Structured Data, aka Semantic Markup, is markup that provides additional information to computers (search engines) about data the computer is reading. In layman’s terms Structured Data is a specific way of writing html (or some other code) to tell search engines what kind of information is being presented, ie Hey Google this is an article, this is a review, this is a recipe, this is a contact card etc.
A schema is a basic model for an object. The schema for a person for example would tell a search engine that a person has a name,birthday, address, phone number, etc. Schema.org is an initiative launched in 2011 by Bing, Google, and Yahoo! to create support for a common set a schemas for Structured Data on the web.
There are a number of ways to markup a schema on a webpage the most popular and commonly supported include:
The more information you can provide to search engines the better for you. One example of this is a review. When new products come to market many people want to read reviews about it, so if a person is looking for a shinynewphone review, and Google or Bing can see that your web page is a review of shinynewphone it’s more likely that they will present your page in the search results than a page that isn’t explicitly marked up as a review. Notice in the image below the first two results after the news stories have review markup, the second result also has a video.
Google is probably doing more with Structured Data than any of the major search engines, displaying not only star ratings for reviews but also video snippets,images for products, recipes, and authors. Google is also using structured data for it’s knowledge graph which apears in the side of search rankings as well as for Google Now cards which apear in its mobile app. This extra visual stimulation can make your content a lot more attractive to search engine users resulting in a higher click through rate for your SERPS
Structured Data can be added by anyone familiar with html markup. Google also has a Structured Data Markup Helper to help site owners add Structured Data to pre existing web pages. Types of data (schemas) supported by the tool include articles, book reviews, events, local businesses, movies, products, reswwwrants, software applications, tv episodes, and tv episodes with ratings, the type for formats it exports are Microdata, and JASON-DL. Once you have Structured Data added to your site Google has another handy little tool called the Structured Data Testing Tool that you can use to test your data and preview what it may look like in search results.
Are you already using Structured Data on your site? If so what has been your experience with using Structured Data?