Understanding Structured Data, Markup Language, Schema.org and Rich Snippets

It is essential to make the content of your website easy for Google to understand, especially if you want it to be properly displayed and distributed in SERP. The terms ‘structured data’, ‘markup language’, ‘schema.org’ and ‘rich snippets’ are common for the SEO world. However, they are frequently difficult for the many to understand. Let’s clear up the confusion.

Structured Data

Structured data is a broad concept used to describe a piece of code. After you use it on the website, the search engines read it and display results in a certain way. In a nutshell, this code allows adding more details to the snippet of your product, category, video, event, receipt, etc. in the search results.

So, structured data highlights certain website content to help the search engines comprehend what it relates to. This can be compared to another dimension of context that web crawlers receive to comprehend the website’s content better.

Note that adding the code doesn’t guarantee that Google will 100% create a rich snippet of the page. But the chances do increase as with structured data, the search engines get to understand the ‘message’ the way you need.

Markup Language(s)

XML, VHML, BPML, etc. Nearly every acronym on the Web that has ‘ML’ in it is a ‘markup language’ that is used to create web pages. There are 8 lists of markup languages that include XML, HTML, general purpose markups, document ones, lightweight markups, and others. It’s most likely you’ve run across HTML, XML, and XHTML so far.

ML is a general notion that describes the language, which annotates text the way the PC can manipulate it. Best known markup tags are < and >. Text within them is considered to be a part of the markup language. The text outside it is an annotated text.

For example, <br> <p>That’s how HTML looks like. </p> </br> In other words, markup language is a set of specific rules to follow.

Schema.org

This is another way to tell Google what your web pages are about.

Back in 2011, Schema.org was launched by Bing, Google, Yahoo, and later Yandex. They intended to create a common set of schemas for structured data markup.

Much of this markup language’s vocabulary was inspired by some earlier formats, such as FOAF, OpenCyc, and microformats.

markup language’s vocabulary

There are 3 major formats in schema.org:

JSON-LD

Since September 2017, Google has started actively supporting JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data format and recommends using it whenever possible. This format aims at organizing and connecting data on the Web in a way that is both easy for machines to parse and for humans to comprehend and write. In other words, this format allows providing a small block of code written in JavaScript that tells what price belongs to which item instead of adding schema.org attributes to individual elements of the web page.

JSON-LD structured data

Microdata

This format is used to nest data within HTML content. It uses HTML tag attributes to mark certain text as structured data and make it readable for machines.

microformat markup language

RDFa

Resource Description Framework in Attributes format adds attributes to XML-based document types. It offers 5 HTML attributes – vocab, prefix, typeof, property, and resource - that correspond to content available to users. This very content you intend to describe to the search engines.

RDFa vicabulaty

RDFa markup language

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are easy to understand. They are one of the examples for Schema realization and mean structured data markup which gets added to the existing HTML. This makes specific data more understandable for the search engines.

Without an employed rich snippet, such data as site title, URL and the meta description you entered for the page are normally shown on a SERP.

Rich Snippets in Google SERP

With rich snippets, more information gets to be displayed: reviews, ratings, people, video content, certain products, their brief descriptions, and more.

Rich Snippets with star rating

A few lines of extra data are crucial for customers’ decision-making and has been proved to increase CTR.

In fact, Google offers the tool - Structured Data Markup Helper - that allows adding such markups to a targeted page. You are offered to select such data types as articles, local business, restaurants, movies, etc.

Structured Data Markup Helper

After you select the necessary type, you’ll be redirected to the entered webpage to specify certain tags, such as:

Structured Data Markup Tags

After you specify the required fields, you’ll be offered a script block with structured data to be added to the head section of your HTML:

script block with structured data

Here’s how Google responds to structured data markup:

  • New markups get analyzed 10 to 14 days after initial introduction on site.
  • If everything is correct, rich snippets for some pages will be shown. However, in about 5 days, rich snippets will disappear.
  • In a couple of days, rich snippets for the same or new pages will appear. This may repeat several times.
  • Only in about 8 weeks – if no errors are discovered – your website web pages are likely to get permanent rich snippets.

Wrap Up

Understanding ‘structured data’, ‘markup language’, ‘schema.org’ and ‘rich snippets’ is crucial for SEO of your website. This work is tedious, but must be carefully done to bring fruitful results.

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