In order to help search engines understand a website and its pages, the website creator uses structured data. The structured data is basically a format of describing the website to the search engines. In order for the search engines to understand the content of the web pages, the content is changed to code. The search engines read the code, process it easily and display the search results in a rich way. Here â€˜richâ€™ means additional info or more details are readily available on the search result for the users, so they can get those details even if they didnâ€™t primarily search for those details. These rich search results are known as â€œrich snippetsâ€. The website owner or the designer can easily put the code on the website.
As the owner of the website you can use structured data on the site to make it easy for the search engines to read the code and understand how much additional information can be made available for the users. However, there is no guarantee that the rich data will be picked up by the search engines.
Put the code on the site and leave it up to the search enginesâ€¦and hope that they pick it up some day.
Googleâ€™s John Mueller has recently confirmed that Google is not reading unsupported structured data from websites. This is as opposed to what he said earlier in February this year. He said, Google would like to read unsupported structured data for a better understanding of what a site or a page is about, but it would not necessarily consider the page for ranking on the search results page as a rich result. According to him, unsupported structured data helps Google understand various entities on a page better. He further clarified this by saying that Google can use the unsupported structured data to understand the entities like nouns, persons, places and things. The entity could be a car (for example, Jaguar the car, not Jaguar the animal). It may not use that data type as a ranking factor, but it would still read the data.
However, in his recent discussion on the 4th of December during the SEO office-hours live stream, Mueller answered a question submitted by a site owner by saying, â€œThere is probably no benefit at all and probably also no harm there. In general we recommend using structured data for the elements you want to have visible in the search results. And the ones we have visible are based on the properties that we have documented.â€
Letâ€™s understand what he actually wanted us to know.
Google doesnâ€™t need to learn anything unique about a page from the structured data as it gets all the information about the page from the page.
Google only reads the structured data it supports in the search results.
Google crawls structured data in order to use the collected information for displaying the rich results in search, not to learn more about the page.
So, the content on the page is very important for Google to find the required information about the page. The content must be visible to Google. The structured data that is not visible on a page wonâ€™t be of any importance to Google as it wonâ€™t be seeing or crawling structured data that is not visible.
Unsupported structured data types can be added to the site without adding any visual elements on the page. According to Mueller, Google would probably not get any unique information about a site from the structured data. And structured data that is not supported will no way give any ranking advantage to the websites.
Here is what Muller has stated, â€œSo if you add structured data for things we donâ€™t use for visible rich results, then we can crawl those pages normally, we just donâ€™t use that kind of extra information.â€ Any site owner or webmaster doing this kind of activity wonâ€™t do any harm to their website, but it wonâ€™t do any good in terms of SEO ranking. That is now confirmed!
Key Takeaways for Site owners and SEO guys
There is not much for website owners and SEO guys to worry about. They are free to engage in using structured data either supported or not supported, but if they have been doing this with the hopes of getting some ranking advantage in the rich snippets sections of Googleâ€™s search results pages, this wonâ€™t be possible. Googleâ€™s John Mueller has made it clear in his SEO office-hours live session on the 4th of December.
So, letâ€™s discuss some of the key takeaways from what Mueller said and what Google actually wants as follows.
If you are implementing structured data, try and stick to what can give you an advantage. Markup types that are supported by Google are able to give your site or web pages some benefits in terms of ranking. Pages with Google-supported structured data can be displaced as rich snippets on the search results.
When Google wants to introduce new types of rich results, it looks for a markup type that wasnâ€™t already supported. So, it can be believed that unsupported structured markup types may be supported by Google at a later date. Thereâ€™s No guarantee about that, but it may happen.
With that in mind, you can actually add a variety of structured data (both supported and unsupported) in order to add authenticity and depth to your site or pages although you cannot predict what Googleâ€™s going to do next.
Donâ€™t use structured data in inappropriate places. The structured markup has to be relevant to the content. If an article is not a genuine â€œHow toâ€ guide, there is no point of adding a â€œhow toâ€ markup to the article. Inappropriate use of structured markups can give an impression to Google that you are trying to manipulate the search results, which in turn can work against your siteâ€™s ranking and SEO score.
Whether you are doing SEO, publishing on-page of off-page content or doing any other form of search engine marketing be sure to follow Google guidelines always. Thatâ€™s the only way you can make your website future-proof for Google.