Structured Data: Types, tools, testing

Found yourself scanning through the Google results before clicking on the result you want? Ever stopped to consider what makes you click on a particular listing? We have. A lot. As a business owner, you need to make your website visible in the search results and ensure it’s enticing and interesting. Structured data is one of the key ways to do this.

Table of Contents

What is structured data?

Structured data (sometimes referred to as schema) is a format that helps bots understand the key elements present on a page in a way that is the same across all websites. 

For example, the price of a product might be found in a different place on the page or formatted differently between two websites. Structured data lays out what the price is so bots can understand it no matter what it looks like on the page.

Google then adds this information to the search results, enhancing the listings. This can make people more likely to click on your result, or can sometimes help you appear in featured snippets.

In this example, structured data (specifically Product schema, which we’ll discuss soon!) has been used to tell Google information. In these cases, the price, reviews, whether the product is in stock and where Google can find an image. This information has then been incorporated into the search result.

Search results example

At a glance, the user can see more details about the product and could be more likely to click on the result that gives the most information.

Jargon buster

Before we take a look at structured data types, there are a lot of potentially confusing terms around structured data that will pop up. We’ve included the main ones we’re going to be using below:

Schema: this is often used interchangeably with ‘structured data’. However, it is specifically the format that structured data takes. You use structured data and present it through schema.

Property: This describes a key piece of information included in the schema. For example, ‘name’ is a property. As is ‘review’, ‘PostalAddress’, ‘description’ and many more.

Markup: The specific code and language used to put together schema.

Featured snippet: Short ‘snippets’ of text that appear usually at the top of a search. They often answer a question or provide key information related to the user’s search.

Featured snippet example
Example of a featured snippet.

Rich results: describe information on the search results page that goes beyond the ‘standard’ listing of the title, description and link. For example, carousels, video content, embedded information and more.

Structured data types

Google currently (as of April 2024) lists 37 types of structured data that they support. This ranges from Article to Math Solver schema. As you can see, some will be more useful to your website than others.

Some of the structure data types most commonly used on business websites are:

  • Article / BlogPost schema
  • Breadcrumb
  • Event
  • Job posting
  • Local business
  • Organization
  • Product
  • Sitelinks Search Box
  • Video

How to choose the right type of structured data for your page

A page can have no structured data, one type or multiple types. The key thing to remember with structured data is to use the markup that matches the content you have on your website.

If you don’t have a visible video in the page content, you shouldn’t add video schema to the page, even if the video content the structured data refers to is relevant. A solution would be to add the video into the page content, and then add the corresponding structured data.

The purpose of structured data is to enhance what you have and help Google understand your content. 

If you can’t find structured data that matches, that’s okay. It’s not a requirement, just a way to enhance your listings if appropriate.

Let’s look at some key types of structured data and how they might enrich your website. Remember, these are just a handful of examples. The type of structured data that best suits your site will be the one that accurately represents the information on the page.

Product schema

Product schema is ideal for eCommerce websites – where you have specific products available to buy. 

You can help Google understand, and show in the search results, information such as:

  • Product name
  • Price
  • Availability
  • Reviews
  • Discounts or offers
  • An image
  • Variants of the product eg. colour or size

You should note that if you have a brochure site, or product listings where people can request a quote, it can be more difficult to meet the requirements needed to implement this schema type (but it is still possible!).

Product schema example

Requirements

To implement product schema, you must include the ‘name’ property and one of the following pieces of information:

  • review
  • aggregateRating
  • offers 

If you can’t provide at least one of those three, then your Product schema will be invalid. This means Google won’t use it.

You can then include any relevant, additional information to enrich your snippet such as an image from the page, whether it’s in stock or not etc.

Implementing schema example

How many times can I include Product schema?

You can include Product schema for every product on your website. You should implement the schema once per page, or use ProductVariant schema to indicate variations such as colour, size etc.

Organization

Organization schema helps bots understand details about your business, such as your address, contact information, trading name and logo. Most websites can use Organization schema somewhere on their website.

This can then be used to display a knowledge panel about the company. It can also be used to add a logo, or other rich data, to a listing.

Note that knowledge panels might draw on information from multiple sources, such as Google My Business, for example, as well.

Google My Business example
Image from Google

Requirements

There are no required properties for Organization schema, so you can add as many optional properties as suit the page. Remember structured data always works best if the information in the markup directly reflects information available on the page.

So, for example, if you want to include the business address, check that it’s also included in the page content somewhere.

How many times can I include Organization structured data?

Organization schema should only be on the website in one place, such as the homepage or the contact page. The most appropriate page will be the one that includes clear information on the organisation that you want to include in the schema.

Breadcrumb structured data helps bots understand how a page sits within the site hierarchy as a whole.

For example, a specific product will usually sit underneath a product category. Your schema should mimic a user’s standard path to a page. It might look something like this:

Homepage > Pet food > Rabbit pellets > Excel Adult Rabbit Nuggets Mint

Breadcrumb schema helps bots to understand this hierarchy and display it in the results. Your precise breadcrumbs will depend on your site’s structure. It often follows a similar structure to your URL, but providing Breadcrumb schema can make it tidier or simpler by skipping unnecessary folders in the URL.

For example, if your URL is: https://example.com/rabbit-food/product/excel-adult-rabbit-nuggets-mint.  The ‘product’ folder is unnecessary to highlight for the user in the search results. So you might want to skip it in the Breadcrumb markup.

Breadcrumb example

Requirements

The BreadcrumbList has to have at least two ListItems to be valid. 

This could be the homepage and a category page, for example. The final item is the page on which the specific structured data is included.

How many times can I include Breadcrumb structured data?

You should have Breadcrumb schema on most pages of the website. It’s not a requirement in order for your website to appear in the search results, but most pages can include Breadcrumb schema, so it’s an easy opportunity to enhance your website.

Implementing structured data

When your structured data is ready to be added to your website, there are a few ways you can do it.

One of the simplest is enlisting help from a developer. Depending on your CMS, this can be the easiest way to ensure the schema is uploaded accurately and doesn’t cause any problems.

If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, there are plugins that will implement structured data across your website. These are particularly great for automating a large amount of structured data like Breadcrumb or Product structured data.

Structured Data Tools

Writing structured data manually is tough and it’s easy to make errors. Therefore, we recommend utilising the range of tools available to make writing and testing structured data that bit simpler.

Official guidelines

Google has official documentation on structured data. It includes details about each type, plus implementation and other recommendations.
Schema.org can be a useful tool for understanding the properties associated with each type of structured data and what these mean.

Generators

There’s a myriad of generators available to help with writing structured data. They’re often best when you only need one piece of structured data for a specific page. For example, Organization schema.

Suppose you’re looking to generate product schema across 1000s of products on your eCommerce website. In that case, you’re better off working with an experienced developer to generate schema automatically (but accurately!) across all your products.

Generators might not work with the more niche structured data types too.

Testing Tools

Once you have your structured data written, you should test it before publishing it to the website.

Rich results checker

Different testing tools are available, but Google’s rich results checker is reliable and will help you to understand how Google specifically reads your structured data.

The tool allows you to input code, which is ideal for when you haven’t yet published the structured data to your website. 

You can also input a website URL. This will tell you what structured data is present on the page, whether it’s valid and any errors/opportunities. You can use this to see what your competitors are using!

Rich results checker screenshot

Google Search Console

Google Search Console (GSC) contains tools to help you understand your website’s performance and various technical metrics.

Once your structured data is live on your website, it will show you what structured data it can detect and help you to understand if there are any errors.

Google Search Console screenshot

A bit of backup!

The best way to ensure you’re getting structured data right is to have some backup from an expert! Writing and implementing schema can be complicated, so help from someone experienced can go a long way.

The SEO Works team is familiar with a wide range of structured data types, writing and implementing them.

We’d be happy to help. Just get in touch or request a free website review.