You’ll likely have noticed a ton of results on search engines with extra features around the usual title tag, meta description and URL. From breadcrumbs to star ratings, these fall under the umbrella of ‘rich snippets’. To get your result looking just as snazzy – and therefore attracting more attention than a skateboarding dog – you’ll probably need to implement structured data.
What is structured data?
Structured data is a form of code which helps search engines determine the content on your website. For a simple explanation, consider a dictionary definition of a word:
Here, you can see how the dictionary helps you identify information about the word before presenting the definition. Where a dictionary provides humans with a quick way of understanding what type of word it presents, structured data does the same for search engines.
The complication lies in the fact that there are many more variables when it comes to what is included on your website. For example, your site could consist of product reviews, prices, videos, imagery, blog-posts and a whole host of other content and media.
A search engine will crawl your site and try pick out the relevant content for the search query in question. To speed up this process, structured data uses code to identify specific information related to your page and content.
For example, at the start of a typical blog post, you’ll see page title code in the HTML:
<title>How To Find And Acquire Featured Snippets | Salience</title>
In a blog post that has structured data, you’ll also see something like the following:
"@type": "BlogPosting", "headline": "How To Find And Acquire Featured Snippets”
This code tells the search engine exactly what it’s looking at without the need for further inspection. More importantly, it means the search engine can present your result in an enhanced format as it has extra data to work with.
In the above example, you can see how the search result has star ratings and additional information such as the number of pages, the weight, and the publisher. Aside from its benefit for the user, this upgraded presentation also helps attract their attention and take up more real estate on the results page.
Taking a look at the code for this page, you’ll see a number of itemprop additions to the code. This is called MicroData, a form of structured data. This form of data is a little outdated now and it’s recommended to just JSON-LD – which sits in the head of your page rather than within the body. This helps crawlers find the information even faster, which is why Google has started to favour JSON-LD.
<p class="spec"> <i>Publisher: <span itemprop="publisher">Pan Macmillan</span></i> <br/> <i>ISBN: <span itemprop="isbn">9781447294832</span></i> <br/> <i>Number of pages: <span itemprop="numberOfPages">736</span></i> <br/> <i>Weight: <span itemprop="weight">516 g</span></i> <br/> <i>Dimensions: <span><span itemprop="height">196</span> x <span itemprop="width">131</span> x <span itemprop="depth">44</span> mm</span></i> </p>
Many site owners tend to stay away from code as much as is possible, leaving the work to developers. The good news is that when it comes to structured data there are a number of online tools which generate the code for you – meaning you don’t need knowledge of web development to acquire rich snippets. This is true for both JSON-LD and MicroData.
Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper
- Local businesses
- Book reviews
- Software applications
- Data sets
- Job postings
- Question and answer pages
- TV episodes
For more information on what types of rich snippets this mark-up could result in, check out our guide to the best rich snippets and how to get them.
Once you’ve identified the type of page or media type you are marking up, you’ll need to enter the URL in question. The tool will then present the page making each page element clickable. You’ll then be able to choose what that element is and generate the code with the right ID tags.
In this example, we’ve chosen to mark-up an article. In this second stage, you can simply move through the article, clicking each element and matching it to the relevant ID tag in the