Understanding “Structured Data” For SEO

Structured Data will allow you to boost your rankings and add more detailed information to your website search results

There’s a lot of complexity involved in modern SEO strategy, but one of the least well-documented, and subsequently worst understood topics is “Structured Data.”

Using Structured Data on your website will allow google to present valuable information to your potential customers in search, like prices, list cards, and ratings, voice guidance for Google home, and other cool content info + actions. It also gives your pages a boost in rankings compared to competitors without it*.

In this post I want to give you a quick overview of what “Structured Data” is and where it comes from. In my next post I will give you more specific details on how to implement structured data to boost your rankings + get more traffic.

What is Structured Data

“Structured Data”, (referred to as SD in this article) simply means: data that helps Google and other search engines categorize and display the data on your web page. It famously helps Google add extra information (Or as Google calls it “Rich Results”) to your search card, as you can see below.

The additional information in the above image, like price and ratings, are added with structured data

Here is a quote from the Google structured data homepage.

Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page.

Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

Types of Structured Data

There are three types of Structured Data. Google mentions that when searching for data and generating Rich Results they accept the following formats:

  1. JSON-LD (Google recommended)
  2. Microdata
  3. RDFa

These three are basically different generations of the same thing: Structural information that gives web crawlers a deeper understanding of your website. They are all based off of the same original (and as you can tell by their website, quite old) protocol, called Schema. The Schema Protocol was an attempt by several future-google-engineers in 2011 to classify all the data on the internet. It sort of worked, as we are still talking about it 8 years later.

JSON-LD is the most recent type of Structured Data, and most popular of the three Structured Data types. It is also preferred by Google (because they created it) but also preferred by many marketing professionals due to its relative ease-of use. The major difference/advantage of this data format is that it is not added to HTML but instead is added as a script on your website. It looks like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
"@context": "https://schema.org",
"@type": "Organization",
"url": "http://www.example.com",
"name": "Unlimited Ball Bearings Corp.",
"contactPoint": {
"@type": "ContactPoint",
"telephone": "+1-401-555-1212",
"contactType": "Customer service"

MicroData is the second most recent protocol for Structured Data (2012–2015), and can be found in most SD tutorials circa 2015. It is a form of HTML markup that is added into the structure of the web page. You can see in this Structured Data tutorial from 2014, the tutorial only discusses Microdata, and then in this 2016 Niel Patel Tutorial he talks both about Microdata + JSON-LD, ultimately recommending JSON-LD. Nowadays, most tutorials will recommend only JSON-LD or both. Microdata looks like this:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Review">
<span itemprop="itemreviewed">L’Amourita Pizza</span>
Reviewed by
<span itemprop="reviewer">Ulysses Grant</span> on
<time itemprop="dtreviewed" datetime="2009-01-06">Jan 6</time>.
<span itemprop="summary">Delicious, tasty pizza in Eastlake!</span>
<span itemprop="description">L'Amourita serves up traditional wood-fired
Neapolitan-style pizza, brought to your table promptly and without fuss.
An ideal neighborhood pizza joint.</span>
<span itemprop="rating">4.5</span>

RDFa is the oldest, and as far as I can tell, fell out of use around 2013. According to Wikipedia, it was last updated in 2015. I won’t go too far into it, but it looks like this:

<div vocab="http://rdf.data-vocabulary.org/#" typeof="Review">
<span property="itemreviewed">L’Amourita Pizza</span>
Reviewed by
<span property="reviewer">Ulysses Grant</span> on
<span property="dtreviewed" content="2009-01-06">Jan 6</span>.
<span property="summary">Delicious, tasty pizza on Eastlake!</span>
<span property="description">L'Amourita serves up traditional wood-fired
Neapolitan-style pizza, brought to your table promptly and without fuss.
An ideal neighborhood pizza joint.</span>
<span property="rating">4.5</span>

Impact on Your Rankings

There is a bit of controversy on the question of whether or not structured data on it’s own can increase your rankings, and while I think this is worth understanding I ultimately think it’s a moot point.

Even if SD does not directly impact your position in search, it will allow indexing engines to better categorize and display your pages and put them in front of the correct users.

This type of SEO improvement falls into two categories, Page Categorization, which will improve your pages visibility, and Rich Data which will increase your pages clickthrough.

Page Categorization is making sure that your page fits into the categories and display methods that Google is beginning to implement. For example, I have a web page that is an Article about language learning for native Spanish speakers. If I have SD on my website, Google might show this Article to users searching for a term “peruvian learning english articles”. This indirectly increases discoverability of your content.

Rich Data is the previously mentioned additional information + display structures that google will add to your individual search cards if they are properly tagged. This will directly impact your conversion by increasing clickthrough on content. A product with ratings and price in search results will perform much better than one without.

Wrapping up

In this post we have gone over some basic information about what Structured Data is and what it does, and also covered a bit of the philosophy and history of the protocol, and the benefits to your website.

In my next post I will discuss how to add Structured Data to your website to achieve the results you are looking for out of your site’s SEO.

Thanks for reading ~ Alex Zito-Wolf



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