What is Structured Data?
Search engines analyse and index websites and content through a great number of complex algorithms. This helps the search engine to categorise every individual aspect of your content, understand what you are trying to express or display, and then sort it so that it displays the most accurate and precise search queries online. The search engines’ interpretation of your content will be a massive factor in how you appear in SERPs (search engine results pages) and your SEO in general.
Structured Data is a standardised format, almost like a language, which can be applied to websites to help search engines identify and understand what every aspect of the website is with greater clarity, how it connects in a wider context online, and furthermore, how best to present this in SERPs. It requires a certain level of vocabulary to utilise effectively, but when used correctly it can make all the difference to how your website displays for search queries.
Schema.org mark-up is the most widely used and commonly known structured data “language”. A collective of the major search engines collaborated to develop this language so that they could all assess the data unanimously, accurately and consistently. Adding structured data can improve your chances of appearing in rich results and rich snippets (though this is never guaranteed).
Is applying structured data worthwhile?
While structured data may not affect your overall ranking, it can improve how you appear in search results. Harnessing structured data to categorise your web pages and content perfects the accuracy with which search engines can crawl and index, meaning you are more likely to appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) most relevant to your content. This also benefits you because the lower your bounce rate for people viewing your content, the more the search engine will register your page as a well-regarded resource.
Over time, structured data has expanded to cover an extraordinary range of tasks, including fact-checking data. It is also continuously developing to be used in a wider context as technology broadens. An example of this is in the boom in the use of Voice-Assistant Devices. For your web pages and content to be compatible with Voice-Assistant Devices, such as the Google Home device and Alexa, structured data is required. This can be fantastic for content such as recipes, in that the recipe can be read out loud by the Voice Assistant device as the user cooks. Structured Data can enhance your website to a vast degree, so taking the time to apply it is definitely worth considering.
What is “structured” vs “unstructured” data?
Independent files, such as PDFs, videos, images, and other forms of documents, are examples of Unstructured Data. By adding identifying and defining information within the context of the many categories, concepts and contexts of the schema.org language (or similar), these files then can be classified as Structured Data.
There is a middle ground to Structured vs Unstructured data: Semi-Structured Data. If a file, image or other documents are unstructured, but you then add tags, attributes and metadata as reference information to the independent file/image/document (such as the date it was created, the name of the document creator and other illustrating or contextual information), this classes as semi-unstructured data. Another way to think of this in a more physical form: a physical CD,
unlabeled, is unstructured. A CD, labelled with information such as musician or band name and album name, is considered semi-structured. To input the CD into a detailed filing system, it would then make this structured.
Web pages are classed as semi-structured as they contain certain information that helps search engines to understand what they are, but to then apply an officially agreed-upon structured code-marker (such as Schema.org) to your web pages provides a level of systemised detailing, which can make all the difference in informing a search engine of what exactly to do with this data. The more in-depth understanding the search engine can glean about your website, the greater the potential for optimised SEO.
Schema is categorised under two core hierarchies; “Types”, and “Data Types”. Within the “Types” hierarchy are “Things”, a list of core categories associated with specific actions or associations. Included in this are:
Mark-ups specifically for direct or indirect actions performed upon a direct object, for example, labelling an error code or identifying the location where an action will take place).
Mark-Ups for terms associated with BioChemical words, abbreviations and anything associated.
All aspects associated or in relation to creative work, such as books, movies, photographs, software programs, subject matter and much more.
If an event is taking place, all descriptive, informative and general association to the event, ticketing and all things associated to this.
Intangible quantities, structured values and idealized activities (e.g. the intention of an Action but not a completed or instigated action).
Generally related to health and medicine.
Indications of anything related to any type of organisation (a school, corporation, etc.).
Any information about a person, whether they be dead, alive or fictional.
Places, upcoming event locations, geo-coordinate data and anything associated.
Mark-Up is associated with products of all kinds.
Classifications represent terms, units and associations often related to biological units.
The “Data Types” hierarchy is slightly different. This hierarchy is used to indicate basic data types such as Integers (numeric parameters), Strings (character sequences), and other values. These Data Types are then broken down into further types:
(Pronounced BOOL-ee-an) this is a way of indicating whether a value can be classified as true or false. This can be utilised in many different ways and enables you to mark and express indicative information. For example, if pets are or are not allowed into an event/location, if a broadcast is or is not a live event, or if the content is or is not family-friendly. There is a huge variety of ways Boolean can be used.
Although a date may seem ambiguous to mark, the use of dates online can be for a huge number of reasons, from the date of an event to date of birth, or even information on when a certain value, comment, or post was made online for example. Registering what the date reference is in reference to, or why it is on your page, can help the search engines to understand what you are presenting or trying to express.
The same goes for marking Time. Helping the search engine to understand the reference or relevance of the time stamp or reason for noting the time can be a useful tool.
Schema allows you to include the date and time as a singular value when marked, so if the date and time reference are for the same reason or reference, it is possible to mark them as one reference.
You may wish to account for numbers for a multitude of reasons. If you host an online rsvp event page, the ability to register a count for the number of guests who RSVP ‘yes’ is an excellent example of how this can be helpful. Quantifying numeric values is a broad requirement, but useful for aiding search engines in how best to index your page.
Whether the text in question is informative, password text, country or place referencing, or any number of the vast examples of different types of text, defining what exactly the text is via schema terminology is possible, achievable and beneficial.
Structured Data is a vast field to comprehend as it has been designed to allow all aspects of online content to be registered and referenced in specific details, broken down into minor properties for clear classification and structured definition.
Applying Structured Data to your website can seem like a confusing and daunting experience, but at FreshOnline we have a wealth of experience that enables us to advise and assist you with this to help your website reach its full potential. Get in touch if you would like to learn more about how we can help.