Which Structured Data Should I Use?

Written by: Jason Bayless | August 15, 2016

Referring to information presented in a way that clarifies understanding, structured data is used by leading search engines to streamline search results. Such data can also boost your standing on search engine results pages and prevent confusion with common terms and phrases, so it makes sense to include it in your content. The next thing you’ll want to consider is the type of structured data you actually want to use.

Microdata

Microdata allows you to provide better descriptions for certain pieces of information. Recommended by Google, microdata is a good option if you have content that references dates, times, people’s names, and other information that may need further clarification for search engines. The markup you would use for microdata includes the following elements:

• Item scope: Encloses information about the item that needs clarification.
• Item type: Refers to the type of content you are referencing.
• Item props: Used to add properties to your item, as in identifying the genre of a referenced book.

You can also use specific codes to clarify dates, a common source of confusion since the month and day can be interpreted differently. Implicit information can also be embedded to provide details not directly stated on your page, such as the duration of a video clip. You’ll find a fairly extensive collection of microdata you can use on Schema.org, an open community with sources that can be used in a variety of online applications.

Microformats

Semantic information is conveyed with microformats, used to add meaningful information to HTML tags. The class attribute is the most common method for adding structured data to a page with microformats, allowing you to add sub-types. Microformats are beneficial if you have related items you want to describe, such as a photo of a dish detailed in a recipe you listed, without adding a caption to explain what it is, which would be apparent to the visitor to your site just from reading the recipe, but not to Web crawlers. Popular microformats include:

• hCard: For people, organizations, and companies.
• hCalendar: For info on upcoming events.
• hReview: For reviews of books, restaurants, etc.

RDFa

Identifying people, events, and other entities, RDFa (resource description framework) structured data provides a set of attributes to deliver metadata to an XML file extension. HTML tags are used to described your desired entities. The attributes specific with this type of structured data are reusable, the HTML and the RDFa aren’t linked, and you can add additional fields to better define your data. RDFa attributes include:

• Voctype: Defines structured data vocabulary by identifying the source for the term used, usually in the form of a link back to Schema.org.
• Typeof: Identifies the type of data, as is stating whether or not the referenced data is the name of person or place.
• Property: Provides additional more information about the selected data.
• Resource: Allows a unique ID to be added to your structured data.

Structured data makes your content eligible for several different search features, which will make it easier for your content to be ranked and, ultimately, discovered. Depending on the diversity of your content, you may end up using each type of structured data at one time or another. There are advantages and disadvantages of using each type of structured data. However, microdata tends to be the easiest to use and implement. There’s a learning cure with RDFa is you’re not familiar with it, plus you’ll need to be aware of specific attributes and values to add it to non-XHTML pages. Realistically, you’ll probably use a mix of structured data types based on the content presented and your level of expertise with each type.