How Structured Data helps your Website get found by Searchers

February 21st, 2024 by Michiko Yoshida

There are hundreds of ways to help your website rank better in search engines such as Google.  One way that is arguably less well-known, because it is not obvious to a visitor or perhaps even the website owner, is the use of structured data.

Structured data means using additional tags around your content to tell Google what sort of content it is.  With this extra information available for the search engines to make sense of the content, they are able to provide better results to searches, and better answer the questions of searchers, when their search suggests that they are wanting a specific type of content.  It stands to reason that if Google knows what the content is, it can better index it and will be more likely to serve it up as search results.

structured data SEO to help your website get found in Google

For example, if I search for “recipe for hot cross buns” Google is more likely to suggest web pages that employ the “recipe” type of structured data, with “hot cross buns” in the title.

That’s a somewhat obvious example, but consider the search “how long do hot cross buns take to cook?”  People routinely now ask questions of Google like that, because it feels more natural, and because the advent of Google Home and Alexa have trained humans to ask natural language questions.  For search engines just looking through slabs of un-labelled content, that’s a lot harder question to answer, compared to if there was data within a recipe with “hot cross buns” in the title, that stated the cooking time.  The Recipes structured data type has a field for this exact purpose called ‘cookingTime’.

Using Recipes as an example, the Recipe structured data type is made up of the following possible fields of information, so of which are actually other structured data types.  Notice that the Video type within Recipes, has several other data types within it:

  • name,
  • image (one or more),
  • author (type: person, field: name),
  • date published,
  • description,
  • cuisine,
  • preparation time,
  • cooking time,
  • total time,
  • keywords,
  • yield,
  • category,
  • nutrition (type: nutrition information, field: calories),
  • aggregate rating (fields: rating value, rating count),
  • ingredients,
  • recipe instructions (collection of type: how to step, field: instruction),
  • video (type: video, fields: name, description, thumbnail URL (one or more), content URL, embed URL, upload date, duration, interaction statistic (type: interaction counter, fields: interaction type, interaction count), expires).

I hear you asking: “so, how are the labels added to your content?  Surely you don’t want to see all the labels everywhere?”  Indeed, that would be potentially quite ugly.  Instead, the labels are applied in behind your page in addition to the content that people see on the page.  The image below, courtesy of the Taste.com.au website, shows an example of the Hot Cross Buns recipe with structured data in behind the page.

recipe content with structured data in behind the page for great SEO

The code that is required in behind the page for our recipe example, will look something like the following (cut short to keep this blog post readable, please don’t try and follow the recipe!!):

structured data for SEO of a recipe

Obviously, you don’t want to be manually inserting the above script in behind your web page, so you need your content management system (CMS) to do the hard work for you.  To achieve this, the contents of your website, such as recipes, first needs to be implemented as customised fields.  You will know if that is done because when you are entering the information via your CMS, you will  fill in a web form when adding, say, a recipe, rather than typing in free format content.  With customised fields in place, then the structured data script (like that shown above) needs to be generated programmatically.  This can be done by custom code written by a web developer or by using a plugin for your CMS, depending on the technology used to create your website.

The full list of possible structured data types is listed below (these evolve over time, so it is current as of the time of writing), including a description to help you know where they are used.  As per the recipes structure shown above, you can expect there are numerous types within some of the types.  We have noted where data types will only appear in certain types of Google search results, or are only available to certain people / organisations.

From the list below, you will see that there are opportunities for every website to add structured data to help them appear in search engine results.  If you would like help to employ structured data within your website, or just help with search engine optimisation generally, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.

  • Article – news and blog posts, including comments related to these posts.
  • Book actions – actions that enable visitors to buy a book, directly from Search results.
  • Breadcrumb – site navigation that helps the visitor know where they are in your website.
  • Carousel – a collection of images, which must be contained within a Recipe, Course list, Restaurant or Movie.
  • Course info – a carousel that focuses on detailed information about courses, such as reviewer ratings, pricing, and course details.
  • Course list – a collection of courses.
  • Dataset – large data sets that appear in Google Dataset Search.
  • Discussion forum – topics and discussions around that topic; generally short form compared to articles.
  • Education Q&A – education-related questions and answers that help students discover flashcards on Google Search.
  • Employer aggregate rating – evaluation of a employer, displayed in the job search experience on Google.
  • Estimated salary – salary estimate information, such as salary ranges and region-based salary averages for job types, displayed in the job search experience on Google.
  • Event – organised events, such as concerts or art festivals, that people may attend at a particular time and place.
  • Fact check – summarised version of a credible site’s evaluation of a claim made by others.
  • FAQ – list of questions and answers pertaining to a particular topic.
  • Home activity – helping searchers to discover online activities that they can do from home.
  • Image metadata – additional details about images such as the creator, how people can use an image, and credit information.
  • Job posting – feeding into the job search experience on Google allowing you to feature your logo, reviews, ratings, and job details.
  • Learning video – aiding students and teachers to discover and watch educational videos.
  • Local business – displayed in the Google knowledge panel, including open hours, ratings, directions, and actions to book appointments or order items.
  • Math solver – a very specific data type to help students, teachers, and others with math problems with structured data to indicate the type of math problems and step-by-step walkthroughs.
  • Movie – details such as the title, director information, and images, helping a movie to appear in search results on searches such as “Best drama movies of 2022”.
  • Organization – your logo, legal name of the organization, address, contact information, and company identifiers. This information can show up in knowledge panels and other visual elements in search results.
  • Practice problem – again with students in mind, this structured data type helps students to practice problems in math and science subjects.
  • Product – so that your content can be listed among other products in search results, including price, availability, and review ratings.
  • Profile page – information about a single person or organisation that is affiliated with your organisation / website.
  • Q&A – information in a question and answer format, i.e. each question followed by its answer.
  • Recipe – see above!
  • Restaurant – this data type is restricted currently to a small set of restaurants.  Presumably it will be opened up for all restaurants at some point in the future.
  • Review snippet – a short excerpt of a review or a rating, about a Book, Recipe, Movie, Product, Software App or Business.
  • Sitelinks search box – a search box that is constrained to your website.
  • Software app – rating information, a description of the app, and a link to the app.
  • Speakable – news content that can be read aloud on Google Assistant-enabled devices using text-to-speech.
  • Subscription and paywalled content – differentiate content on your website which is paywalled (rather than cloaked).
  • Vacation rental – name, description, images, location, rating, and reviews.
  • Vehicle listing – information about a car that’s for sale e.g. availability, pricing, and other key information.
  • Video – giving the searcher the option to play the video, specify video segments, and live-stream content, directly from the search results.

 

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