How to implement structured data (schema) without needing a developer's help
A practitioner's guide to just "getting the job done" yourself
When I first started learning structured data —> some very helpful folks sent me to schema.org.
If you’re not familiar, schema.org is home to one of the richest libraries of information meant to help you understand the full capabilities and implementation of schema.
I fully endorse digging into this resource.
As a novice without a strong technical background - I found myself at an initial crossroads.
The developer at the agency I was working for wasn’t super enthusiastic about the new “SEO guy” coming in and redirecting his day for something he also wasn’t super familiar with.
The quick and dirty explanation of schema for those that are unfamiliar
Schema, or structured data, uses JSON-LD to clearly communicate to Google what the important things on a page are.
Essentially, effective implementation helps remove the guesswork for Google related to what type of page a user or the bot is on (e-commerce product, article, recipe, FAQ - etc.) - as well as what the important parts of that page are (author, price, ingredients, steps, question, image, etc.)
They’re like highly informational labels.
The secret tool for getting the job done yourself
When I needed to get the job done without the proper know-how or support - I stumbled across a tool that made schema as simple as a form fill 👇
This is a handy chrome extension that I’ll show you how to weaponize as part of your SEO arsenal of FREE tools, below.
To start, what does this tool, let you do?
I’m glad you asked.
If you open it up on any page, it will showcase two things within its standard UI.
1. See what type of schema is currently on that page
If you’ve set up the chrome extension, hop onto the following recipe page - Pillsbury’s Classic Chicken Pot Pie page
Now in the upper right-hand corner of your browser, open the Schema Builder extension.
The first thing you’ll notice as your eyes move down the right side of the page is that the extension has detected the implementation of schema already (this will be important later).
How does this schema manifest on the SERPs? …By allowing this page to qualify for certain rich snippet features such as the recipe carrousel.
Simply type in “chicken pot pie recipe” into Google search and below is what you’ll see.
The structured data that Pillsbury has applied to that page allows them to enter review ratings, the time it takes to cook, ingredients, and more.
If you want to see everything they entered, go ahead and click the view markup option from the extension dropdown we were just looking at while on the Pillsbury recipe page.
If you click “view markup” - you’ll see the actual markup as it's technically laid out.
BUT if you want to play the game on “easy” mode - select the edit symbol next to “view markup.”
This will show you how they would have successfully entered each part part into the extension to generate that exact script.
What you’ll see:
Why this view is important for beginners:
What I think is so valuable about the above view, is that not every part of the actual entry is intuitive (at least it wasn’t for me).
Look at how the Prep Time and Total Time are entered:
You can probably guess what’s being communicated, but I’d bet you’d enter those incorrectly if you were coming in blind.
2. Choose a schema to start building code for
You can select any of the options listed under the “Choose a Schema Type to start with” and a simple form fill will open up.
If I click on the article tab, it will open up like below:
This will allow you to simply enter the necessary information. Once it’s entered, simply click the “view markup” button in the upper right-hand corner.
That will allow you to copy the JSON-LD script to easily paste it on whichever page you’re looking to apply the schema to.
Another helpful note:
Notice the red and yellow tags next to each attribute denoting whether or not it’s “required” or just “recommended.”
Not ever attribute is required to get the rich results you’re looking to obtain. You’ll also notice that GSC might send you some messages about whether your markup is valid or valid with warnings.
Valid with warnings DOES NOT mean that something is broken. You can fix it if it drives you crazy to see these warnings. But you’re not risking your rankings, etc. if you see these.
Simple process for getting it right every time when using the tool
Step 1 - Find a competitor who had already implemented the schema correctly
Step 2 - Use the extension to look at their entries to ensure I was properly filling part of the form.
Step 3 - Build out my own schema and copy markup
Step 4 - Apply the script to the page OR send it to the developer to apply the script
Schema isn’t about direct ranking results
Schema is about how your content displays on the SERPs and how Google understands what a page is. It’s not about ranking your content.
If you apply schema to your FAQ page, you’re not more likely to end up in the People Also Ask questions. You’re more likely going to see FAQ drawers under your listing (see image below):
It can indirectly impact your position on a SERP. I know that sounds a lot like rankings, but it’s not.
For example, if there is a product carrousel or a recipe carrousel on the SERP, Google will only put you in those spots if it fully understands what type of page you’ve created.
It doesn’t have anything to do with how you rank, it’s about delivering the right experience.
If we look at the chicken pot pie SERP again, you can see that the “Recipe” carrousel is in position #1 or position #0. Below that SERP feature is where the actual “ranked” content starts.
Pillsbury is taking advantage of both positions. 1 is the result of structured data/schema, the other is the result of matched search intent and backlinks/authority.
But if Pillsbury were to remove that structured data, they’d still have that ranked position. They’d lose their spot in the recipe carrousel.
Some quick notes about the newsletter
Thank you all for your patience as it’s been nearly 2 months since the last issue came out. Between some new opportunities for guest posts, podcast spots, vacation, and getting Covid, I’ve been pulled in a number of directions.
I’m going to get back into a more consistent cadence. And to help myself do that, I’m going to make these practical yet more “bite-sized.”
The previous ones took me 10 hrs across multiple days to complete. I think I can deliver as much value but broken down into smaller sections on a regular basis.
Hopefully, that works for both you and for me.
Have a great rest of your weekend and get started applying your own schema!