Structured Data is machine readable HTML that conforms to agreed standards. Structured Data helps ‘bots to overcome any misunderstanding there may be about what the data on a webpage means. As an example, think about this address:
51 ABC Street West Pymble NSW 2073 Australia
The address above is how Google may see an address even if the address is presented on a webpage on multiple lines. In the example address how is Google to know whether the street number and address is 51 ABC Street or 51 ABC Street West and then is the locality West Pymble or Pymble? Although a similistic example it does demonstrate the problem when we are defining an absolute defined value using plain text. With Structured Data (schema.org in the example) we’d add the address HTML as
<div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress">51 ABC Street</span>, <span itemprop="addressLocality">West Pymble</span>, <span itemprop="addressRegion">NSW</span>, <span itemprop="addressCountry">Australia</span>, <span itemprop="postalCode">2073</span></div>
It is clearly identified in the Structured Data that the Street Address is 51 ABC Street and the Locality is West Pymble. Search Engines will no problem in being certain of the various values.
Is Structured Data new?
Because Structured Data is now so easy to generate and add to a website (WordPress websites included), many think that it’s very new (and untested). In fact, the opposite is true …
There are numerous commonly used Structured Data standards in use, most specifically schema.org, Microformats and RDFa. The good news is that Google, Bing and Yahoo have all agreed to settle on indexing schema.org going forward. Microformats and RDFa will continue to be recognized by the major Search Engines for the near future but if you’re starting out using Structured Data (also called Rich Snippets data by Google) then it’s definitely best to use schema.org (why not use our free schema.org generators for your website – great for SEO).
Which major websites use Structured Data?
Very many of the busiest websites use Structured Data. Because many have been displaying Structured Data for several years, there is a broad mix of the various standards. Here are a few examples of where structured data is being used on popular websites.
TripAdvisor uses RDFa
TripAdvisor, the immensely popular travel website, uses Structured Data in various ways. The most obvious is that RDFa is used to markup hotel name and address details. In the image above the name of the hotel ‘Shangri-La Hotel Sydney’ and the address is all encoded. The HTML is as follows (notice that the RDFa v:name and v:address are used).
<h1 id="HEADING" rel="v:name"> Shangri-La Hotel Sydney </h1> <span rel="v:address"> <span class="format_address"><span class="street-address" property="v:street-address">176 Cumberland Street,The Rocks</span> | <span class="extended-address">Sydney 2000</span>, <span class="locality"><span property="v:municipality">Sydney</span>, <span property="v:region">New South Wales</span> <span property="v:postal-code">2000</span></span>, <span class="country-name" property="v:country-name">Australia</span> </span> </span>
Zagat uses Schema.org
Zagat uses schema.org to markup various data. The ratings are easily understood by the search engines due to them using structured data. As an example of the schema.org markup being used, the review per the image above (for Pampas Steakhouse in Atlanta) is output with the following HTML (note the reference to http://schema.org/Review).
<div class="place-editorial-review" itemprop="review" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/Review"> <p itemprop="reviewBody">For “suburban steaks that rival the best in town”, this Johns Creek Argentinean steakhouse is a “great all-around experience”, purveying oak-grilled chops and an “excellent wine list” in dark, wood-lined digs; “exemplary service” enhances the “festive atmosphere”, and “special-occasion” price tags are part of the experience.</p> </div>
LinkedIn uses Microformats to markup Structured Data
Structured Data is extremely well suited to the matching that Social Media sites use. As an example of how Social Media uses Structured Data, the above image (of the very handsome young man 😉 ) shows a bit of a LinkedIn profile. The profile details are encoded using Microformats. The HTML is (I’ve reduced the size of the HTML a bit but the main Structured Data bits are there to see)
<div class="profile-card vcard"><span class="n fn"><span class="full-name">Gary Eckstein</span></span></div>
In summary, Structured Data is already used extensively and is indexed and displayed by the major Search Engines. Structured Data is simple to implement on a WordPress Website and it will be advantageous from an SEO perspective to use Structured Data markup where relevant.