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!
Update: Since the 11.0 release, Yoast SEO builds a full structured data graph for every post or page on your site! A graph is a complete piece of structured data with well-defined connections to all the different parts. Search engines now not only know what all the parts mean but also how they fit together. Want to know what it does for your website? Read all about Yoast SEO 11.0!
What is structured data?
Structured data is 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 and much richer way. You can easily put this piece of code on your website.
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 might change. It will be much “richer” regarding content that’s shown. That’s the reason we call these results rich results or rich snippets. This is what a rich result 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. Browse Google’s Search Gallery to see which rich results are powered by structured data.
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!
Increase chances of Google showing rich results of your site in the search results: learn how to add structured data with our training on structured data and SEO.
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 colour 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 understand 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! We’re seeing more and more structured data powered rich results pop up, so it is important to keep an eye on this.
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.
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!
At Yoast, we’re also working on a better, much easier way to add structured data using WordPress’ new block editor: structured data content blocks.
Read more: Structured data: the ultimate guide »