What’s Structured Information? And Why Ought to You Implement It?

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Structured data is a standardized method of providing information about a website. It helps search engines like Google better understand what your content is about.

But what do you get out of it and how do you implement it?

Let’s get started!

How structured data can help you SEO

First things first: structured data is not a ranking factor. It doesn’t directly help you rank higher on Google. However, there are many advantages. We will focus on the four most important ones:

  1. Get rich results
  2. Go to the Google Knowledge Graph
  3. Semantic search support
  4. Support your E-AT

1. Get rich results

Rich results are visually enhanced search results with information drawn from relevant structured data. The most common type of rich results are rich snippets like these:

These can often increase click-through rates and increase organic traffic to your pages.

2. Go to the Google Knowledge Graph

The Google Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base about entities and the relationships between them. You, your brand and your products can become entities that are established and influenced by structured data.

The most direct impact of entering the Knowledge Graph is a knowledge panel that provides more brand visibility and authority:

2 knowledge panels

Semantic search focuses on the meaning of search queries rather than traditional keyword matching. Here’s how Google manages to get perfect results when you’re looking for something that vague:

3 semantic result

Since structured data helps Google better understand what your pages are about, it may potentially show up on more relevant searches.

4. Support your E-AT

E-AT stands for expertise, authority and trust. These three things are “what Google looks for on a webpage”. The use of structured data feeds Google information about your website, its content and its authors and makes it easier to evaluate your E-AT.

Schema markup, the cornerstone of structured data

Structured data must conform to a specific format. As with any computer language, you must use correct syntax for machines to perform it properly.

Schema markup provides a widely accepted format for structuring data on the Web.

If I want to tell search engines that my first name is Michal, I need to look up how to comment on it. When I search for “name” in the schema.org vocabulary, I come to the property “GivenName”:

4 First name scheme

You need to use this in the exact form in your code. Using variations such as first name, first name or first name does not work. Standardization is key to structured data, and schema.org’s vocabulary provides it.

Take, for example, a flight with an airline: schema.org has an encyclopedia in which the aircraft type, the departure gate and even a description of the catering service are given:

5 flight scheme

That’s it for theory. Let’s take a look at how all of this works on your website.

The three types of data structuring

There are three main formats that you can use to organize data on the web.

JSON-LD

JSON-LD is the format recommended by Google. It’s also the easiest to implement as it doesn’t require a “tag”. HTML Elements, as is the case with other structured data formats. Instead, add JSON-LD as one big block of code telling Google, “Hey, here are the most important things you should know about the things mentioned on this page.”

Here is an example of very basic organizational markup using JSON-LD::

This script can be placed anywhere in the or Section of your HTML.

Microdata

not how JSON-LDWhen structured data is in a large digestible block, microdata is spread across the page to mark content on the fly.
Here is the same organizational markup as above, but in microdata format:


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As you can see, mark everything as it appears on the page. That’s fine for simple markup like this, but it can be very cluttered and nearly impossible to manage for complex applications. Something SEO Plugins use microdata to generate your schema markup and do the work for you.

RDFa

RDFa works like microdata. You markup HTML Elements on the page rather than providing markup in a large block like JSON-LD. It’s probably the least used schema syntax, but you’ll still find it on occasion as it’s based on Facebook’s Open Graph meta tags.

This is what the same organization markup looks like with RFDa:


Ahrefs

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Contact us at: support@ahrefs.com

So nothing else than microdata. But how do you know that all of this is a valid markup?

Test your structured data

No sane person would deploy code without first testing it. Go to Structured Data Testing Tool, enter your code snippet or Urland check that the markup is valid.

Here’s what I get when I test the microdata snippet:

6 Organization markup

Unfortunately, Google will soon reject this tool and only the tool to test the rich results will remain. As you can see from the name, it focuses on your eligibility for comprehensive results. However, let’s hope that Google will eventually combine the capabilities of both tools. Classy scheme is also a great alternative.

Before you start tagging your content

Structured data is not rocket science, but it takes time to capture it, prioritize it, and learn how to deliver it on a large scale. Lots CMS‘and plugins often take care of the most basic markup, but I want to get one thing straight:

For most people there are much more important ones SEO Tasks other than providing a schema on your website. We expand the prioritization and implementation in our special schema markup post, which tells you everything you need to know about it.

Structured data outside of your website

You can become a Knowledge Graph entity without ever providing any schema markup. That’s because mentions of your brand and products can be found all over the web.

However, don’t think that you need a Wikipedia page just because it’s a common source for knowledge panels:

7 Knowledge Panel Wikipedia

First, there are many other sources that Google uses. Second, maintaining a Wikipedia page is certainly a challenge, although that is certainly a shortcut to becoming a Knowledge Graph entity. And finally, Google only gives the source of the description, which many knowledge panels don’t even have.

In fact, unless you have a lot of media coverage on Wikipedia and Wikidata, your knowledge panel is likely to be a lot easier:

8 simple knowledge panel

The point here is that you should convey consistent information about you or your company and tie everything together.

So make sure you unify all company information on social media, other company profiles like Crunchbase, and authoritative websites in your niche. Then connect the dots using the sameAs schema property. We show how in our schema guide.

Final thoughts

Structured data is powerful, but it’s unlikely to be one SEO Priority for most websites. There are almost always more important things to focus on.

However, implementing a basic schema like organization or people markup is relatively quick and straightforward. You can probably do this in minutes and learn how to do it in our Schema Markup Guide.

Any questions? Ping me on Twitter.

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