At first we will explain what are structured data and why are they needed for a website. In this blog will walk through the structured data used in a blog post, what are they, why are they needed, where to test them and where to get more info.
What are structured data (rich snippets)?
Rich snippets are some html tags used around before every section of the website content. First of all you will start by putting the correct tag at beginning of you website based on it’s purpose so for example if it is a blog category you will start by:
<html dir="ltr" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Blog" lang="en">
This part will tell to a web-crawl that the purpose of this page is Blogging, and the web-crawl will search for other required data, like: Post title, post image, author, date created, date modified etc.
The rich snippets are used for almost everything that can be showed through the web, for a person (his work, address, his parents, siblings etc), for a product (product name, manufacture, price, rating etc), for an event (event name, event date, venue etc). So almost every section of a webpage can have it’s corresponding structured data.
The most used rich snippets format are RDFa (Resource Description Framework in attributes) and Microdata, other formats are: Microformats, <meta> tags and Page Date.
Based on a 2014 web crawl extraction the most used format by web developers for structured data is RDFa followed by Microdata.
Which one to use? It’s hard to say which one to use because everyone of them has it’s unique purpose but both RDFa and Microdata do almost the same so deciding between these two is up you. In most of the cases I will use Microdata as it is much more simple to use, both of them are HTML5 standards.
Which is the purpose of using rich snippets on our website?As we mentioned in the first section Structured Data are some HTML tags which are not visible on your website front page, so your visitors will not see them without viewing website source.
The purpose of structured data is to help a web crawls categorizing the information that they collect on a website or web application.
The most comune use of the information collected is showing it in a search result based on a user query to search on a search engine like Google.
If your website is not populated with the structured data then the crawl will show on a search result now all the information that a user may need or it will not show it as you thing that was going to be, so if you don’t add the appropriate tag for the image of you blog post it will not show up on a search result, or if you don’t add the posted date tag or author tag this info will not show up on a search result, as well websites with no structured data will have a lower SEO score and having lower SEO score means having less visitors on your website.
In general setting Structured Data correct in your website will increase the probability to show up in a search result which will increase your visitors numbers and as well will increase your website ranging among all search engines.
Where do you test your website Structured Data?
There are a lot of tools around the internet which will help you testing your structured data implementation but the mos used one is the one provided by Google (Google Testing Tool).
In the image above is a result from Google tool and as we see every tag entered on this test website has passed all the Google requirement. There is something in here to be mentioned: Not all the tags are required even if Google structured data tool shows an error for a missing tag.
As we see in the above image there is a error showed on the testing tool, the error tells us that the blog post is missing the publisher which has to be an organization, this is a tag required only by Google, I’m saying only by Google because it doesn’t make sens to be required, for example a personal blog will not have a publisher. As well logically it is not required for a blog post to have an image but this is a tag required by Google structured data testing tool.
What really makes sense to be required on a blog post is: Title tag, Author tag, Posted date tag and article body. Personally i think that all the other options has to be optional.
An example of error free blog post will as below:
<!doctype html> <!-- Main purpose of the webpage --> <html dir="ltr" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Blog" lang="en"> <head>styles and scripts will be included in here</head> <body> <!-- Blog post starts here --> <section itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/BlogPosting"> <!-- Headline - title tag --> <div itemprop="headline"> <h1 itemprop="name">The black cat</h1> </div> <!-- Posted date --> <time datetime="1843-08-19" itemprop="datePublished">August 19, 1843</time> <!-- Author tag --> <a href="#" title="Edgar Allan Poe" itemprop="author" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/Person"> <span itemprop="name">Edgar Allan Poe</span> </a> <!-- Main post image --> <figure itemprop="image" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/ImageObject"> <img src="img/the-black-cat.jpg" alt="The Black Cat"> <meta itemprop="url" content="http://shomtek.com/img/the-black-cat.jpg"> <meta itemprop="width" content="300"> <meta itemprop="height" content="374"> </figure> <!-- The post content --> <div itemprop="articleBody"> <p>Article content will go here</p> </div> <!-- Some invisible tags to satisfy Google --> <div class="invisible"> <a itemprop="mainEntityOfPage" href="your-canonical-post-url">The black cat</a> <meta itemprop="dateModified" content="1843-08-19" /> <div itemprop="publisher" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/Organization"> <div itemprop="logo" itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/ImageObject"> <img src="//www.shomtek.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/logo.png" alt="SHOMTek"> <meta itemprop="url" content="http://www.shomtek.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/logo.png"> <meta itemprop="width" content="292"> <meta itemprop="height" content="85"> </div> <meta itemprop="name" content="SHOMTek"> </div> </div> </section> </body> </html>
For more detailed information about Structured Data you can always visit the websites below, but be careful as you’ll lost :p