The Basics of Structured Data

What is Structured Data?

High level, structured data is what makes all of the different types of Google search results possible. News stories, events, ratings/reviews, FAQ, job postings, local businesses, price/ratings/in-stock for products, Q&As, recipes, videos, etc. These rich results and enhancements have been taking over more and more of the SERPs in the last decade. This will likely continue.

Almost everything outside of pure organic text results and text ads is possible because of structured data.

So why is it important to you? Well. You won’t be able score any of the spots on Google mentioned above (and more) without structured data.

At a more granular level, structured data can be in the format of JSON-LD, Microdata, or RDFa. Forget about going to those links unless you’re curious. Google prefers JSON-LD and below I’ll provide you with some tools and plugins to accomplish the job.

The importance of structured data is to make it easy for Google and other sites to aggregate and compare data on sites. IE make it machine readable. One format and naming convention to allow for easier indexing of content. When I say “easier”, I mean that they will not index and show your product/event/recipe/FAQ/etc. in rich results without it.

Links For Further Reading

While you don’t need to read everything in the below links, you should know they exist and reference them when you have a problem.

Figuring Out What Structured Data is on Your Site

If you’ve clicked through on the above links, you might be tempted to delete this email right now. “Nope, no way I can write that code!”

Don’t worry. I’ll provide tools below that will do it for you. But first, you need to figure out what structured data is already on your site. It’s likely that one of your plug ins or apps is adding some to your site already.

Rich Results Tester

The Rich Results Tester is Google’s official tool for seeing what rich results can be generated by the structured data on your site. Go to that link and put in your page. For this example, I’ll be using my article on The Basics of Your First Website. If you put in my page instead of one on your site, you’ll see the below.

Articles

As you can see, I have a warning on my “Articles” structured data. Clicking into the Articles section and scrolling down brings up the warning.

This is caused by the fact that I don’t have an author page URL in the structured data. More specifically, it’s a setting in Yoast that I have Author archives turned to off.

I’ve now turned the archives on, so when you run your test, you won’t see the warning.

How-To

Going back to the test results and clicking into the “How-To” section of the structured data shows that I have 13 warnings. In reality, it’s 5 warnings with the 5th repeated for every step in the how to.

Since I don’t plan to add images, the only data I’m going to fix is the description. Most of these fixes would be done on page in the How-To block or the Yoast settings.

Quick Example #2

In this example, I’ll show you what an ecommerce site with correct structured data should look like. Since this is a personal ecommerce site, I won’t be diving too deep.

Breadcrumb schema should be standard on every website. If you have an ecommerce site, you need to ensure that the Products and Review Snippets structured data is correct.

When diving into products structured data, you’ll see that you not only have the product information, but also the reviews for the products. You’ll have the total rating and the individual ratings of the product.

Note: Having a GTIN, Brand, etc. for your products is non-negotiable for Google.

When diving into the Review snippets section, depending on how it’s implemented, you may have a structured data item for every review that’s on the page.

Lastly, let’s take a look at a very popular brand’s PDP with over 800 reviews and see what their structured data looks like.

If this gives you any comfort, some very big brands don’t pay attention to this sort of thing and *you* can take advantage of that in the SERPs. I won’t say the site, but it’s an internal joke between BowTiedAmazonian and myself. I was mocked for months for harping on “schema”.

Schema Markup Validator

I won’t dive too much into the Schema Markup Validator. It’s very similar to the Rich Results Tester, but without the Google warnings. Since I only build schema for Google and only care what Google thinks, I don’t visit it much.

It’ll give you a little more insight into the official Schema.org markup on your site than the Rich Results Tester does.

Structured Data in Search Console

An alternative way to look at this, albeit much slower, is to look in Search Console. Looking in Search Console is good as a quick check to see if anything is wrong. You obviously don’t want to spend the time to check every single page on your site with the Rich Results Checker.

I’d advise using the Rich Results Checker initially when getting your first few pages live. Then see what “Enhancements” Google is reading on your site and if any errors pop up from changes to your site later on.

Once you find an error/warning with your structured data and fix it, you’re going to want to go into the rich results (or Enhancement) section. From there, you’re going to click on the specific error/warning and click “Validate Fix”. Google will recrawl your URLs, validate the fix, and recache the URL for what it shows to users and whether you’re eligible for enhanced listings/rich results.

Below is the How-to schema warnings in Search Console from the article on The Basics of Your First Website example above.

Plugins/Apps That Add Structured Data

While I won’t give you a list of all of the top plugins and rate their pros and cons, I’ll give you a few places to start. Every website is going to be different in terms of what they need and what they’re willing to pay for.

WordPress Plugins for Structured Data

Yoast or Rank Math SEO. Either of these should provide more than enough functionality for the basic How To, FAQ, etc.

I try not to recommend too many plugins since there’s so many out there and everybody’s website is unique to what it’ll need. The above two are a good place to start though.

Lastly, if you have a warning or error, it can usually be fixed within the plugin, the block, or plugin settings on page.

Shopify Structured Data

Implementing structured data on a Shopify site can be done manually (don’t recommend) or it will depend on your theme and apps.

For my Shopify sites, I use Judge.me for my review app. They’ve been wonderful. Even if you just have the free version, they will manually add/correct your product schema for you. Highly recommend.

Adding Structured Data Manually

Don’t. If you can avoid doing this, that’s the way to go. The reason for this is because it takes some front end dev experience. You’re not just copying the JSON, you’re using JSON (or JavaScript to inject JSON) to pull dynamic variables. If you have no *real* experience with code, just don’t try it. Let an app or plugin do it for you.

I personally have spent too many hours pounding my head on the keyboard to try this again. They’ll be some developers in the jungle telling me how easy it is. Don’t care. I don’t want to try again.

The only success I’ve had is with fixing minor issues on Shopify. If you go this route, the file you’ll want to fiddle with is scheme.liquid or schema.liquid depending on the theme you’re using.

Most Popular Structured Data for Your Website

Like most things, this is going to depend on the type of niche you’re in. Many of these will be added to your site automatically. Here’s a full list of types of markup. I’ll touch on the basics of what you should ensure you have depending on your site type.

Articles - The specific type. News Article, Tech Article, etc.

Person/Author - They’re different but I grouped them together.

Organization/Local Business - Remember EAT? Need to add some legitimacy to your site. They’re also different but I decided to group them together.

Breadcrumbs - While you should have it, the benefit is for visitors of complicated sites.

Content/Affiliate Sites Specific

Along with the above, you should look into have the below added to your site wherever you can.

FAQ - These are great for the “People Also Ask” boxes.

HowTo - Make it easier to jump to the top of the SERPs.

Q&A - Similar to FAQ but users are providing answers to the questions. Picture Quora or Amazon Q&A.

Video - Want a text link instead of 100 videos when you search for something on Google? Well this schema is the reason why you see those videos.

Ecommerce Site Specific

Product - I could write a full post on the justification of why this is needed. If you have an ecommerce site, just make sure you have this one fully correct.

Review - This can be difficult. A review app like Judge.me will set you up, but if you don’t have reviews, Google will show warnings/errors. In the beginning, do everything in your power to get good reviews.


If you liked this post, please like it, share on social media, or email it to your friends/colleagues. Definitely bookmark it as you’ll want to come back again through your WiFi Money Journey.


If you want to get smarter about all things digital, upgrade today from free to paid for only $10 a month. The paid posts are where I dive even further into the weeds to help you truly understand and capitalize on the digital landscape.