What is Structured Data & Why Should I Care?

As the Web continues to grow and evolve, it’s becoming ever more important to develop and encourage a common markup vocabulary to clearly express data. Enter Schema.org –a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! The aim of Schema.org is to provide us with this vocabulary, so we can improve the way information is displayed in search results. An example might be a recipe with a star rating.

When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.

“Structured Data” is simply the matching up of a Schema.org name with a value. You can use Structured Data to markup anything from events and organisations to videos and articles; and you can include detailed information about publishers, authors, and so on. Below is an example. Note that Google prefers Structured Data markup in JSON-LD format (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data).

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org/",
  "@type": "Recipe",
  "name": "Perfect Apple Pie",
  "author": "Gin Blanco",
  "image": "http://images.edge-generalmills.com/56459281-6fe6-4d9d-984f-385c9488d824.jpg",
  "description": "A classic apple pie takes a shortcut with easy Pillsbury® unroll-fill refrigerated pie crust.",
  "aggregateRating": {
    "@type": "AggregateRating",
    "ratingValue": "4.5",
    "reviewCount": "276",
    "bestRating": "5",
    "worstRating": "1"
  },
  "prepTime": "PT30M",
  "totalTime": "PT3H",
  "recipeYield": "8",
  "nutrition": {
    "@type": "NutritionInformation",
    "servingSize": "1 medium slice",
    "calories": "230 calories",
    "fatContent": "1 g",
    "carbohydrateContent": "43 g",
    "cholesterolContent": "0 mg",
    "fiberContent": "1 g",
    "proteinContent": "1 g",
    "saturatedFatContent": "2 ½ g",
    "servingSize": "1 Serving",
    "sodiumContent": "200 mg",
    "sugarContent": "27 g",
    "transFatContent": "0 g"
  },
  "recipeIngredient": [
    "1 box Pillsbury™ refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box",
    "6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (6 medium)",
    "3/4 cup sugar",
    "2 tablespoons all-purpose flour",
    "3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon",
    "1/4 teaspoon salt",
    "1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg",
    "1 tablespoon lemon juice"
  ],
  "recipeInstructions": [
    "1 Heat oven to 425°F. Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Press firmly against side and bottom.",
    "2 In large bowl, gently mix filling ingredients; spoon into crust-lined pie plate. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal; flute. Cut slits or shapes in several places in top crust.",
    "3 Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch wide strips of foil after first 15 to 20 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Cool on cooling rack at least 2 hours before serving."
   ]
}
</script>

Effect on ranking

It’s tough to say what impact Structured Data has on search ranking, but it’s generally a good idea to give search engines what they want – and lately that includes Structured Data. Common sense suggests this will lead to better ranking. But what’s more obvious is the effect it has on your search result ‘rich snippet’ (the information that appears beneath your title on search results). A richer rich snippet tends to lead to an increased click rate, which is probably much more valuable to you than ranking alone.

At DesignKarma we’re still experimenting with Structured Data on this site and client sites, and the results have been mixed. Nevertheless it does appear to be a useful tool moving forward, and a standard that will be around for quite some time.

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