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Structured data for SEO: What you need to know

an image of Crystal Carter, accompanied by various search-related iconography

Structured data markup can influence how your pages appear in search results, enabling Google to showcase your products or content within a dedicated search feature that often appears above the traditional listings.


In addition to potentially enhanced visibility in Google Search, structured data can also impact how well search engines (and other technologies, like generative AI) understand your content.


Since you’re already creating content, tagging that content with the appropriate structured data will help you get more value from it and further bolster your technical SEO


Let’s take a look at what you need to know to get started with structured data for superior SEO.


Table of contents:




What is structured data?


When SEO experts talk about structured data (AKA Schema markup), they are referencing a type of script tag that you can add to your website’s HTML. Implementing structured data helps web crawlers quickly understand the most important content on your webpage (using predefined categories and definitions). 


Used strategically across a website, structure data can:



Structured data vs. Schema markup: What’s the difference?

“Schema markup” is the common name for the structured data framework and vocabulary maintained by Schema.org. Developed in conjunction with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex, Schema.org’s structured data classification documentation is constantly growing and includes over 1000 properties and types to define unique semantic entities and content types. 


Many data science and tech-related fields use the phrase “structured data” to describe any method for organizing data.


An image of lego blocks, color-coded and stacked, with the label “structured data” underneath. Next to that image is another image of a pile of unorganized lego blocks, with the label “unstructured data”.

And when you use on-page SEO HTML attributes, like heading tags and bullet-pointed lists, or even open graph on your site, you are technically using a type of structured data. But typically, when SEO professionals discuss “Schema,” “Schema markup,” “structured data,” or “structured data markup,” they are talking about the structured data markup (usually in JSON-LD format) as outlined by Schema.org and endorsed by Google.


Why structured data is important in SEO


Structured data for SEO helps make content more standardized across the web because it applies the same guidelines across websites of various platforms and configurations. This enables Google to choose different elements from each web page and generate unique, enhanced SERP (search engine results page) features called “rich results.”


These enhanced results are much more eye-catching, more mobile friendly, and provide more information than a standard search listing. That’s why having your content show up in a rich result can improve your click-through rate (CTR) and drive more visitors to your site.


Three screenshots side-by-side. The first one is a screenshot of the mobile webpage “Preloved Kilo,” showing a landing page for an event. The next image is the structured data from the “Preloved Kilo” page, from the Google Rich Results test, showing Event type structured data and other properties. The final image is the actual rich result for the event in the Google mobile search results.

Each piece of structured data you add to a page will tell Google and other search engines about the most important parts of a page. For example, there is structured data that tells Google that it’s looking at a(n): 


  • Recipe 

  • Product

  • FAQ

  • Job posting

  • Event


The benefits of structured data for SEO


Structured data tells search engines what the information on your page means—not just what it says.


Clearly defining the content on your site with structured data can yield a competitive advantage in SEO, allowing you to:


  • Make your content eligible for rich results

  • Better define your website entities for semantic and AI-powered generative search

  • Access more search results data via Google Search Console


Rich results eligibility

Though structured data is not a Google ranking factor, rich results for collections of certain types of content (e.g., events or recipes) can show at the top of the SERP, before the traditional text results. 


Consequently, sites that earn a spot in these features can drastically improve CTR and potentially outperform the “number one” listing at the top of the text results. 


This means that configuring your site with structured data that makes you eligible for rich results can make your site more competitive. 


The google search results for [vegan chocolate cake recipe] showing a recipe rich result carousel at the top, followed by text results beneath.

Entities in generative search

Beyond rich results, structured data also makes your content easier for machines to read, which has implications for today’s AI-powered search engine algorithms and interfaces like ChatGPT and Google’s SGE. Large Language Models (LLMs) like these use entities to discern the relationships between words and what they actually mean.


What do LLMs have to do with structured data? Entities that are more clearly defined, using methods like structured data, will be more accurately reflected by generative AI tools. 


Take, for example, Dairy Queen: This franchise business uses structured data to tag each of their location pages with FastFoodRestaurant markup that details the location’s hours, address, and core business activities. 


A screenshot of Google’s rich results test on a dairy queen location page, showing the schema type and business details.

This schema supports the information that Google has about the business in its knowledge graph and also means that both OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini are confident in stating that Dairy Queen is a “fast food restaurant” chain.


Two screenshots. One in which ChatGPT is asked “what is dairy queen,” to which it responds “dairy queen is a chain of soft-serve and fast food restaurants.” In the second screenshot, the same question is asked to Google Gemini, to which it responds, “Dairy queen is an American multinational fast food chain.”

Better search data

Many of the structured data types that are eligible for rich results also receive dedicated Enhancements reports in Google Search Console. These reports tell you which pages have valid markup and can provide valuable insights to help you find out why structured data markup is invalid.


A screenshot of the product snippets report within the enhancements section of google search console.

For instance, if you are implementing image structured data, you can include a property for Creator to specify the person or organization that created the image. In the example below, I have done this by modifying the Wix’s built-in blog article markup. For this project, all of the images were created by “Wix,” so rather than using a variable, I used a static value.


The Wix structured data markup editor, highlighting the “creator” section within image structured data.

Within about a week, I was able to see the Image Metadata report in my Google Search Console Enhancement reports. Since this report shows images that have been crawled and valid structured data, I can use this data in my SEO reporting to illustrate technical SEO implementation progress to my team.


The image metadata report in google search console, showing the number of valid and invalid statuses.

Does all structured data qualify for rich results?


There are hundreds of different Schema types, but not every Schema type is eligible for a Google rich result. However, since all structured data helps search engines understand your content, implementing it is still beneficial to your site as a whole.


From a strategic perspective, including schema markup that is not currently supported by Google’s rich results can help future-proof your site. Google adds new rich results all the time, so if your Schema is already in place, then you’ll get a head start on your competitors. 


A graphic showing a “popular products” section of the search results, with a grid of 4 products.
Product structured data can enable your products to show in Google merchant listing experiences.

For example, in 2022, Google announced updates to product rich results to display multiple images alongside the primary image. For Wix users, who had this structured data built into their Wix SEO configuration, there was no need to make updates as they were already optimized.


Should you add structured data that doesn’t yield rich results?


Yes. Valid structured data helps to organize your content and make it more accessible to search engines and other programs (like ChatGPT). 


When Google announced that it was significantly reducing visibility for FAQ rich results in 2023, some SEOs suggested that it wasn’t worth using this markup anymore. I would argue, though, that where FAQs are genuinely helpful for users, you should include markup to support them because:


  • Structured data helps to prioritize high-value content for search engine crawling.

  • Structured data can help you draw connections between entities across your site and the wider web.


Google embraces structured data—so should you


As Google continues the trend of showing more information directly on the search results page, it’ll keep relying on structured data to populate its SERP, which means the role structured data plays for your business/website will keep growing from here. 


Don’t miss out on all the opportunities structured data offers—after all, if you’re going to create content for users, you might as well get the most value from it by making sure it’s eligible for rich results and easy for search engines to understand. 


 

Crystal Carter

Crystal is an SEO & digital marketing professional with over 15 years of experience. Her global business clients have included Disney, McDonalds, and Tomy. An avid SEO communicator, her work has been featured at Google Search Central, Brighton SEO, Moz, DeepCrawl, Semrush, and more. Twitter | Linkedin



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