What is Structured Data?
Structured data is information organized in a consistent way so that it’s easy for computers to understand. In relation to search engine optimization, structured data usually means one of several formats defined by schema.org.
Schema.org is the organization that defines the different types of structured data. It was founded by the major search engine companies, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex.
Why Use Structured Data on Your Website?
If you want your website to be more visible in search results and show up for the right searches, then structured data can help. It can make your pages eligible for Google’s rich results and make it easier for search engines to understand exactly what your pages are about.
One reason to put structured data on your web pages is so that you can take advantage of Google’s rich results feature. For many types of searches, Google will show more than just links to websites, including boxes of information, carousels, images, and other interactive features. These are the rich results.
Google supports about 30 different types of rich results at the time of writing. Rich results are a great way to make your business more visible in search results, but you shouldn’t limit your structured data efforts to just these types.
Help Search Engines Help You
Even schema types that Google does not feature in rich results are worth using. Why? Because Google and the other major search engines developed structured data to make their job easier.
Without structured data on your website, the search engines will have to work a lot harder to understand what each page is about. When they aren’t sure, they may err on the side of caution and not show your page in results. Structured data gives the search engines confidence and increases the chances they’ll be able to match your page to more of the right searches.
Which Structured Data Format Should You Use?
How to Add Structured Data to Your Website
There are many ways to add structured data to your website, and the method you choose will depend on your goals and resources.
If you use a content management system like WordPress or Shopify, it’s pretty easy to add some of the basic types of structured data with a plugin, and some of it may already be generated by your theme. To check a page for structured data, you can use the schema.org validator.
To use some of the less common structured data types, or to have more control over the information you include, you may need help from a web developer. Your developer will be able make the necessary changes to your site’s source code or inject the structured data using Google Tag Manager.
Whatever route you choose, keep in mind that your structured data needs to match the information on the page. You can’t use it to show different information to the search engine than you show to human visitors.
What Types of Structured Data Are Good for Small Business?
The types of structured data you should use depend on your business. In general, be sure you cover all the basics of your business like location, contact information, and opening hours using the most relevant subcategory of LocalBusiness or Organization. Then make sure you mark up all your goods as Product and services as Service.
The following is by no means a complete list, but it should be enough to get you started.
LocalBusiness or Organization
Your structured data starting point should be LocalBusiness, unless you serve a number of locations, in which case you can use Organization. Use a more specific subcategory of LocalBusiness if you can. For example, a dentist should choose the Dentist type.
Put the LocalBusiness schema on every page of your site for the best results. You should include all the important information about your business, such as your logo, address, phone number, opening hours, etc. This information must also appear on the page if you want your structured data to work correctly.
If your business sells products in-store or online, then you’ll want to be sure to use the Product schema type. In most cases you’ll have so many products that it’s best to use a plugin on your site that will automatically create the structured data from the information on each product page.
Schools and Colleges
Adding the Course schema to your school’s course pages will help search engines know to show them when prospective students are searching for your courses.
It’s also possible to get a carousel rich result from Google for your courses. To qualify, you’ll need to have at least 3 courses and include the markup for the Carousel schema.
The Service type of structured data is frequently overlooked because Google doesn’t use it for rich results. Nevertheless, this type is really useful for service businesses because you can use it to tell search engines exactly what you offer and avoid confusion.
Assuming you have a page for each of your services, we recommend adding the relevant Service structured data to each page. This will make it easier for search engines to understand what your pages are about and show them when people are searching for your services.
Structured Data Resources for Developers
Here are some resources that will help you or your developer start working with structured data on your website:
- See all the structured data types with examples and documentation at schema.org
- Use the schema.org validator to check if there is structured data on a page
- Learn which types of rich results Google currently supports
- Find out if your page can get rich results using the Google Rich Results Test.
- Add structured data with Google Tag Manager
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