Major Structured Data Updates From Google

As technology advances, so do the algorithms and updates from search engines like Google. A major update that has caught the attention of website owners and SEO professionals is the changes in structured data. In this video, we will discuss four changes to structured data and what you need to do to make sure your site can earn new rich feature opportunities.

Transcript:

Over the last few weeks, Google has made major changes to structured data markup and some rich features you can earn by implementing structured data correctly within your website.

Recent updates include:

  • Profile Page structured data
  • Discussion Forum structured data
  • Updates to Q&A markup
  • Organization structured data (a transformation of the old logo structured data into comprehensive organization data that can help businesses across the board).

Profile Page Structured Data

Profile Page structured data is designed to help with Perspectives. Perspectives is a new search feature that shows highlights from social sites or communities like Reddit or Quora. Profile Page schema markup is designed for sites where the creator (either a person or organization) shares their firsthand perspective on a specific topic. It can help Google Search highlight that information– who the creator is, their profile, follower count, and popularity–right within this Perspectives widget.

What are the required and recommended properties? You can see the complete list of these Profile Page opportunities at schema.org/ProfilePage. The biggest requirement is the main entity, which must be either a person or an organization. Once you expand on that person or organization, you will have several other features. The recommended properties that Google likes to see are “date created” and “date modified.”

It’s important to remember that just because these are the ones they put out on this page doesn’t mean these are the only things available to you. I recommend looking at the person and organization markup and seeing what other information you want to add to give your structured data a bit more of a rich element.

Discussion Forum Structured Data

The next type is Discussion Forum structured data. Again, it has to do with Perspectives. Discussion is about conversations within a forum or other site, like Quora or Reddit. You’re giving a firsthand experience.

This type of markup helps Google better identify a conversation or discussion that is going on within this forum and adds a new, unique perspective to show within the search results. Go to developers.google and look for the structured data appearance section and how this might apply to your site.

Now, this defines the original posting and the topic of that discussion. It’s generally text, but it is possible to have other media as well.

You need to have:

  • An author – the person or organization responsible for the content)
  • The author’s name – if you have an organization, you probably have a specific author.
  • The date published
  • Text, image, or video – must also be marked up.

You’ll notice that each of these types underneath the properties has more attributes you can add to them.

Make sure that you’re adding all of the attributes that make sense to add, and make sure that you’re doing it in a way that follows the guidelines. I cannot stress that enough. You need to make sure you follow the guidelines.

Q&A Markup Changes

One of the changes Google has made is within the Q&A markup. Because they’re starting to open a discussion forum, the original Q&A may not be as applicable as it used to be. Google said, “If you’re already using Q&A markup for your question and answer themed user forum, we are also updating the Q&A structured data documentation to be more in line with the richness of the new discussion forum guidelines.” (Source)

Google says do not use both types on the same page. Now, there are times when you’ll have multiple structured data types, and we’ve discussed that in many cases that may be applicable. But in this case, Google specifically tells you not to do both. Use one or the other. Make sure you decide the most suitable for your business case.

If you have a Q&A forum–structured with a question followed by an answer– use Q&A Markup. For example, someone asks a question on Stack Exchange, and other people provide answers. It also applies to Quora. Discussion Forum Posting might be more appropriate for a general forum where you have a forum structure, like Reddit. Just know what you need to be using for your specific case. (Source)

Organization Structured Data

Lastly, the big update is the change to Organization Structured data. Google used to call this Logo, and they only gave you Logo parameters for your business to use with any rich feature. For most businesses, you’ve been using Organization Structured data to provide information and details about your company. They’ve allowed this to be part of the Rich Review Test, and Google’s now using that information from your structured data to help inform the knowledge panels, including:

  • Administrative details
  • Logos
  • Address
  • Contact
  • Business identifiers

And you can use this markup in many ways, which will help Google make your organization more findable.

Some of the recommended properties:

  • Name
  • Alternate name
  • Legal name
  • Description

Take a look at this document from developers.google. Organization structured data has replaced Logo in the search panel. Google gives a lot of information about how to add structured data and some examples.

Notice the information in the following example:

  • Organization
  • The URL
  • Same as – followed by your social profiles.
  • Logo for your company.
  • Name of the company,
  • Description.
  • Your address
  • VAT ID
  • IOS code
  • Contact points
Google provides an example of Organization Structured Data.

Remember: Follow the guidelines. If you violate them, Google may not only ignore your structured data. Misuse of schema markup may cause Google to take manual action against you. Make sure that you follow the guidelines. Do not abuse the guidelines.

There are several different types of organizations, including local businesses. The recommended properties are name, legal name, logo, and description. Make sure that you find the logo guidelines (a minimum of 112×112). You must have your URL. Add “same as” and use your postal address. Add the number of employees. Anything you add will provide more context and credibility to your business.

Now, don’t force it, and don’t make it up. But if you have it and it is available, I highly recommend expanding your organization markup. Here, Google’s showing the rich features snippet, but there’s a lot more you can look into here on schema.org.

How To Add Structured Data

Follow these five steps to get it indexed properly and allow your site to rank for those rich features.

  1. Add the required properties.
  2. Follow the guidelines. Make sure you’re reading those guidelines. You know the properties that are there and add those. When they give you warnings, they’re doing so because it matters.
  3. Validate your code using the rich results test and fix any critical errors. You won’t show up for a rich feature if you’re not passing the Rich Results Test. Also, run it through validate.schema.org to make sure that everything’s working. Just because it validates on schema doesn’t mean it is passing rich results. You need to run both of these tests.
  4. Deploy a few pages that include your structured data and use the URL inspection tool to test how Google sees the page. You can find it in Google Search Console, and it will help you see how Google interacts with your page and whether they read your markup.
  5. To keep Google informed of future changes, we recommend that you submit a sitemap. Submit and update your sitemaps, and ensure that your sitemaps are a good reflection of your website. That way, Google knows what’s going on, and they can find those changes.

We have a few courses available if you want to grow even more with semantic search. Many changes happen all the time. This has been one of the most rapidly changing periods I’ve experienced in over ten years of SEO. If you want to learn more about semantic search and how to build your knowledge graph, understand entities, and take structured data to the next level, check out our courses at learn.simplifiedsearch.net.

Contact SMA Marketing
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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