Structured Data Markup Formats: Microdata vs JSON-LD vs RDFa

By April 18, 2016 SEO 6 Comments

Do you want your web pages to stand out in search results? If so, then you must incorporate structured data markup in your web page encoding. Thankfully, it’s not as difficult as it sounds, thanks to official resources provided by the top search engines. In this post, we’ll explore what structured data markup is and how you can implement it on your web pages.

 

What is structured data markup?

Structured data markup is simply the use of standardized language on a web page that can be easily translated by search engines, such as Google. It will tell search engines what the page is about so the page can be displayed in search results with rich snippets of content.

What can structured data markup do?

For example, let’s take a search for a Greek spinach pie recipe on Google. The top two results look like this.

structured-data-markup-example-1
The difference between the two results show the power of structured data markup.

The first result from allrecipes.com uses structured data markup to share specific details about the recipe with Google, such as it’s photo, overall ratings, number of reviews, preparation time, and calories per serving.

The second result from food.com does not use standard data markup, and therefore does not have the rich snippets of content that make the first result stand out.

A look at the encoding on the allrecipes.com web page shows how they used structured data markup to give Google the information needed for the rich snippet in search results, such as the total preparation time, referred to in line 1241.

structured-data-markup-example-2

 

Google offers support of structured data markup for a variety of uses in search results. For example, well-known entities (people, places, and organizations) can use structured data markup to customize the information that appears about them in the knowledge graph box to the right of standard search results.
structured-data-markup-example-3

Event venues can use structured data markup to highlight upcoming events.

structured-data-markup-example-4

Ecommerce stores can use structured data markup to add additional product details.
structured-data-markup-example-5

Businesses with reviews can use structured data markup highlight their overall ratings, just like Yelp does.

structured-data-markup-example-6

Publishers can use structured data markup to get their articles into the featured “In the News” section.

structured-data-markup-example-7

Microdata vs JSON-LD vs RDFa

 

When you start researching the actual implementation of coding for structured data markup, you will find three popular formats to choose from: microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa. When it comes to popularity, usage of Microdata and JSON-LD win across the entire web. microdata and JSON-LD encoding can be found on over 3 million websites across the web, according to BuiltWith.

structured-data-markup-formats

The one you choose should depend on your specific structured data markup goals. Google offers specific examples and details about how to add structured data markup to your web pages based on the rich content you are trying to create.

 

The following is a summary of the format of structured data markup Google recommends for specific goals. Note that some options are only available to specific brands and data partners at the time of publishing.

 

  • Customizing Your Knowledge Graph – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided, but microdata RDFa also allowed for well-known people, places, and organizations.
  • Promoting Your Events – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided, but microdata RDFa also allowed for performers, venues, and ticketers.
  • Provide Actions – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided, but microdata RDFa also allowed for music play, movie watching, and critic review listings.
  • Promote Content – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided for publishers that want featured content in carousel format.
  • Rich Snippets for Products – All formats allowed (microdata and RDFa recommended) with examples provided for product pages and shopping aggregators.
  • Rich Snippets for Recipes – All formats allowed with examples provided for recipe pages.
  • Rich Snippets for Reviews – All formats allowed (microdata and RDFa recommended) with examples provided for business, product, and service pages.
  • Rich Snippets for Events – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided for event and calendar pages.
  • Rich Snippets for Software and Apps – All formats allowed (microdata and RDFa recommended) with examples provided for software and app pages.
  • Rich Snippets for Videos – JSON-LD and microdata preferred with examples provided for video pages.
  • Rich Snippets for Articles – JSON-LD and microdata preferred with examples provided for article pages.
  • Local Business Information – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided for local businesses.
  • Enable Breadcrumbs – All formats allowed with examples provided for web pages that want to have breadcrumb navigation shown in search results in place of URL.
  • Enable Sitelinks Search Box – JSON-LD preferred with examples provided, but microdata also allowed for websites that want to have a sitelink search box in search results.
  • Show Site Name – JSON-LD or microdata preferred with examples provided for websites that want name shown in search results in place of URL.

 

Once you know your structured data markup goals, you can determine which format to use by following Google’s suggestion or searching for results that fit your goals and reverse engineering the code that the websites use. Just visit the page and use the Developer > View Source option on your Chrome browser.

 

After you have implemented your structured data markup, you can use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to test and validate your code.

 

While Google is the dominant search engine, you may also want to refer to Bing’s guidelines to structured data markup. While they say they support all formats, specific goals have preferred formats.

 

In Conclusion

 

As you can see, structured data markup offers website owners the ability to attract more clicks by making their pages stand out in search results. Be sure to look at the options that make the most sense for your website and business so you can start implementing structured data markup.

 

About derek iwasiuk

Derek, is the co-founder of Engage the CrowdBe sure to follow him at @diwasiuk

  • Great read! Its great to have all this information all in one place

  • thanks zaid

  • Nice Job Derek

  • John Susko

    Outstanding write-up Derek (and belated happy birthday by the way). Do you get the overall sense from your research that microdata will fall out of favor very soon? I find it easier to use than JSON-LD right now but I am wondering if I should make the switch.

    • not sure how soon, but Google is making heavy recommendations for JSON-LD just that what they say in text isn’t the same as what is showing up in search results. Microdata is still more effective in reviews and such.

  • Jeannie Hill

    I enjoyed your article Derek. It is interesting that If you are a recognized authority in your niche, when seeking to edit your Knowledge Graph card you will see more options for providing specific edits. Structured data helps, but digital trust remains a big part of it. (https://www.hillwebcreations.com/google-structured-data-update/)