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Working with Structured Data: The Basics

September 27, 2013 Mojo Media Labs

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In web design parlance, working with structured data typically means working with structured data markup (also called schema). Structured data markup is to data elements for search engines as HTML is to web page presentation for browsers. The markup tells the search engine how to interpret the data enclosed within the markup.

The biggest use of this practice is to create “rich snippets” that can be presented on SERPs to provide more information about the search result. When you see a search result with an image, a review, a time or date, or other information within it, you are seeing a rich snippet. It helps searchers better select the result with the most potential for answering their question.

Rich Snippet

The arrows and circle show “rich snippets” coded into the webpage to tell the search engine to show them here on the search result.

General Example

Structured data markup is inserted within the HTML elements of the web page for each piece of data you want specified. For example, to tell the search engine that the word “HubSpot Conference” is an event it may look something like this:


HubSpot Conference


This is an example of structured data markup called microdata, currently the most popular markup in use. As of this writing, this is the one Google recommends, although it supports all types of structure data markup.

Types of Markup

Structured data includes the following markups:
  • Microdata
  • Microfomats
  • RDFa


Only use one type of markup on a page. Otherwise the search engine may get confused.

Which type of markup is best for a page depends on the type of data you are marking up and how you want the search engine to interpret it.


As mentioned before, this is a very popular style probably owing to the fact that it is supported by a markup website called schema.org that is a joint venture of the Big 3 search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Microdata markup consists of 3 elements:
  • itemscope: specifies that the content within the element is about a particular thing.
  • itemtype: identifies the type of content using an itemtype from http://schema.org/”; used immediately after and inline with itemscope
  • itemprop: additional information about (properties of) the content



(says the following data is an event)
"HubSpot Conference" (says name of event is HubSpot Conference)
Conference will take place in "Boston" (says event is in Boston)


A search engine result would then display the words “HubSpot Conference” and “Conference will take place in Boston” within the search result, making it more understandable by the searcher.

More microdata markup tags exist for dates, times, books, movies, and more.

Images, videos, and other non-textual content can be marked with meta tags to render textual information as part of the search result as well as showing the image, etc.


Microformats are HTML tag extenders, generally using the class attribute. It is a way of adding semantic information to content.Examples of Microformat types are found at microformats.org.

Microformat elements:
  • hCard (people, companies, corporations)
  • hCalendar (information about events)
  • hReview (for reviews of restaurants, etc.)


How they are used:

Says this is information about the aforementioned event
HubSpot Conference Name of event
Boston Where event takes place

Rules about using Microformats can be found at microformats.org microformats.org.

Microformat Example

*Example of a restaurant review search engine result


RFDa identifies entities using a variety of properties and then uses HTML tags to describe them.

    • voctype (indicates where to find vocabulary i.e. http://schema.org*)
    • typeof (indicates type of data i.e. person, place, event)
    • property (tells more about the data i.e. name, location)
    • resource (used to add an ID to the data to reference same data in another website)

*other vocabularies include Dublin Core, FOAF, SKOS


How they are used

The HubSpot Conference will take place in Boston.

To indicate this information about HubSpot on another website, append the ID onto the end of the website’s URL:


Note: RDFa can get complicated for those inexperienced with handling structured data. Documentation can be found at w3.org.

Why Go To All This Trouble?

Actually, Google, schema.org, and other sites about structured data markup have made it less trouble by providing easy to use markup tools. All you need is a URL or a page of HTML and the tools help you easily add the markup.

To answer the rest of the question: you want to go to all this trouble because webpages that have structured data markup have seen an increase of 30% or more in their click through rate. The markup gives the search engine and the searcher a better clue about the content of the site the search result is pointing at.

With less guesswork involved, there will be less pogo sticking (see yesterday’s post) because the searcher will be more confident in his/her choice when selecting a result. More clicks is more traffic and more potential customers.

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