platform, making it relatively simple for the WordPress enthusiast to implement structured data.

    While Google (and others) maintain that the implementation of Structured Data Markup (best via JSON/ld as you say) does not influence their ranking of a site, what it does do is “leap-frog” a site over competitors who do not implement it. We have seen a marked improvement in search rankings and put it down to competitors falling BELOW us, rather than us climbing UP. Another key element of structured data markup is that it enables search engines to get a far more accurate interpretation of each, individual page on a website, and the search engine is therefore in a better position to render results for a particular search, with a far higher degree of accuracy.

    A trickle-down consequence of this is that specific web pages are now more likely to feature strongly in search results – and in the case of ecommerce sites, that means product pages… So a website’s home-page (long the doyen of SEO focus) is becoming less relevant in terms of how people will actually arrive at your website. We have numerous visititors who may browse through 8 – 10 pages of our site, and never go to the “home page”… They stick to products and categories… add to cart, then check out.

    SEO focus then must be on content pages – over-populating the home page is a thing of the past. Our home page is lean, and simple… no histrionics, no silly carousel banners… Just a clear indication of the navigational hierarchy.

    Websites that fail to implement structured data markup will – like a lot of our competitors, fall DOWN the rankings, enabling those of us who are more up-to-date, to take their prime spots.

  7. Anything Graphic
    By Anything Graphic on 16 January, 2017

    Great write-up here! Very in-depth, thank you :-) I used to use microdata where I could and just started moving to JSON.

  8. Stephanie
    By Stephanie on 15 January, 2017

    Very interesting. Would you recommend the schema.org use within Google Webmaster Tools?

  9. The Best Online Printers
    By The Best Online Printers on 15 January, 2017

    I was looking for something to instruct me in this space. Thank you, I hope your advice helps us all who are new to this world.

  10. Reggie Dentmore
    By Reggie Dentmore on 15 January, 2017

    Hello! My website is a blog featuring tutorials for a free 3D animation software: MikuMikuDance. I have no “product” other than useful information for 3D animation hobbyists. I use the Yoast free SEO plugin with nice results… 18,000 visits a week… with a 40% returning-visitor rate… and a 42% Bounce Rate. The only income I make on this project comes from my Adsense ads running on those pages… so more traffic will mean more income.
    … would a Schema.org structured data infusion help to increase my traffic flow? … again, it’s a blog with “how to” tutorial-posts written by a team of contributors.

  11. Vishal Vashisht
    By Vishal Vashisht on 15 January, 2017

    This is a nice post which is easy to understand. However difficult for someone like me who has no technical knowledge and don’t have a web developer. It is tricky for me to work with schematic.org. Last time I spent couple of hours on schema and then gave up. I will be 1st in line of Yoast has a plugin that can help me with rich snippets and rich cards. Please advise Uoast.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 17 January, 2017

      Hi Vishal. It has become quite a bit easier to add Schema.org data, but I can imagine it still being too hard. However, it can really pay off to invest the time to figure out how it all works. We are in the process of exploring the structured data options for Yoast SEO. Can’t promise anything yet, but there will probably be some news on this down the road.

  12. Sam Clarks - SEO Consultant
    By Sam Clarks - SEO Consultant on 15 January, 2017

    Several WP Plugins are there which do not execute the Schema the right way and as a result, Google issued site-wide manual action to websites using those recipe plugins. The best thing is to code manually for the desired components of website.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 17 January, 2017

      Good to know, Sam. You need to be careful when adding structured data; follow the rules of the search engines and provide faultless code.

  13. Dale Reardon - My Disability Matters
    By Dale Reardon - My Disability Matters on 15 January, 2017

    What is the best plugin for implementing schema beyond what is done by Yoast SEO Premium which I own? I have tried a few but they all had bugs in them and didn’t work well.
    How about it Yoast – build a great schema plugin?!

    Dale.

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 17 January, 2017

      Hi Dale. We’re actively looking into adding more support for structured data. However, I can’t make any promises on how and when this will be added.

    • Christopher Dean
      By Christopher Dean on 16 January, 2017

      We have been using WP-SSO. It seems to work pretty well.

  14. Rhandell
    By Rhandell on 15 January, 2017

    So purchasing Yoast Premium will take care of this for us?

    • Edwin Toonen
      By Edwin Toonen on 17 January, 2017

      Hi Rhandell. Yoast SEO and Local SEO take care of a few Schema.orgs, you can find them on this page: https://kb.yoast.com/kb/microformats-and-schema-org/. However, it is far from complete and if you want to add specific types of Schema.org, you may need to hand code it.

  15. SEO Andrew
    By SEO Andrew on 14 January, 2017

    Hi Edwin, this was one of the best content pieces on schema basics I have read of late, great work. Keep it coming. Cheers, Andrew

  16. The Hutch
    By The Hutch on 13 January, 2017

    MORE WORK! I loved the web when SEO didn’t exist… I was a web designer, now I am coding for ruddy Google all the time. Whilst I get that the web is a jungle, trying to explain this and get payment for the work from the average business owner is a nightmare… SEO takes up more time that the content.

    • Christopher Dean
      By Christopher Dean on 16 January, 2017

      We are have been trying to get to the Semantic Web since almost the beginning of the web. Google has reached the limit of its ability to discover things like reviews and products in content so now they are going to have you do it for them. And you will because if you don’t your competitor will. It is a pain because the client doesn’t see any of this and its a black box to them.

    • Maureen Pilkington
      By Maureen Pilkington on 15 January, 2017

      I agree with you. The whole thing is becoming about SEO and as you say “coding for google” . We are being forced to loose sight of the plot ???

      • Grahame Palmer
        By Grahame Palmer on 18 January, 2017

        No… Too many “SEO Experts” have this mistaken idea that they must make the site GOOGLE FRIENDLY… this is completely wrong. Google wants to be able to deliver the most appropriate results for any given search, and – believe it or not – it’s what YOU and I want as well… Think about it… you put in a search phrase and you “expect” the results to be pretty good at getting the hang of what you are after. Structured Data is about leveraging TECHNOLOGY to help it “understand” the content of any given page.

        I advise my clients to get as far away as possible from any “SEO Expert” who says “we will make your site Google-friendly”… They clearly have no idea of the common objetive.


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