structured data for website seo

What is Structured Data and How Does it Impact SEO?

Wondering what structured data is and how it impacts SEO? 

Maybe you’ve heard about “schema markup” and “rich snippets.” These things are all related.

In this article, we’ll explain what structured data is and why it’s important for SEO. Plus you’ll learn how to add it to your pages today.

It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Even a beginner can do it.

What is Structured Data for Websites?

Structured data is a method to add “tags” to your website content so Google understands it better.

For example, recipe pages can have tags marking:

  • Ingredients
  • Time of preparation
  • Star rating average
  • Total number of ratings

“How To” pages have tags marking:

  • Steps
  • Supplies needed
  • Time to complete project

Unlike blog post tags, these tags (called “properties”) are invisible to readers. The tags are added to the HTML code of an individual webpage.

Here’s a list of structured data ‘tags’ – from a review of the Yellowstone TV series.

structured data properties

In the example you can see that each tag is a label for related information. For example, the “genre” is “Drama” and “Western.”

Structured Data for SEO: Benefits

Labeling your content with structured data tags has 2 main benefits.

  • It helps Google understand your page content better.
  • It makes your pages eligible to be displayed as rich snippets.

Higher Click-Through Rates (CTRs)

Rich snippets are a big deal. They can deliver significantly higher click-through rates.

You can think of a rich snippet as a super-deluxe display in search results. Take a look.

Here’s a standard search snippet.

standard search snippet

And here’s a rich snippet.

ecommerce rich snippet example

Which would you rather have? It’s easy to see why rich snippets attract more click-throughs.

On average, rich snippets get 17% higher click-through rates (CTRs) compared to standard search snippets. And of all rich snippet types, FAQs get the highest CTR (87%) of all search results. (Source: Milestone Research.)

Thanks to structured data, two expandable FAQs appear at the bottom of this TripAdvisor search snippet. Clicking on the FAQs reveals additional links.

There are many other types of rich snippet displays, including for courses, books, and events.

Appear in More Search Queries

Adding structured data has another benefit too. Your content can show up in more search queries.

For example, your recipe pages can show up in searches people make for combinations of ingredients and/or cooking time.

This is because these details are tagged with structured data.

What is Schema Markup?

If you’ve been reading about structured data, you’ve probably heard of “schema markup.”

  • Structured data refers to the way your content is tagged. It includes rules and it has its own vocabulary.
  • Schema markup is the code for the tags. It communicates the structured data to Google.

So how do you get this markup added to a web page?

It’s actually quite easy.

Get Started: Add Structured Data With Just a Few Clicks

WordPress users can add structured data easily, with no technical knowledge.

To do this, we recommend that you download and install the All in One SEO (AIOSEO) plugin.

The plugin has thousands of 5-star ratings on It’s currently used by over 3 million sites.

aioseo homepage

You can get started with this article How to Add Rich Snippets to WordPress.

  • All it takes to add schema is a few button clicks.
  • And for some items, you’ll fill out a form.

By default, AIOSEO adds the “Article” schema type to your pages. But there are plenty of other types to pick from.

What Schema Types Can I Add?

All in One SEO (AIOSEO) offers the most popular schema types, listed below.

You can add more than one schema type to a page. For example, if you have a blog post about an event and you have some FAQs on that page you could add:

  • FAQ schema
  • Event schema
  • (“Article” schema is added by default.)

Browse the list to find the “type” that matches what your web page is about.

Then click the link to get instructions for adding that schema type.

All in One SEO (AIOSEO) Schema Types With Instructions

All of these are easy to add. And all of the instructions are similar, with minor differences.

When you log in to your WordPress editor, from the AIOSEO dashboard, you can find additional schema items:

  • Knowledge Graph:Add your information by filling out a form. (AIOSEO » Search Appearance » Global Settings)
  • Breadcrumbs:Add breadcrumb navigation with 1 click (AIOSEO » General Settings » Breadcrumbs)
  • Local business schema markup:Fill out a short form to activate.(AIOSEO » Local SEO)
  • Sitelinks search box: Enable it with 1 click. (AIOSEO Settings » Search Appearance » Advanced)

Calling all Coders: Try Out Google Codelab

If you enjoy learning about code, and want to learn how to add structured data manually, check out the Google Codelab tutorial.

Or read our article: How to Add Schema Markup to WordPress Without a Plugin.

Measure Impact

As Google suggests, you can measure the impact of adding structured data to your pages by comparing marked up pages with plain pages.

  • When making comparisons, choose pages that are similar.
  • You can measure performance in Google Search Console or Google Analytics.

An alternative is to use a plugin like ExactMetrics or MonsterInsights. Both of these will display traffic information directly in your WordPress dashboard. And both pull that information from Google Analytics.

If you’re curious about how structured data works, read on. Otherwise feel free to skip to the conclusion.

Optional: Some Nerdy Details on Structured Data

For Google to provide special visual elements to your search results, like star ratings and prices, it needs information about your page presented in a standardized format.

Structured data tags (like “description” or “person”) come from a list of options developed and maintained on the website. These tags are called “Properties.

Examples of properties are:

  • Location
  • Organizer
  • Sponsor.

Types are organized sets of properties.

For example, Event is a schema “Type” that can include the following properties.

  • doorTime
  • duration
  • startDate
  • endDate
  • location
  • organizer.

The specific properties used for a particular event page will depend on the type of event. For example, a music concert might include these properties.

  • composer
  • performer

The structure of information is called a schema, which means “plan.” This is where the term “schema markup” comes from.

When you use a plugin like All in One SEO (AIOSEO) to apply schema, you’ll fill out a form providing information for only the properties that are relevant to your page.

How Many Types of Schema Are There? houses almost 800 types of schema. Google supports 31 types for rich results. And this limited set of types is what’s used to improve website SEO.

Markup Languages Used for Schema

The code for schema markup is written in one of three markup languages.

  • JSON-LD: JSON for Linking Data
  • RDFa: Resource Description Framework in Attributes
  • Microdata

Of these 3, Google recommends JSON-LD. And that’s what the AIOSEO plugin uses.

What is a Rich Results Test?

Google’s Rich Result Test is a free tool you can use to test a page for the presence and accuracy of structured data. You can also preview what your rich snippet would look like in search results.

The All in One SEO (AIOSEO) plugin enables you to run the Google Rich Results Tests directly from your WordPress editor. (Learn How to Run a Rich Results Test in WordPress.)

Not Just for Websites: Other Uses of Structured Data

Big data, the processing of massive amounts of data to acquire insight, is a bedrock of business intelligence and research. And structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data all play a role.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms can be used to glean patterns from this data to improve business operations and reduce costs.

For example, a French bakery used predictive analytics to discover that people buy more pastries on rainy days. They used that insight, along with weather reports, to plan the amount of pastries they prepared each day.

These analytics are also used to predict customer churn, energy consumption, and revenue, among other forecasts.

vaasan home page
Following the pandemic, Finnish bakery Vaasan Ltd. started using AI to improve planning by predicting energy consumption and cost trends. (Source: IBM)

The explosion of data has led to creation of new businesses, spanning:

  • Data-driven business strategy consulting
  • Data modeling and data mining
  • Data analysis
  • Data warehouses (also called data lakes)
  • Development of relational databases and non-relational databases. (Sometimes referred to as SQL databases and NoSQL databases. (SQL stands for “Structured Query Language” and NoSQL for “Not Only SQL.”)

Structured Data, Unstructured Data, and Semi-Structured Data

As you read about structured data you’ll likely see comparisons of it to “unstructured” and “semi-structured” data. This refers to how well-organized the data is.

To understand the difference, replace the word “data” with “things.” We all have things in our lives that are organized (structured), semi-organized (semi-structured), or unorganized (unstructured).

These “things” could be our closets, vacation plans, or hobby collections.

Imagine your hobby is collecting rocks and minerals.

  • If your rocks are in a pile in your garage, we’d say they were unorganized (unstructured).
  • If your rocks were partially labeled, but not fully organized, we could say they were semi-organized (“semi-structured”).
  • And if your rocks were all carefully labeled and sorted according to type, and displayed neatly in rows on shelves, we could say your collection is organized (“structured”).

Organizing things (and structuring data) makes it easier to understand, analyze, and use them.

smithsonian azurite sample
The Smithsonian museum’s collection of rocks and minerals is highly organized in online and in-person displays. Each specimen is carefully labeled with details about where it was taken from, its size, which specific Smithsonian collection it can be found in, and more.

Examples of Structured Data

A spreadsheet with rows and columns is a familiar tool to structure data. For example, a business might have a spreadsheet of prospects, with names listed in rows, and columns for company and contact information.

structured data spreadsheet

Website sitemaps are another example. Written in XML (Extensible Markup Language), they use tags to turn website content into a structured map that search engines read.

xml sitemap as structured data
This is an example of a sitemap. Sitemaps are important for SEO; the AIOSEO plugin generates and updates sitemaps automatically for you.

Examples of Semi-Structured Data

Emails, social media posts, and web pages are everyday examples of semi-structured data. They have some structure, but the content varies widely, and may include images, text, audio, numbers, tables, and so on.

Examples of Unstructured Data

A recording of a conversation or lecture is a simple example of unstructured data.

In its raw form, the recording doesn’t include labeled sections, a description of the content, dates, or other pertinent information.


What’s Next?

We hope this post helped you understand what structured data is, how it can boost your SEO, and how to add it to your website.

Next, explore our article on how to avoid SEO scams and discover a simple explanation of Google Knowledge Graph.

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author avatar
Sherrie Gossett Content Writer
Sherrie is an SEO analyst based in New Hampshire in the United States. When she’s not busy researching, implementing, and writing about new SEO developments, she can be found hiking and playing guitar.

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