Structured data allow search engines to interpret the content of your website better and play it differently. Google has been showing so-called rich snippets in the search results since 2009, and other search engines such as Bing or Yandex have been able to interpret the markup language Schema.org used for this since 2011. You can find out precisely what is behind the term structured data and why you should implement it on your website here.
What is structured data?
Simply put, structured data helps machines (e.g. search engines) to put the huge amount of information on a website into context. For this purpose, the content is linked to further knowledge.
Search engines can use structured data to determine better what a website is about and to display additional information on specific content, such as recipes, ratings, and locations, directly in the search. This sets a search result apart from the competition and tends to be clicked on.
Let’s say you’re looking for a hotel. Which search result would you instead click on?
Representation of structured data in the Google search
If implemented correctly, you can expand the search results for your website with so-called rich results, also known as rich snippets, and the “Knowledge Graph”. Rich Results displays additional information in addition to the title, URL and description in the search results pages. This can lead to better click-through rates and thus to more visitors without necessarily having to improve your ranking. Ultimately, the search engine decides whether the data is displayed and is heavily dependent on the search query.
Rich Results: Rich Snippets & Rich Cards
The use of structured data is not necessary for Google to visually display search results. However, it is the essential step to make your website more prominent.
Google primarily displays rich snippets and rich cards for the following content:
If you regularly offer events, such as concerts or training, on your website, the “event schedule” is perfect for you. Google displays the date, event name, and location and ensures that only future events are displayed. If a user clicks on a specific event, he will be redirected to the appropriate subpage.
You can find detailed instructions on how to integrate this scheme in the Google Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/events
Hotels and accommodations
The placement in the hotel search is very much in demand, as the organic search results are pushed ever lower by Google ads. That is why it is all the more important to generate enough attention below the ads. Hotel pages that are marked with structured data are currently displayed as follows:
On mobile devices, you can get a very large snippet by labeling certain dates, such as prices and ratings.
You use several schemes for the content, which are bundled in one element. In the example shown above, the following data records were distinguished according to the hotel scheme:
- Hotel (with name, price range, picture, URL)
So there is also the possibility to use several elements for the award. Schema.org has its own recommendation for awarding hotels, which was also the basis for awarding the example above https://schema.org/Hotel
The URL of the website is located below the title on the search results pages. If you use breadcrumbs and structured data on your page, the page structure is displayed here instead. This helps the searcher to better understand the topic of the website:
You can find detailed instructions on implementation in the Google Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/breadcrumbs
Sitelinks and Search Box
Searchers who enter a brand name or domain directly often see so-called “sitelinks” below the first search result.
If despite a good page structure, no sitelinks or the desired sitelinks are displayed, you can help with the “SiteNavigationElement markup” and help Google interpret the page structure better: https://schema.org/SiteNavigationElement
A search box appears directly in the sitelinks for certain searches. If you do not mark them, a new Google search will only be triggered for this domain. By integrating schema.org correctly, you can link your internal search function here instead, and the search will be directed directly to the search results page of your website.
You can find detailed instructions in the Google Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/sitelinks-searchbox
Blog articles are displayed prominently, especially in mobile search. The labeling of normal articles makes sense, but to be displayed more prominently, the subpages must also be provided in AMP format:
The marking of articles and articles enables a varied representation of the articles in Google search. In the examples above, articles that are available in AMP format are marked with a small flash.
You can find instructions on how to mark up blog posts and articles in the Google Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/articles
The most famous rich snippet! You can expand recipes with pictures, ratings, number of calories and the preparation time. It must be a single right dish. For example, a soap recipe or a category page with multiple recipes are not displayed.
In the last example, we have a combination of different awards. In addition to the individual recipes, the overview page on which the recipes are collected was given a list so that they can be played out as a carousel in the snippet itself.
Instructions for labeling recipes can be found in the Google Guidelines: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/recipes
Software apps offer a variety of display options. In addition to the ratings, the price, category and operating system are also displayed. The playout is mainly important on the go. The peculiarity of the mobile view is that users have the direct possibility to download or install the apps.
You can find the right markup here: http://schema.org/SoftwareApplication
The Google Developer Help also provides further information here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/software-app
Officially accessible reviews can be highlighted for local businesses and online shops with a schema. The possibilities of playing star ratings up to review snippets range.
The award for ratings in the following content types is possible: books, local companies, films, music, products and recipes. The rating is nested in the respective markup and can then be played out accordingly. In addition to the RichSnippets, the ratings can also be displayed in the knowledge graph.
The following additional information from the Google Guidelines must be observed when implementing:
- The ratings must always refer to a specific product or service. For example, the start page or category page is always displayed without ratings in the SERPs.
- The ratings must be easily recognizable on the landing page.
If you have self-hosted or embedded videos on your website, you should mark them up so that Google understands your page better and displays the following information directly in Google Video Search:
- video duration
- Upload Date
If you should have several videos, the creation and submission of a video sitemap is also a good idea. This means that Google and other crawlers can access the content together with the relevant additional information about the content.
You can find more about this here: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/videosearch/schema
The labeling of your products also highlights your snippets compared to the competition. Ratings, inventory and pricing information can be awarded.
The award is suitable for pages that describe a single article as well as for shopping aggregator pages that provide information about a single product but about several providers.
You can find more information here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/products
Jobs and job advertisements
If you advertise vacant positions on your website or have a career area with information about your company as an employer, you can mark certain dates with schema.org markups.
About Google Jobs Google plays in the search itself job, and you can your positioning influence by the Awards positive. With a stronger presence, you ideally reach more motivated applicants.
However, only real job offers are taken into account and no requests to visit trade fairs or unsolicited applications.
You can find more information about the awarding of job advertisements in the Google Developer Help: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/job-posting
In addition to the job advertisements, you can also award the overall employer rating, which then complements your Google Jobs Posting or the snippet.
The ratings are displayed in the job search and must be user-generated content. For this purpose, users must be able to submit reviews on the company’s website.
You can also find more information about employer reviews in the developer help: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/employer-rating
Q & pages
Especially in forums, we find many questions and answer pages. There is a separate markup for these pages, which enables the search results and snippets to be upgraded accordingly, and questions and answers already played out as rich results in the search results.
Best practice question-and-answer formats include forum pages, product support pages with user content. Self-created FAQ pages, comments on blog posts or instructions are not valid for the award.
Further information on the award is available in the Developers Help: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/qapage
Like the ratings, this award is often embedded in other awards. The search results are provided in list-like ads. The carousels are mainly played mobile.
The elements contained in a list on a website must all be labeled equally. So in the case of a list of recipes for pasta, all elements must also be labeled as a recipe.
If not all recipes are carried out in full on the same page, but there are other subpages, the list for the overview page is marked, and the individual recipe detail pages then receive the appropriate recipe label. This also supports playing a carousel.
Further information on the labeling of carousels can be found in the developer help: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/mark-up-listings
Another option that Google uses to display the most relevant information about a search query directly on the search results page has been the Knowledge Graph since 2012.
The Knowledge Graph is a result of the semantic search and, according to Google, is output for important people, places or things. Information from Wikipedia is often used for this. Commercial websites can also use the Knowledge Graph to get more attention.
Google only displays information from websites that have a certain value. The following criteria are helpful for Google to classify a website as a reference for a topic:
- The page must be an “authority”, for example often quoted/linked by other sites and have a high level of awareness, such as Wikipedia
- Clean page structure and programming with structured data
- A full Google My Business profile
- Subpages by different authors
- Active social media profiles
- Backlinks and ratings
Of course, not all of these criteria have to be met to be displayed in the Knowledge Graph, but they offer good clues.
Structured data can also influence the data provided in the knowledge graph.
Logo, company data and local companies
Structured data offers us many options in the area of company information. In addition to the logo and important company data, we can also label information about local companies here. This information is primarily used to supplement the knowledge graph and to keep it up to date. But they are also used to expand the snippet. The decision to take the excellent information is at the discretion of the search engine.
By marking the logo, you can ensure that Google prefers the current company logo and does not pull out of other sources, possibly outdated designs and displays them in the search results.
In the company data, contact options such as service numbers and location are particularly important and can be labeled with schema.org.
For local companies such as restaurants and hairdressers, there are numerous options to supplement the display in Google Maps, the Knowledge graph maps and also the search results. The most interesting are:
- opening hours
- restaurant lists
- Ordering and reservation services
Of course, addresses and telephone numbers can also be marked, as with all other companies. The award with the schema markups enables a good addition to the local optimization.
Further help on the award can be found in the developer help
Another option to supplement the information in the Knowledge Graph is to mark up social networks or profiles. This phenomenon can currently only be observed occasionally in Germany. In times of steadily growing interest in any social media that also complement corporate communication, this should not be neglected.
Profiles and networks supported by markup and Google are:
You can find more information on the awarding of profiles in social networks in the developer help: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/social-profile
Create markups and mark up structured data
For a markup to be recognized correctly and played out as a rich snippet, it must meet several requirements. Each markup contains mandatory elements and information that must be labeled so that search engines can correctly recognize the markup. Also, there is additional information that you can also mark up and that, at best, makes your snippet even more extensive. The markup is recognized correctly even if you do not have this optional information.
When labeling the data, however, you must take into account that you only label the content that is displayed on your page. You may not transmit information that is not available on the site. In such a case, the markup is not played.
Also, when labeling your content with structured data, you may combine different schemas, creating partially nested elements. An example here would be products that can be labeled with the scheme for products, but also with that for reviews, and so elements of the review can also be found within the product label.
We show you here an example of the awarding of an event with the values that you have to award and those that you can optionally add.
If you mark up an event accordingly, the markup looks like this:
The search engine receives all important information at a glance and can enrich your search result with the corresponding data.
The standard for structured data: Schema.org
Schema.org was co-developed by Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex, so that website operators receive a standard for structuring content and connecting it with other data. Millions of domains already use this standard to put data in a semantic context.
On Schema.org, you will find over 600 different data types, such as recipes, reviews or products, and complete documentation on the correct use and implementation. Schema.org is continuously expanded, remains free of charge and is already a future-proof standard. To check the correct implementation, Google offers its testing tool.
Google supports the formats JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa for structured data. All formats have their advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately your IT has to decide which way to go. The result remains the same for all formats, but Google recommends JSON-LD.
Implement JSON-LD via Google Tag Manager
The main advantage of this format is that JSON-LD is not directly integrated into the displayed HTML. Instead, metadata is implemented separately from the website content. This makes them easier to maintain, and you are more independent of template files, which can become very confusing. You can also implement JSON-LD via Google Tag Manager. This has enormous advantages because the implementation can be implemented and expanded without the IT department or a third party. Implementation is faster, errors are easier to fix, and the markup is easier to expand.
Unfortunately, one disadvantage is that JSON-LD is currently only interpreted by Google. So far, other search engines are only able to interpret Microdata or RDFa.
Tools for creating markups
There are now several tool providers that make it easier for us to create structured data. Among other things, Google offers a solution here: the markup helper.
With just a few clicks, the tool allows you to create the required award to match your page without having to know programming skills or the like. Needed.
In the start mask of the tool, you can first choose what type of markup it is, in our example, it is an article. Then you copy the URL into the given box and press the “Start tagging” button.
Now the editing view opens, and you can mark the individual elements on your page and tag them. In the screenshot above, the picture was selected, and then the tag picture was added.
When you have postponed all relevant areas and elements, you can then use the “Create HTML” button to have the required code generated. Here you have the choice whether you prefer data as microdata or as JSON-LD.
To make sure that you have filled out all the important areas, you can check the code with the test tool for structured data. Then you embed it on your website.
Troubleshoot with Google Search Console
With all formats, you must always pay attention to the correct implementation and never use incorrect data, as this can result in a manual penalty. Implementation errors can ensure that existing rich results are no longer displayed in the SERPs.
The most important troubleshooting tool can be found in the Search Console under “Improvements”. In this menu section, you will find all elements marked with structured data with their report. Here you can see what Google has already recognized and indexed and on which subpages there are problems:
Better ranking through structured data?
Websites that use structured data correctly are better listed on Google. Even if this is not a ranking factor confirmed by Google, some studies show that websites with awards rank higher on average. On the one hand, this will be due to the improved click rate, which is achieved through “Rich Results”. On the other hand, this is probably also because the searcher can use a highlighted result to assess the content of the website better and only clicks if the page is relevant. This, in turn, reduces the bounce rate.
Google has published the following video on the influence of schema.org on page performance:
Measure the impact of rich results
In the Search Console, you can see under the item “Performance” when for which search terms “Rich Results” or “Rich Media” is played. These are not always displayed. The report provides the first clues for optimization options.
After you have selected the “Performance” report, you can add a filter using the “+ New” button. In which you select “Display in search: results with rich media”.
The structuring of data is not a must to be found well on Google, but it increases the possibility of enormously that your search results are displayed more prominently and that Google perceives you as a reference. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that content on your page will be displayed as part of the knowledge graph. Even if your rankings do not improve immediately, you benefit from a better CTR (click rate), more visitors to your website and you are one step ahead of the competition. Above all, thanks to the relatively new possibility of structurally transferring your content to the Google Index via the Google Tag Manager, you can quickly amortize the implementation effort.