Do you have a recipe site? If so, you might already be using structured data to mark up your recipes so they can get highlighted in the search results. Good work! But, Google recently made some changes that might make your implementation incomplete. It also expanded the possibilities of structured data for recipes by bringing guidance into the mix. The result? Google Home can now read your structured data powered recipes out loud!

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Structured data, recipes and Google Home

Google is betting big on voice search. While voice search is still in its infancy, there are signs that we are moving towards a future where we are relying much less on our screens. There are many instances where talking to your digital assistant makes much more sense than typing commands. What’s more, the AI in digital assistants will become smarter and more apt at entering into a natural dialogue with you. We’re talking about a real natural language interface here.

A lot is going on right now. Take for instance that Google Duplex demo, showing a digital assistant calling a hairdresser to make an appointment. Joost wrote a post about Google Duplex and the ethics and implications. If AI is this smart, we need to take note.

To get voice search and actions to work, Google relies on structured data. Structured data makes it immediately clear what all the different parts of a page mean so search engines can use that to do cool stuff with. Google Actions, the big database featuring things you can let Assistant do, uses structured data. For instance, here is Google’s page on recipe actions — which is the same as the regular structured data for recipes documentation. If you want to learn all about structured data, please read our Ultimate Guide to Structured Data.

New rules, new results

Earlier this month, Google announced a new and improved way of targeting people who search for recipes. By adding the correct structured data, you can get your recipes read out load. Google even said that by implementing this you might: “receive traffic from more sources, since users can now discover your recipes through the Google Assistant on Google Home.”

But, when throwing random recipes from some of the largest recipe sites in the world into the Structured Data Testing Tool, you’ll find that hardly any fully comply with these new rules yet. What’s more, even the implementation of the recipe Schema.org itself is widely different between sites. That being said, there’s still a lot to win, even for the big boys.

As of now, Google recommends four new properties in addition to the ones you probably already use:

  • keywords: additional terms to describe the recipe
  • recipeCategory: in which category does the recipe fit?
  • recipeCuisine: from which region is the recipe?
  • video: use this if you have a video showing to make the recipe

You’ll see the recommendations in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool:warnings structured data testing tool

Guidance: reading it out loud

How cool would it be if your Google Home could assist while you were cooking? Not by setting timers and the like, but by reading the recipe for you. That’s now possible thanks to guidance. In addition to the four new recommended properties for structured data for recipes, Google states that:

“To enable your recipe for guidance with the Google Home and Google Assistant, make sure you add recipeIngredient and recipeInstructions. If your recipe doesn’t have these properties, the recipe isn’t eligible for guidance, but may still be eligible to appear in Search results.”

To get your Google Home to pronounce the steps of your recipes correctly, you need to set the value of recipeInstructions using HowToStep or HowToSection. The latter, of course, should be used if your recipe instructions consist of multiple parts or sections. You can also keep everything in one block of recipeInstruction, but then you are at the mercy of Google as it has to try and work everything out itself. If you have distinct steps, please use HowToStep and/or HowToSection.

Hello keywords, we meet again

In a move straight out of 1997, we see keywords pop up again. Google now recommends using the keyword property to add context for your recipes. Now, this shouldn’t be confused with the recipeCategory and recipeCuisine properties. It is an extra way of describing your articles using words that don’t relate to a category or type of cuisine. We’ll just have to wait and see if the spammers can keep themselves under control.

Getting into that carousel

One of the coolest ways to discover content is the swipeable carousel you see when you search for certain types of content on mobile. To greaten the chance of your site appearing in this overview you can add an ItemList with one or more ListItems to your content.

Now, Google is quick to add that it might not be necessary to add this if you only want to appear in the regular search carousel. If you throw several well-known recipes sites into the Structured Data Testing Tool you will see that hardly any have added ItemList to their pages. Still, they rank high and appear in the carousel. If, however, you want to have site-specific entries — like your list of 5 best chocolate cheesecake recipes, or another type of landing page with recipes — into that carousel you need to add the ItemList structured data. There are several ways of doing this; you can find out more on Google’s documentation pages.

Applying structured data for recipes

If you look at Schema.org/Recipe, you might be starting to go a little bit green around the gills. Where do you even start? It’s massive! These are all the properties you could add, but that doesn’t mean that you should. Google requires just a couple but recommends a lot more.

These are the required properties:

  • @context: set to Schema.org
  • @type: set to Recipe
  • image: can be a URL or a ImageObject
  • name: name of the dish

That’s it! But, as you might have guessed, this won’t get you very far. By providing Google with as much data about your recipe as possible, you increase the chance that Google ‘gets’ your recipe. After that, it can apply the rich results and corresponding Actions accordingly.

Here are the recommended properties:

  • aggregateRating: average review score for this recipe
  • author: who made it? Use Schema.org/Person
  • cookTime: the time it takes to cook the recipe
  • datePublished: when was the recipe published?
  • description: a description of the recipe
  • keywords: terms to describe the recipe
  • nutrition.calories: the number of calories. Use Schema.org/Energy
  • prepTime: how long do the preparations take?
  • recipeCategory: is it breakfast, lunch, dinner or something else?
  • recipeCuisine: where in the world is the recipe from originally?
  • recipeIngredient: every ingredient you need to make the recipe. This property is required if you want Google Home to read your recipe out loud.
  • recipeInstructions: mark up the steps with HowToStep or HowToSection with embedded ItemistElement with a HowToStep.
  • recipeYield: for how many servings is this?
  • review: add any review you might have
  • totalTime: how long does it all take?
  • video: add a video showing how to make the recipe, if applicable

To show you how this all translates to code, we need an example. So, here’s Googles example recipe in JSON-LD format. You’ll see that it is all obvious and pretty easy to understand. If you want to implement JSON-LD code on your page, Google Tag Manager might be your best bet.

<!doctype html>
<html amp lang="en">
  <head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>Party Coffee Cake</title>
    <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.ampproject.org/recipe-metadata.html" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,minimum-scale=1,initial-scale=1">
    <script type="application/ld+json">
     {
      "@context": "http://schema.org/",
      "@type": "Recipe",
      "name": "Party Coffee Cake",
      "image": [
        "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
        "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg",
        "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg"
        ],
      "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Mary Stone"
      },
      "datePublished": "2018-03-10",
      "description": "This coffee cake is awesome and perfect for parties.",
      "prepTime": "PT20M",
      "cookTime": "PT30M",
      "totalTime": "PT50M",
      "keywords": "cake for a party, coffee",
      "recipeYield": "10 servings",
      "recipeCategory": "Dessert",
      "recipeCuisine": "American",
      "nutrition": {
        "@type": "NutritionInformation",
        "calories": "270 calories"
         },
      "recipeIngredient": [
        "2 cups of flour",
        "3/4 cup white sugar",
        "2 teaspoons baking powder",
        "1/2 teaspoon salt",
        "1/2 cup butter",
        "2 eggs",
        "3/4 cup milk"
       ],
      "recipeInstructions": [
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x9 inch pan."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Mix in the butter, eggs, and milk."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Spread into the prepared pan."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm."
          },
          {
          "@type": "HowToStep",
          "text": "Allow to cool."
         }
      ],
      "review": {
        "@type": "Review",
        "reviewRating": {
          "@type": "Rating",
          "ratingValue": "4",
          "bestRating": "5"
        },
        "author": {
          "@type": "Person",
          "name": "Julia Benson"
        },
        "datePublished": "2018-05-01",
        "reviewBody": "This cake is delicious!",
        "publisher": "The cake makery"
        },
      "aggregateRating": {
      "@type": "AggregateRating",
        "ratingValue": "5",
        "ratingCount": "18"
  },
  "video": [
     {
    "name": "How to make a Party Coffee Cake",
    "description": "This is how you make a Party Coffee Cake.",
    "thumbnailUrl": [
      "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
      "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg",
      "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg"
     ],
    "contentUrl": "http://www.example.com/video123.flv",
    "embedUrl": "http://www.example.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123",
    "uploadDate": "2018-02-05T08:00:00+08:00",
    "duration": "PT1M33S",
    "interactionCount": "2347",
    "expires": "2019-02-05T08:00:00+08:00"
   }
  ]
}
</script>
  </head>
  <body>
    <h1>The best coffee cake you’ll ever try!</h1>
  </body>
</html>

Conclusion: Got a recipe site? Add structured data now!

Recipe sites are in a very cool position. It seems that they get everything first. By marking up your recipes with structured data, you can get Google to do a lot of cool stuff with your recipes. You can get them to pronounce it via Google Home or try to find other ways of interacting with them with Actions via the Assistant database. And this is probably only the beginning.

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

The post Structured data for recipes: getting content read out loud appeared first on Yoast.

You might know that structured data in the form of Schema.org can do wonders for your search results. It also forms the basis for an ever-increasing amount of new and exciting developments on the search engine front. Google has said many times that structured data is beneficial. You can even introduce structured data that Google doesn’t officially endorse yet onto your page. Today, we’re going to look at a new and exciting piece of structured data: the HowTo. This is a how-to about a how-to on HowTo: HowToCeption!

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What is structured data?

Structured data is a sort of translator for search engines – it adds context to code. By adding Schema.org code, search engines can instantly figure out what every piece of content means, semantically speaking. This gives search engines the power to do cool stuff with your content, like highlighted snippets in search results, the Knowledge Graph or the carousel. There’s structured data for books, articles, courses, events, jobs, local businesses, music, recipes, products, reviews et cetera. Structured data is getting more important by the day and we’ll see more types emerge in the coming years.

If you want to learn more about structured data and find out ow to implement it yourself so you can win those coveted rich results, you can enroll in our Structured data training!

What is HowTo structured data?

According to Schema.org, a HowTo is “an instruction that explains how to achieve a result by performing a sequence of steps.” You can use HowTo structured data to mark up articles that come in a how-to form, but that are not recipes. If there is an element of consumption, it should be a recipe.

HowTo Schema.org was introduced in April 2017, but there is no sign of it yet in search engines. But since Google is increasingly looking at structured data to do cool stuff with, it’s not hard to predict that HowTo will follow soon. Think off it this way, since your Google Home can now read your structured data powered recipes out loud, why shouldn’t it be able to read that how-to on how to fix a leaky faucet or change the busted lights in your kitchen cabinet? There is already talk of Google getting partners interested in a sponsored how-to video deal, as reported by CNBC, which might just be powered by HowTo Schema.org.

Experimental and no support — yet!

This tutorial is purely to let you see what this HowTo structured data is all about. There’s no need to rush out right away and start adding this to your site. But do keep an eye on this, though, because we think it will arrive sooner rather than later. We also don’t know yet how Google will support it and which properties and it will required to get it to function. So, don’t take this post as gospel. With that said, let’s get going!

HTML code

To start, we need a piece of HTML to test our HowTo on. This is going to be a very simple example of a basic page with some content. We are going to base our content on a Knowledge base article about connecting Yoast SEO to Google Search Console. We’re going to mark up every piece of the HTML with HowTo Schema.org in the form of JSON-LD, as this is the preferable format. The content is nothing special, just a couple of steps following instructions. Below you can find the HTML for this page, slightly truncated.

<div>
	<strong>How To Add Your Website To Google Search Console</strong>
	<div>Cost: Free</div>
	<div>Time needed: About 10 minutes</div>
	<div>Necessary items:</div>
	<div>Yoast SEO</div>
	<div>Google Search Console</div>
	<div>
	<div>Preparation</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		<img src="yoast_seo_search_console.jpg" />
		Install Yoast SEO and activate your Google Search Console.
		</div>
	</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		Tip: Did you know you can check and fix crawl errors directly from Yoast SEO?
		</div>
	</div>
	</div>
	<div>
	<div>Adding your site to Search Console</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		Go to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools), sign into your Google account and click the red button to add your website.
		</div>
	</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		<img src="yoast_seo_search_console_2.jpg" />
		Copy the code for the HTML tag under the Alternate Methods tab.
		</div>
		<div>
		Tip: Please make sure you enter your complete url.
		</div>
	</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		Copy the code for the HTML tag under the Alternate Methods tab.
		</div>
		<div>
		Log in to your WordPress website and cick on ‘SEO’ in your menu. After that, click on General.
		</div>
		<div>
		Click on the ‘Webmaster Tools’ tab and add the code under ‘Google Search Console’. Click ‘Save Changes’.
		</div>
		<div>
		Switch back to Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and click ‘Verify’.
		</div>
	</div>
	</div>
	<div>
	<div>Finishing up</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		Congratulations! You’ve connected your website to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools)!
		</div>
	</div>
	<div>
		<div>
		Now that you’ve verified and connected your website, you can submit your sitemap!
		</div>
	</div>
	</div>
</div>

Adding Schema.org

In the example, we’re breaking up the how-to in three parts: preparation, step-by-step directions and finishing the project. All three steps can be wrapped in a HowToSection, with individual HowToSteps and HowToDirections. You can even given an extra HowToTip if you want to add a relevant tip that can improve the job, but is not necessary for the end result. These are the building blocks that define the structure of the data.

So, let’s take a closer look at some of the parts used to build this how-to. Remember, there’s more to find on Schema.org/HowTo. These are some of the parts you will use often:

  • HowTo: To define that this data is a set of instructions to achieve something
    • Name: What’s the project called?
    • EstimatedCost: How much do the tools cost for instance?
      • MonetaryAmount: What currency is and for which amount?
    • TotalTime: How long does the job take? You can also specify a prepTime for preparation.
    • HowToTool: Which tools do you need? Maybe a hammer?
      • Supply: Do you need supply as well, like nails?
    • HowToItem: Which items do you need?
      • Name: Name of the item, list ‘em all
  • HowToSection: Is it preparation, starting or finishing up?
    • HowToStep: Every step needs its own type
      • HowToDirection: Descriptions for the step
      • BeforeMedia: An image of what the starting point looks like.
    • DuringMedia: You can add images or videos per step
    • AfterMedia: And even an image showing the endresult
    • HowToTip: if you want to give extra tips and tricks

You’ll see that the code is fairly straightforward: everything has a clear description. You can expand this code with a lot of properties from CreativeWork and some from Thing as well.

And now, the JSON-LD code

As you might know, JSON-LD is Google’s perfered data format for adding structured data. It’s easy to add since it isn’t embedded in the HTML code. In addition, it is very readable for humans. When running the code through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool you might see that some variations give errors. For instance, if you use howToItem to determine which tools you need, you get an error, but if you use HowToTool it works perfectly fine. Same goes for supply and howToSupply. Keep in mind that the difference between supply and tool is that the former is consumed while doing the job. A hammer is a tool, while nails are its supply. You need both to finish your work, right? In our example, I could add a ‘computer’, an ‘internet connection’ or a ‘website’ as supply if I wanted to. You can also add a yield to determine what the outcome of the workshop is.

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<script type="application/ld+json">
{
	"@context":"http://schema.org",
	"@type":"HowTo",
	"name":"How To Add Your Website To Google Search Console",
	"estimatedCost":
	{
	"@type":"MonetaryAmount",
	"currency":"USD",
	"value":"0"
	},
	"totalTime":"00:10:00",
	"tool":
	[
	{
		"@type":"HowToTool",
		"name":"Yoast SEO WordPress plugin"
	},
	{
		"@type":"HowToTool",
		"name":"Google Search Console account"
	}
	],
	"steps":
	[
	{
		"@type":"HowToSection",
		"name":"Preparation",
		"itemListElement":
		[
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			[
			{
				"@type":"HowToDirection",
				"description":"Install Yoast SEO and activate your Google Search Console.",
				"duringMedia":
				{
				"@type":"ImageObject",
				"contentUrl":"yoast_seo_search_console.jpg"
				}
			},
			{
				"@type":"HowToTip",
				"description":"Did you know you can check and fix crawl errors directly from Yoast SEO?"
			}
			]
		},
		{
		}
		]
	},
	{
		"@type":"HowToSection",
		"name":"Adding your site to Search Console",
		"itemListElement":
		[
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Go to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools), sign into your Google account and click the red button to add your website."
			}
		},
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			[
			{
				"@type":"HowToDirection",
				"description":"Copy the code for the HTML tag under the Alternate Methods tab.",
				"duringMedia":
				{
				"@type":"ImageObject",
				"contentUrl":"yoast_seo_search_console_2.jpg"
				}
			},
			{
				"@type":"HowToTip",
				"description":"Please make sure you enter your complete url."
			}
			]
		},
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Copy the code for the HTML tag under the Alternate Methods tab."
			}
		},
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Log in to your WordPress website and click on ‘SEO’ in your menu. After that, click on General."
			}
		},
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			[
			{
				"@type":"HowToDirection",
				"description":"Click on the ‘Webmaster Tools’ tab and add the code under ‘Google Search Console’. Click ‘Save Changes’."
			},
				{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Switch back to Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and click ‘Verify’."
			}
		}
			]
		}
		]
	},
	{
		"@type":"HowToSection",
		"name":"Finishing up",
		"itemListElement":
		[
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Congratulations! You’ve connected your website to Google Search Console (former Google Webmaster Tools)!"
			}
		},
		{
			"@type":"HowToStep",
			"itemListElement":
			{
			"@type":"HowToDirection",
			"description":"Now that you’ve verified and connected your website, you can submit your sitemap!"
			}
		}
		]
	}
	]
}
</script>

Adding structured data to your site with Google Tag Manager

Adding structured data requires you to edit the code of your pages. For most people, that requires help of their developers. There is an easier way, though. You can add structured data via the tags, triggers and variables available in Google Tag manager. What’s more, this way of adding your data gives you an extra amount of flexibility as you can save your variables and reuse them or even dynamically fill them. There are loads of options to explore. Annelieke wrote a post on how to add structured data to your site with Google Tag Manager.

A fun experiment

This was cool, right? Well, you might try to apply this on a live site, but keep in mind that search engines probably won’t do anything with it. Also, keep in mind that badly written or faulty structured data can do your site more harm than good. But — and there’s a big but —, since Google is heavily focusing on structured data and voice search via its Assistant, it’s fairly safe to say that howTo Schema.org will be next in line. As this is a new Schema.org, we’ll just have to wait for the official word from Google to arrive so we know how to apply this properly.

Read more: ‘Structured data: the ultimate guide’ »

The post How to add HowTo structured data to your how-to article appeared first on Yoast.

Everybody knows what the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) looks like. We’ve all been there. We cross that page with every search we do. Still, the page can look rather different depending on what you’re searching for. And, which of those results are paid for and which are not – the organic ones? In this post, I’ll explain all the elements of the Google Search Engine Results Page. 

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It depends on what you’re searching for

What the result page looks like largely depends on what you are searching for. If your searching for a product you can buy, Google will show shop results on the SERP. Like in this example, when I was searching ballet shoes for a toddler.

This results page starts with shopping results, the ones with the images on top. To get there, you’ll have to pay Google – note the word ‘sponsored’ in the upper right corner. After those results, the first result is an Ad, another paid result. And then the organic results start.

However, if you’re searching for information about the planet Neptune – because your son is writing an essay about that – you’ll encounter a totally different looking SERP:

These search results do not show any paid or sponsored results. And on the right end, you’ll notice a knowledge graph with lots of information about the planet Neptune.

Read more: ‘What is search intent?’ »

Browsing through the result page

The default page of Google’s search result is a page on which different results appear. Google decides which results fit your search query best. That could be ‘normal’ results, but also news results, shopping results or images. If you’re searching for information, a knowledge graph could turn up. When you’re searching to buy something online, you’ll probably get lots of shopping results on the default result page.

If you want to, you can apply some filters on the search results yourself. You can, for instance, click on ‘images’ if you’re searching for an image. This allows you to browse through images only. You can also choose ‘shopping’, ‘videos’, ‘news’ and ‘more’.

Sponsored results and ads

Google shows both paid results and organic results. It can be pretty hard to notice the difference between the two. The ads usually appear on top of the search results. Sometimes it’s only one ad, but Google can show more ads as well. This depends on how many people search for a certain search term and who wants to pay for it.

You’ll recognize the paid result by the word Ad shown in front of the link to the website. The shopping results in Google are also paid results: a company pays Google to appear in the shopping results. If you want to advertise on Google you should check out Google Adwords.

Organic results

The organic results in Google are all of the results that are not paid for. The organic results that are shown first are the results that fit the search query of the user best, according to Google’s algorithmSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is aimed to improve the chances to rank in the organic search results. 

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Snippets

The search result page consists of a number of snippets. A snippet is a result Google shows to the user in the search results.  A ‘normal’ snippet usually looks like this:

Google shows the title in blue, the URL in green and a description of what the page is about. You’ll also encounter rich snippets on the SERP. A rich snippet shows extra information between the URL and the description. A rich snippet looks like this:

In this snippet, a picture of the ice cream is added, you can see the rating of the recipe, the time it takes to prepare this type of ice cream and the number of calories it contains. A rich snippet contains much more information than the normal snippet does.

Keep reading: ‘What are rich snippets?’ »

Other elements on the SERPs

Besides snippets, images, videos, news results, shopping results and maps, Google also shows some other elements on the SERPs.

Knowledge Graph box

The Knowledge Graph box appears on the right side of the search results. According to Google, this information is retrieved from many sources, including the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. Information from the Knowledge Graph is used to answer spoken questions in Google Assistant and Google Home voice queries.

Answer boxes

An answer box appears somewhere between the organic search results. It’ll give suggestions for questions that relate to the search query you typed in. If you’re searching for Yoast SEO you’ll encounter this answer box between the organic search results. Clicking on one of the suggestions will give a direct answer to the specific question.

Featured snippets

A featured snippet is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. This featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results. Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image.

Read on: ‘How to get featured snippets’ »

Conclusion

Google’s SERPs can show various elements: the search results themselves (so called snippets), a knowledge graph, a featured snippet, an answer box, images, shopping results and more. Depending on the type of query and the data Google finds, some of these elements will show up. You can add data to your page, so Google can show a ‘rich’ snippet, providing more information about your product or recipe, for instance.

You can pay Google to make the snippet of your page end up high on the search results page as an ad. Or, you can optimize your pages for the search engines – and users! – so it will rank high organically. That’s SEO, and that’s what we write about!

Read more: ‘Yoast SEO: how to make your site stand out in the search results’ »

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You might have noticed: Google has made search results snippets longer. In the past it showed up to ~160 characters, now it can be much, much longer. We’re currently researching what this means for site owners. We’ve also changed the Yoast SEO recommendations for meta description length in expectation of the results of that research. In this article, I’ll go over what this change means for you and for us.

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TL;DR: Snippets can now be up to 320 characters or even longer in some rare cases. We’re researching new best practices. In the meantime, Yoast SEO’s green bullets will work differently. As of today, Yoast SEO will only give you an orange bullet if your meta description length exceeds 320 characters.

What changed in the search results?

Search result snippets are now much, much longer. This change came pretty much out of the blue, but it’s undeniable, a search for [what is a meta description] looks like this now:

Google search results for [meta description]

As you can see the featured snippet is exactly the same as the “normal” snippet for the blog post is now. The post has a meta description, which is much shorter, but Google grabs a “random” paragraph from the page and shows that instead.

Our hypothesis on a new snippet reality

Of course, this snippet isn’t “random” at all. This paragraph had explicitly been optimized for ranking in that featured snippet. In fact, it was optimized for that particular query and some very similar ones. Almost all the pages we’ve optimized for featured snippets now have those featured snippets showing as snippets in the normal search results too.

Our hypothesis is simple: Google grabs the “core paragraph” for a particular search query within an article. It then displays that paragraph as the snippet. Not entirely to our surprise, this would strengthen all our efforts on readability and better writing even more. We’ve been saying for a while: readability ranks.

The question is: can you still get your meta descriptions to show up? Our thinking here is that you probably can do that quite reliably if the meta description contains the searched-for keyword. Of course, your meta description length should also fit within Google’s new boundaries. But it seemed in preliminary searches, as though Google would favor slightly more keyword dense paragraphs from within the copy over a meta description which contained the keyword only once.

Another hypothesis we want to test in our research is whether deleting the meta description leads to better snippets.

The impact of this change

With longer snippets, you would expect the overall CTR of search results to drop slightly. People might find their answer in the search results; they might not need to click onward. So far we’ve not seen our own CTR go down, but we will monitor this closely for multiple sites.

Whether a CTR that goes down is bad for you depends on your key goals. For us, if people find an answer to their query in the search results, but associate it with the brand Yoast, we’re good. The branding value, in the long run, exceeds the possibility of you converting to a customer on the click. If your company relies on ad revenue though, you would probably look at this with a completely different perspective.

Our research

Here at Yoast, we feel a profound responsibility to give you the best feedback we can on your writing. And that includes feedback on your meta descriptions. Of course, this feedback has to be fact-based, which is why we are researching this change in-depth. We are currently researching with four equally sized groups of posts:

  1. A group of posts that will get a longer meta description, in which we’ll use the keyword only once.
  2. A set of posts that will get a longer meta description. We’ll use the keyword multiple times, evenly distributed across the meta description.
  3. A group of posts for which we’ll delete the meta description completely.
  4. Posts that will keep their old, handcrafted, shorter, meta description and will act as our control group.

Our research team will analyze the results of this research. After this we’ll probably do another test, with more sites, to try and corroborate our findings. At the same time, we are of course keeping up with posts by other SEO companies on the topic.

Changes to Yoast SEO

While we will have to determine new best practices, we know we have to change things as well. Our character limit for the meta description was just plain wrong. Today’s release of Yoast SEO fixes that and puts it at 320 characters. As our research continues, we might make further changes to our advice about meta descriptions.

Read more: ‘SEO Copywriting: the ultimate guide’ »

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Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: featured snippets can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get featured snippets.

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What are featured snippets

A featured snippet is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this featured snippet box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as a featured snippet not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?

Featured snippets often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.

Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield a featured snippets with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with featured snippets in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.

Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts

Now to understand the value of featured snippets, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.

Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get featured snippets to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.

How to write content for featured snippets

There are several ways to try and aim for featured snippets. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing for featured snippets:

  • Do your keyword research
  • Find out what people ask about your keywords/brand/product/service
  • Look at the ‘People also ask’ boxes for ideas
  • Use Answer the Public the find questions to answer
  • Check several current answers to see how it works
  • Find out where you could improve
  • Determine how to structure your content
  • Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
  • Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
  • Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
  • Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
  • Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
  • Not every search will yield a featured snippet (there are even regional variations)

To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the featured snippet. You don’t want people to read the featured snippet and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.

Featured snippets and structured data

There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get features snippets. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got a featured snippet. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.

If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting a featured snippet. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.

The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio

As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for featured snippets. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents featured snippets is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award a featured snippet box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”

Yes, you can do it too!

Aiming for featured snippets can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for featured snippets, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for featured snippets is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!

Read more: ‘Rich snippets everywhere’ »

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You’ve probably heard us talk a lot about structured data, Schema.org and JSON-LD. Schema structured data on your site can result in highlighted search results. In this article, we’ll show you how to implement structured data using the JSON-LD Schema.org markup on the pages of your site. Here, we’ll take a closer look at how to implement structured data with Google Tag Manager.

We’ve just launched a brand new training on structured data and SEO. This training has an introductory price of $119. On July 2, this will jump to the regular price of $149.

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Structured data with Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is a tool that can take your marketing to the next level without the need of a developer. It’s a tool that can easily add scripts or pieces of code to a page. There are several advantages to using Tag Manager to implement structured data.

For one, you can generate tags, triggers, and variables, which means that you can apply the same code again and again on different pages. For instance, if you have loads of recipes, you can create a tag with the variable “preparation time”, so the preparation time of every recipe will be taken from a recipe page. This means you won’t have to add the preparation time manually to the code of every single page. In the end, this will save you a lot of work.

In addition, Tag Manager features a preview mode, which allows you to check whether you successfully implemented your data immediately. Read the post Google Tag Manager: An Introduction to get started.

How Google Tag Manager works

First, you need to know about three important elements: Variables, Triggers and Tags. You can find these elements on the left-hand side of your workspace. A workspace is a place where you work on creating and adding pieces of code to your pages.

google tag manager structured data workspace

Tags

A tag is a piece of code that can be fired on a page of your website. You can put many things in a tag. For instance, you can add the Google Analytics tracking code in a tag. This tag will enable Google Analytics to track your website. Similarly, you can put your structured data code in a tag. In other words: a tag contains information as to what you want to add to a page.

Triggers

Tags only work when there’s a trigger attached. You need a way of telling Google Tag Manager under which condition a tag must be used, or fired, as we call it. If you have a structured data tag, the trigger tells Tag Manager on which pages to fire that tag. This is because it’s possible that not all your pages need a recipe structured data markup, for instance. Simply put, a trigger tells Tag Manager: “Please fire this tag on these pages, but not on these pages”.

Variables

Variables serve two functions. Firstly, triggers need variables to know whether or not to fire. Suppose Tag Manager runs on your page. If the value of the variable meets the conditions you set, the trigger will fire. This, in turn, allows the tag to work. Secondly, the variable provides Google Tag Manager with variable information. This means that the information can be different in different contexts. A Date Published, for example, will be different for every eBook you publish. If the trigger fires, Google Tag Manager will then fetch the specific value from the specific page it visits.

An example of a variable is the URL of a page, but you can use any element of a page as a variable. It could be an ‘Add to cart’ button, or the H1 of a page, for example. The most commonly used variables are predefined in Google Tag Manager. But things like buttons or the H1 are variables you have to define yourself. With variables, you can edit your code in such a way that it will take elements from the current page to use in a tag.

Adding JSON-LD to your site step by step

We’re going to guide you through implementing structured data on your pages. We’ll take the Schema.org type Course as an example. As stated, we’ll use JSON-LD markup. There are five steps to take:

  1. Make structured data
  2. Create tags and triggers
  3. Create variables
  4. Trigger your code
  5. Validate and publish

Step 1: Creating the structured data code

Produce structured data JSON-LD code, either by hand or by using Google’s Markup Helper. In this example, we’re using Course markup, which looks like this:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
  "@context": "http://schema.org",
  "@type": "Course",
  "name": "Site structure training",
  "description": "Learn how to create site structure for your site that makes Google understand your site and makes visitors go where they need to be",
  "provider": {
    "@type": "Organization",
    "name": "Yoast",
    "sameAs": "https://yoast.com/"
  },
      "offers": {
        "@type": "Offer",
        "price": "99",
        "priceCurrency": "USD"
  }
}
</script>

After you’ve created your markup, you have to get it ready for Google Tag Manager with Yoast’s JSON-LD Script Helper tool. Paste your code and hit Submit. The tool will create a piece of code you can use in Google Tag Manager. Copy it. You’ll need it for your new tag.

Step 2: Creating tags in Tag Manager

You’re ready to make your tags and triggers. Follow the steps below:

  • Make a new tag and give it a name (Site structure training, for instance)
  • Click Tag Configuration and choose tag type: Custom HTML
  • Paste code from the script helper tool
  • Check Support document.write
  • Hit Save

google tag manager structured data tag configuration

Step 3: Creating triggers

You need to add a trigger, so it knows when to fire the tag. You can do this on the same screen you see in the screenshot above, or directly from the Triggers screen in the Workspace. Click on the Triggering space in your new tag and choose the correct Page View. Hit Save. Your snippet is now implemented as is (see below for working with variables).

If there are no triggers yet, you can add them on the same screen. If you want a trigger to a specific page, you can copy the relevant piece of the URL and add it to a new trigger. So if you only want to trigger a tag on this page: https://yoast.com/academy/course/site-structure-training/, you need to copy the part /academy/course/site-structure-training/.

Hit the New or + button to add a new trigger. Give it a name and click on Trigger Configuration. Choose Page View from the list of trigger types and click on Some Page Views. You can now choose when the tag should trigger and which conditions should be met before it’s possible. In our case, we want to trigger the tag on https://yoast.com/academy/course/site-structure-training/. That’s why we’ll choose Page Path and Equals from the dropdown, and paste the URL into the empty box.

google tag manager structured data trigger configuration

Step 4: Creating variables

Variables make it much easier to implement the same structured data on many different sites. The variables can be found on the left-hand side of the workspace as well. You’ll see all predefined variables. There’s also an option for user-defined variables. To create a variable, click on New. After that, take the following steps:

  • Name the variable
  • Click on Variable Configuration
  • Choose Variable type
  • In this example: DOM Element

The fourth step depends on the type of tag or trigger you want to create. In this example, we’ll use a DOM Element. A DOM Element is a piece of your page, like a DIV, HTML and BODY. In this example, the DOM Element is the H1, which is the most important heading of the page.

Once you’ve clicked on the DOM Element, you need to choose which method you want to use to select a page element with. In this case, we’ll use a CSS Selector. By simply entering h1 into the Element Selector, you’ve created a variable that takes the H1 of a page.

If you want to use the meta description of a page, enter meta[name=”description”] and that variable will add the meta description of your pages.

google tag manager structured data variable configuration

Once you’ve created these variables, you can use them in your tags.

google tag manager structured data meta description

As you can see, you can use the H1 variable for the “name” and Meta description variable for the “description”. Now, the Course Schema.org markup sends the right name and description to Google.

Variables make this method of implementing structured data flexible and scalable. This way, you produce code that can be used in many places, without having to add it manually or change it for every instance. You only have to set up the tags once.

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Step 5: Test, saving and publishing

You’re ready to test your code. Tag Manager has a Preview mode that lets you test code before you publish it on a live site. Go to your Workspace to activate that mode.

In your browser, go to the page you’re implementing structured data on and refresh. You’ll see the Preview tab appear and this should show you the tags that fired. If you want to know more, you can go to the Window Loaded screen to see if your variables were executed properly. If all is well, your H1 variable should now show the same value that’s visible on the site (the title). Always test your code before publishing!

google tag manager structured data preview

If all the information displayed on this screen is correct, you can publish your tag. If there are still some flaws, go through the steps again.

To publish your tag, hit the Submit button you see at the top right. Give your version a descriptive name and press Publish. Once you’ve published your structured data tag, go to the Structured Data Testing Tool and enter the URL of the page that should now contain structured data. With this tool you can check if the structured data is implemented correctly:

google tag manager structured data end result

See no errors and warnings? Well done! If you do see errors, dive in more deeply and read what Google has to say about it.

Want to learn more about structured data? Try our brand new Structured data course!

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org and JSON-LD: the ultimate guide’ »

If you want your search results to stand out from your competition’s, you’ll need rich snippets. You’ll want to pimp your results with 5 star reviews, stock information or location, for example. To get a rich snippet, you have to learn to implement structured data. Our latest SEO course will teach you exactly how to do just that! If you buy the online structured data course now, you’ll receive a major discount. You’ll only pay $119 instead of $149.

Want rich snippets for your site? Try our Structured data training »

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Practical course

The structured data course is a very practical course. We’ll first teach you some theory about SEO and why structured data is important, but then we’ll quickly dive into the practical implementation. If you buy our course, you’ll receive lots of screencasts and step-by-step examples on how to implement structured data on your own site. We’ll teach you the fancy (but hard way) to do it, but also the less elegant, quick-and-easy way. Everyone – you don’t have to be a developer! – will be able to get going with structured data after they’ve completed this course.

Watch the first video of the structured data training if you really want to know what this course has to offer:

What does the Structured data training contain?

The Structured data training consists of three modules. In the first module, we explain what structured data is and why it’s important. The second module is by far the largest and most important module. In this module, we explain exactly how to implement structured data on your site. The third module teaches you how to evaluate structured data and provides you with some useful tips.

The online course contains 6 training videos, lots of reading material and challenging questions after every lesson. The questions will test whether you really understood the material. We estimate that you’ll spend 8 hours (on average) on our course. You’ll really need to dive into the subject to fully understand this SEO topic. At the end of the course, you’ll receive a certificate and a badge to put on your site!

Maybe you’ve heard about the concept of rich snippets. SEO experts seem to think everyone knows exactly what rich snippets are. But, for SEO newbies, a rich snippet is a really vague term. What are rich snippets exactly? Time to explain what rich snippets are, why they’re important for SEO and how you can get them for your site.

What are rich snippets?

A snippet is a result Google shows to the user in the search results. An example: I was searching for a good recipe for homemade ice cream and googled it. Google showed me a results list with normal snippets and rich snippets. A normal snippet usually looks like this:

Google shows the title in blue, the URL in green and a description of what the page is about. This is what we call the snippet, the thing Yoast SEO helps you to optimize with our snippet preview.

A rich snippet shows extra information between the URL and the description. A rich snippet looks like this:

In this snippet, a picture of the ice cream is added, you can see the rating of the recipe, the time it takes to prepare this type of ice cream and the number of calories it contains. A rich snippet contains much more information than the normal snippet does. That’s why we call it a rich snippet.

Why are rich snippets important for SEO?

Rich snippets stand out from the other snippets. They look much nicer and you’ll instantly know more, just by looking at them. You’ll know whether other people liked the homemade ice cream and how long it’ll take you to make it. Rich snippets are snippets that have a higher click-through rate. People like to click on rich snippets.

If the click-through rate of a snippet increases, you’ll get more traffic from that search result. Not because your position in the search engine changed, but just because more people click on your result. In the long run, rich snippets will have an effect on your ranking as well. As more people click on your result, Google will notice that people prefer your page above other ones. That’ll definitely improve your rankings in the long run!

How do you get rich snippets?

Google can show rich snippets if you add structured data to your site. Structured data is a piece of code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to create rich snippets.

Read more: ‘What is structured data’ »

Adding structured data to your website can be quite daunting. But we’re here to help! As of tomorrow, Yoast offers an online training to teach you how to implement structured data so Google can show rich snippets. We’ll show you different strategies (from beginner to more advanced levels), so that everyone will be able to get started with structured data and get those rich snippets!

Keep reading: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »

Do you want to increase chances people click on your page in the search results? Want to learn how to get those awesome rich snippets? Next week, we’ll launch our Structured data training. In this new training, you’ll learn how structured data can influence the appearance of your pages in the search results. After completing this course, you’ll be able to add structured data yourself, so Google can show a rich snippet.

Why take our structured data training?

A normal snippet of a recipe looks like this:

You see a title, a URL and a description of a page. If you add structured data to your page, Google (or another search engine) can transform your snippet into this:

So the structured data you add can show up in the snippet. For recipes you can add ratings and reviews, cooking time, calories and an awesome picture. Not only for recipes, but also for books, movies, articles, products etc. structured data exists.

Rich snippets let your page stand out from the other search results in Google. And if your page stands out in the search results, chances are much higher people will click on it.

Is adding structured data hard?

Adding structured data is not very hard, but you do need to know what you’re doing. After some training, everyone should be able to add structured data and get rewarded with those desired rich snippets!

We’ve created a very practical online training in which we take you through all the steps of adding structured data to a site. We’ll first explain the theory and then we’ll show you screencasts that will guide you through the steps you need to take. We’ll discuss multiple strategies you can use to add structured data to a website. Some strategies are more advanced (and more daunting) than others. At the end of the course, you’ll be able to add structured data in multiple ways. Just choose which strategy fits you best and start working on those awesome rich snippets yourself!

Want to buy our course?

The structured data training will be available as of June 29. You can purchase the course for the introductory price of $119 until July 2. You’ll get access to over 75 minutes of training videos, lots and lots of reading material and challenging quiz questions. If you finish our course, you’ll receive a certificate and a badge to put on your site. If you buy one of our courses, you’ll also get access to the Yoast Updates. These updates keep you in the loop about new trends in SEO and WordPress every 3 months.

Want to know more?

Check out the Structured data training and make sure you won’t miss the launch by subscribing to our newsletter!

Not the right training for you? We offer lots of other SEO courses. See which one fits your needs best!

Google Search Console is an incredibly important tool for website owners. This tool shows you how your site appears in the Google search results. It also shows you what to improve to make the most of your listings in the results. One of the many cool features of Search Console is the structured data analyses found in the Search Appearance section. Let’s dive into that!

In this post, we’ll cover the Structured data tab in GSC, the Rich Cards tab and the Data Highlighter. If you don’t have Search Console yet – and you really should -, sign up on Google’s website.

Google search console home

Search Appearance

First, log into Search Console. On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll find the Search Appearance menu item. This tool gives you insights into how your website appears in the search results. You can click any item to see how Google treats your site.

Structured Data

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In this post, our main focal point is structured data, so we’ll jump to the Structured Data section of GSC. Clicking on Structured Data will show you an overview of all the pages that have some kind of structured data attached to it. This could be in any form, like RDFa or Microdata, but usually, it will be in JSON-LD.

Structured data is all the extra information you give search engines to understand what a page is about. For instance, as the writer of this article, I am both a Person and an Author. If I add this data to the source code of this page, search engines can use that data to do cool things. If you sell products, you can enhance your search listings with reviews and ratings, prices and availability. These might all become visible in the search results.

Rich snippets products

Google Search Console shows a red line for the pages on your site that have incorrectly implemented structured data. Red indicate items with errors. You’ll notice that Search Console automatically sorts the list by the number of errors on a page. This way, you can start by fixing the most important issues first.

Google search console graph

Click on the lines in the table to see which pages have errors with the selected data type. Use these errors to prioritize your work. The big graph shows the progression of your structured data implementation as seen by Google. Let’s see how that works.

We’re going to take a closer look at the data. Above the graph, we see how many structured data items Google has found on how many pages, in this case, 218 items on 56 pages. Look closely at the left and right-hand side of the graph. The left side – in blue – goes from zero to 240 and this shows the number of pages with structured data items. The right side – in red – goes from zero to sixteen and shows the number of errors. At the bottom of the image, you see all the different data types Google has found on your site and all the items that have errors.

Errors

Now that we’ve analyzed all the different data on the structured data tab, it’s time to look at our errors. So click on an item with errors.

Google search console errors

After clicking on an error you’ll see this screen. This is where all the errors are listed individually. It’s the same kind of information as the screen before this one, so I won’t cover it again. However, now click on the individual error to see what happens:

Google search console popup

When we clicked on the individual error, a pop-up appeared. It shows information of the domain we’re on, information about the data item that gives an error and a button to test it with the Structured Data Testing Tool. Try to test with live data because GSC might give you an incorrect message. Also, the Structured Data Testing Tool allows you to tweak the code until it doesn’t give an error anymore. This way, you can safely test and improve on the error. Let’s move on to Rich Cards.

Rich Cards

Rich cards are new ways of presenting search results. These results are often amended with special, rich search features that make the results more interactive. For instance, a recipe site might get swipeable cards in the search results or a restaurant might get an option to immediately reserve a seat from the results. These are just a couple of examples. And since this is one of the areas Google is increasingly focussing on, you’ll see a lot more of these in the coming years.

Rich cards aren’t that different from structured data types. You can see structured data as the language used to describe the content on a page, while a rich card is a visually compelling way to present search results. And yes, more often than not, rich cards rely on the structured data that Google finds on a page. That’s why the Rich Cards tab is kind of complementary to the Structured Data tab instead of it superseding it. 

By the way, these are all the rich cards Google creates.

Add structured data to your site, validate it and you’re ready to get rich cards. If Google deems your site the best possible result, that is. In Search Appearance, you can check if your implementation is correct and if Google has already awarded you rich cards.

Google search console rich cards overview

Click on the Rich Cards tab and you’ll see a graph like the one above. On top of the graph, you can tick and untick the boxes. We’ve got invalid cards, cards that can be improved and correct cards. You can probably guess that each box shows a different graph. Also, our issues are sorted by severity. First, we’ll try and find out what our critical issues are by clicking on them.

Google search console rich cards

Now we see all the individual URLs with errors. We know that these are all image-related problems because that’s mentioned in the previous screenshot. Just click on one of the URLs.

Google search console cards popup

A pop-up will appear, similar to the one in the Structured Data tab. It gives you the option to test your live data and read the card documentation. You always want to double check your live data with the Structured Data Testing Tool. As said before, you can edit the code right away and see whether your changes validate. All good now? Great, you can start to implement your new code.

Data Highlighter

The Data Highlighter is a tool within GSC that allows you to markup your pages without any knowledge of coding. There are a couple of things you need to know before you start marking up your structured data with Google’s Data Highlighter. Firstly, your highlighted data is stored in Google’s databases, not on your site itself. Since the data is stored externally from your site, other search engines won’t be able to benefit from it. Ask yourself if you want this. Secondly, Data Highlighter only offers a limited set of schema you can implement. So it won’t be for everyone.

The Data Highlighter does make fixing the issues you’ve found in the Structured Data section easier. For instance, choose one of the URLs that had a faulty Structured Data setup and tell GSC what kind of information you want to highlight.

This will bring you to a live view of that page and you’ll be able to select any element on the page. By selecting an element you’ll be given a choice of what you want to highlight that specific element for. For example, for a Product, you’ll be given these markups to add to the corresponding element on the page:

google search console data highlighter

This makes adding Structured Data, for Google at least, as easy as a few clicks.

You can find the Data Highlighter under the Search Appearance section. Click on the “Start highlighting” button and you’ll see a new screen. Now we can fill in the URL (a product page, for example), select the type of markup we’d like to implement (Product Schema.org) and select if we just want to markup this single page or similar pages like it as well. We’ll only show multiple pages because marking up single pages shares the same core functionalities – only with fewer steps.

You can easily select elements on a page. Google automatically shows the available Schema.org you can select, see the first arrow. Once selected, you’ll see an overview of the data items on that page, check the second arrow. When you’re done, you click on finished – it’s the big red button in the top right corner.

google search console data highlighter save

In the end, Google shows you random pages from your selection to check the implementation. You can verify whether the information holds true for all of your products:

● Did Google unexpectedly include a page it shouldn’t have? Click Remove page.
● Did Google mistakenly apply the wrong Schema? You can correct it by selecting the element and change the Schema.
● Did Google do it right? Just click Next.

The Google Data Highlighter is just one of the tools that helps you implement structured data with Schema.org. It is, however, fully tied into the Google ecosystem and might not be the best option when you want to keep full control over your data.

You’ve reached the end…

Structured data gives you an excellent opportunity to open a conversation with search engines. By adding structured data, you make your site instantly comprehensible for engines. This way, they can use your data to present your content in innovative, highly visible ways that are guaranteed to catch the eye of your customers or readers.

Structured data is becoming so important that we’ve developed a course to educate you on this subject. In this course, we’ll show you exactly what structured data encompasses, what it can do, how to implement it using JSON-LD and Google Tag Manager, and how to check its performance in Google Search Console. This course will be available from June 29.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Keep an eye on yoast.com for more articles on structured data and SEO. And don’t forget to sign up for our brand new Structured data course!

Read more: ‘Structured data with Schema.org: the ultimate guide’ »