Structured data and schema markup can increase your online visibility and improve the user experience for site visitors. In fact, it is essential for successful search engine optimization (SEO).
What is Structured data?
Structured data is structuring information on a page in such a way that it can be easily understood and read by most search engines in the same way. You do this by adding a label, so to speak, to each type of information, indicating what the information is about. For example, whether something is a title or an author's name or whether it is a book title or a recipe title.
Pages that use structured data allow search engines to better understand what the page is about, which can lead to higher rankings and better search results.
For example, if you indicate that your name on a recipe is the creator's name and that you are a chef, this firstly builds authority. But search engines are also more likely to recognize that you are the same person in other places where your name appears. After all, there are several dogs called Pluto, but by adding that it is a chef, search engines can see that it is the same person. Of course, this requires the use of structured data in all places where your name appears.
What is Schema Markup?
Schema markup is a specific type of structured data. It is the code you put on your website that structures the data. Schema markup was developed by a partnership of search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex. By agreeing on what the so-called 'tags' were called, a standard for structured data was created.
Imagine you are an author of one or more books then you could, for instance, add this code to your HTML:
"name": "Author Name",
"jobTitle": "Author Profession",
"name": "Organization Name"
"alumniOf": "University Name",
"birthDate": "Date of Birth",
In this script, replace the placeholders (such as "Name of Author", "https://www.yourwebsite.com/author-page", etc.) with the actual information about the author.
Note that this is just a basic example and the specific fields you might want to include may vary based on the information you have available and want to display. More information on these and other schema types can be found at Schema.org.
The relationship between structured data and schema markup
Structured data is the general term for information that is structured in a certain way, and schema markup is the specific type of structured standard. The connection between structured data and schema markup is that schema markup provides the 'language' or 'code' used to label the structured data on a web page.
A simple example might be a film review on a website. The structured data could be the information about the film - such as the title, director, actors, release date, rating, etc. The schema markup would then be used to label each of these pieces of information so that search engines can understand that this is the title of the film, this is the director, these are the actors, etc.
How do you implement structured data and schema markup?
Implementing structured data and schema markup within a website is easier than you might think. That's because of the many tools and 'guides' available. But tools alone won't get you there. Therefore, below is a simple roadmap on how to get started with structured data and schema markup.
Step 1. Define what types of structured data you want to implement
Based on the content of your site and pages, decide what type of information you want to label. If you have a blog, you might want to implement structured data for blog posts, but for a commercial site, you're better off implementing product and review schedules. Schema.org provides a full list of the different types of schemas you can use.
Step 2. Use a structured data generator
There are several online tools you can use to generate structured data code. One example is Google's Structured Data Markup Helper. With this tool, you can easily select and label the data on your website, and the tool will generate the right schema markup for you.
Step 3. Add the schema markup to the HTML of your website
After you have generated the schema markup code, you need to add it to the HTML of your website. This can usually be done in the HTML code section of your page but does depend on the type of website and content management system you are using.
Step 4. Test your schema markup
Use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to test whether schema markup has been implemented correctly. If, after adding schema markup, there are still errors in the script, a report will automatically be generated showing which errors were made and how to fix them.
Step 5. Monitor the results and keep track of changes
After implementation, you are not done. Search engines change a lot and often. Also in terms of agreements on structured data and schema markup. So keep an eye on whether your organic search traffic increases and regularly test whether the code is still correct. Also, check every now and then what changes are made by the search engines.
What are the Benefits and Challenges of Schema Markup?
Using structured data and schema markup actually has only advantages and no disadvantages. However, there are a few challenges.
Advantages of using structured data and schema markup:
More organic traffic: One of the biggest advantages of using structured data and schema markup is that it can increase your organic search traffic.
Better matching search results: Structured data and schema markup can help show better-matching search results. This can result in higher online conversions on your site.
Better user experience: By presenting your content in an organized and structured way, you can provide a better user experience to your visitors. They can more easily find what they are looking for and get a better overview of your website.
Challenges when using structured data and schema markup:
Implementation can be tricky: If you have no technical background at all, figuring out exactly how to do it can be tricky at first. But by reading up and with a bit of perseverance, it is doable.
Keeping up with changes: The standards and practices around structured data and schema markup are constantly changing, and it can be challenging to keep up. In fact, you need to regularly monitor the latest developments and make the desired adjustments if necessary.
How quickly do structured data and schema markup give results?
Unless you already rank tremendously high on, for example, E-E-A-T and other criteria within Google's algorithm, it will always take some time before your organic search traffic will increase. By the way, this is not always guaranteed, but what is certain is that if you use the right code, search traffic will not decrease.
It can take as little as 6 to 12 months before you start to see a difference. Although there are showcases where there are practitioners who saw the first results within just a few days.