Search engine optimization involves dozens of factors to help improve your site rankings on Google.
One of these factors includes adding structured data to your web pages.
Structured data can help improve clickthrough rates to your website, generate rich results to take up more digital real estate from your competitors, and help’s Google better understand the content on your site, which can lead to improved keyword rankings.
This guide will dive into what structured data is, how it can help SEO, and how to add structured data to your site.
Structured data, otherwise known as schema markup, is a type of code that allows search engines to better understand the content on your site.
Schema markup allows search engines to determine the relationship between your content, and how it should rank for a given search query.
While structured data isn’t required to rank for SEO, without it, search engines have to work harder to figure out what the data on your webpage means.
Below is an example of what markup can look like:
When you add structured data to your website, some of it is eligible for display as rich results.
Rich snippets, or rich results, is additional information that shows up next to search results on Google.
The functionality can vary, but it ranges from showing reviews for a product, FAQ dropdowns below your URL, video carousels, HowTo walkthroughs and more.
Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing.
Using structured data helps search engines better understand what your content is about, which contributes to providing stronger relevancy signals and improved keyword rankings. Because some schema generates rich results, your site’s clickthrough rates will also benefit, driving more organic traffic to your webpages.
Rich results typically display above the fold on Google’s search results pages. By gaining rich result positions for things like Featured Snippets, you’ll be able to seize the lion’s share of clicks on the first page of Google.
There are several different types of schema markup that you can use for your website, which I’ll dive into below:
JSON-LD is Google’s preferred schema markup to use for websites.
This type of markup appears separate from the body of the HTML and is placed inside a script tag within the page header.
JSON-LD is great because it doesn’t have to be spliced within user-visible text, making it easier to express nested data items. It can also be read by Google when it’s dynamically injected within your page’s contents.
Microdata is an alternative to using JSON-LD. It requires use of HTML tag attributes to name the properties you want to use for your structured data, meaning that it must be interwoven within the body of your page’s content.
RDFa is an HTML5 extension that’s similar to microdata in that it must correspond to the user-visible content you want to display for the search results.
When adding structured data to your website, you need to follow Google’s quality guidelines. Below is a screenshot of Google’s expectations when using schema markup:
To summarize, you need to use appropriate schema markup for pages. As an example, you shouldn’t be adding review schema to an article that isn’t a review, or writing FAQPage schema markup for a page that's devoid of FAQs.
The markup should also be reflective of existing page content, so if your structured data doesn’t contain the same info that your webpage does, then you shouldn’t include it within the markup.
Failure to comply with Google’s quality guidelines can result in a manual penalty, which will harm your keyword rankings and plummet organic traffic.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics for structured data, we can dive into how to add schema markup to your website. There are several different ways, which I’ll highlight below.
If you aren’t technically savvy, or don’t have access to your website’s code, then using WordPress plugins is one option for adding schema to your WordPress website.
Here are a few plugins to get you started:
One of the best WordPress plugins available for rich results, the Schema - All In One Schema Rich Snippets plugin is great for adding a wide variety of schema markup types directly to your website. The only prerequisite is that you have to have a WordPress CMS to use this plugin.
This is another schema markup testing tool that comes in the form of a plugin. While it doesn’t offer anything new compared to the other tools listed, it comes with a wide range of instructional videos that allow you to produce any structured data that is needed for your web pages.
Structured data can be very time consuming, which makes this smart AI-based plugin useful because it adds structured data to your web pages automatically, whether you’re making WordPress pages, posts or WooCommerce products.
The last tool on this list is Yoast SEO; widely considered one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress, it ensures that you’re using structured data markup properly and offers a variety of schema options that you can directly add to your web pages, ranging from FAQPage, HowTo, Article, breadcrumb and more.
Google Data Highlighter is another option if you don’t have a lot of time to implement schema markup, or you don’t have access to your website’s code.
Google Data Highlighter is a legacy tool in Google Search Console that allows you to create data sets to automatically markup contents of similar articles with schema.
The one downside to using this tool is that you’re limited in the types of markup you can use, or the pages that you can tag if they aren’t indexed.
To use Google Data Highlighter, you’ll want to log into GSC and click “data highlighter” under the search appearance tab.
After that, you’ll “Start Highlighting” and enter an example URL to start tagging that page, or other similar pages.
You’ll then want to select the schema markup type and start highlighting your desired page elements, such as the author, name, title, date, etc...
After that, simply click “publish” after verifying the data set attributes are correct, and your target pages will be eligible for rich results.
Check out my latest write-up on the differences between Google Data Highlighter, JSON-LD markup and which one is better to use.
This is the best option for adding schema markup to your website. While it may take more time compared to using Google Data Highlighter, you have direct control over what code is being injected into your site header when adding schema to your WordPress website without a plugin.
You also have vastly more options to insert any kind of schema markup that you find via schema.org for your webpage, compared to the limited options found in Data Highlighter or WP plugins.
You’ll simply insert your code to your site header, publish the changes, and you’re done.
If you’re operating on a WordPress website and aren’t sure how to add code to your site header, you can install the “Insert header and footer” plugin, which allows you to manually insert code to any webpage, or across the entire site.
To generate schema markup, you can either create it manually by using schema.org as a template, or you can use several structured data tools that will help you create your schema. My favorite is Merkle’s schema markup generator tool; all you have to do is select your desired markup and fill out the fields within the tool.
While adding structured data is relatively simple for WordPress websites with the use of plugins, the process can be different on other sites. Below I’ll highlight what to do on other content management systems:
Unfortunately Blogger is a difficult CMS to work with when adding structured data to the site. You’ll have to do one of the following things:
Here are the steps required to do this:
Wix is more simple than Blogger to add schema for. To add structured data, follow these steps:
Shopify is convenient in that most themes will come pre-built with schema markup for products, breadcrumbs, and other types. If you don’t have access to a developer, you can use the Verge SEO JSON-LD boost app to automatically add JSON-LD structured data without touching your template files, as well as other Shopify apps like Smart SEO.
Note: it’s important that you don’t install multiple SEO apps on your Shopify site, otherwise you may end up with a lot of duplicate code that’s detrimental for your SEO.
Adding schema to Squarespace is pretty straightforward. There aren’t plugins like WordPress, but you can go into the Squarespace editor, find the page you want to add markup for by clicking on the gear icon in the right corner, and select the Advanced Tab.
In this area, simply copy and paste your markup, which will be injected into the site header.
Adding schema to Weebly isn’t as straightforward as the other CMS’s. You’ll have to add the structured data via the theme editor (Theme > Edit HTML / CSS).
This can also be done by going to the Pages Tab, selecting the page you want to add the markup to, and selecting SEO settings.
From there, you’ll add your code to the “header code” bottom box and publish your changes.
Once you’ve added your structured data to your website, it’s important to check it for errors. You can check out my list of the best structured data testing tools to use, but my preferred way to test is by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Simply take your code or page URL, enter it into the testing tool, and it’ll display a list of warnings or errors that you should fix.
Warnings are often optional fields, but it’s required to fix any schema errors, otherwise your pages won’t be eligible for rich results.
Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool will point out any fields that are incorrectly labeled, or missing for your desired schema markup.
If you need to fill out more information, Schema.org has everything you need in order to properly flesh out your incorrect schema markup.
Now that we’ve ensured that the schema markup is correctly implemented, we can take the same code or page URL and plug it into Google’s Rich Result Testing Tool.
This testing tool is great for visualizing what your schema markup will look like (if it’s eligible for rich results) and making any necessary tweaks to try and improve CTR.
The last thing we need to do after adding our schema markup is to monitor the results in Google Search Console, under the Rich Result Performance report.
This tool will show what pages are marked up with schema, the number of clicks/impressions being generated for rich results, and any warnings/errors associated with your structured data.
You can also go into GSC’s performance report and add filters to see how your rich results are performing, and what specific queries users are typing to find your content.
As a recap, here’s a step-by-step list for adding schema to your website: