Google Changes More Structured Data Requirements via @sejournal, @martinibuster

Google announced a change to several structured data types. This change affects the requirements for the HowTo, QAPage and the SpecialAnnouncement structured data. The guidance didn’t come with examples, which makes it a little difficult to understand but this article will walk through the changes.

The guidance provided by Google stated:

“Removed the following structured data fields from documentation, since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them.”

In general, including structured data that isn’t required could be helpful if it helps describe a page better, even though that structured data won’t produce any visible results in Google’s search results pages in the form of rich results.

Google’s John Mueller has in the past commented on this:

“I think that’s one of the trickier questions with regards to all of the structured data, in that we have a lot of things that we use to try to understand a page and the content on the page that we don’t necessarily show directly in the search results.

But a lot of things help us to better understand the content and the context of a particular page.

And those are things within kind of like a general Schema.org markup which you can do various things.

And that’s kind of I’d say, almost a shame that we don’t highlight that in the rich results test.”

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Mueller then goes on to caution about going overboard with extra structured data.

With regard to the structured data properties that Google removed as being required, Google doesn’t warn against using them other than to say that the Rich Results test ignores it and that Google does not use it.

“…since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them. “

HowTo Structured Data Changes

Google announced it has removed the “description” structured data field that pertains strictly to the HowTo data type. The “description” property can still be used in other properties of the HowTo data type, but it’s no longer needed in the HowTo part.

Here’s an example of how it used to be:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{ "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "HowTo", "name": "How to tile a kitchen backsplash",
"description": "Any kitchen can be much more vibrant with a great tile backsplash. This guide will help you install one with beautiful results, like our example kitchen seen here.", "image": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "height": "406", "width": "305"
},

Here is the new way that omits the “description” property of the HowTo type:

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "https://schema.org",
"@type": "HowTo",
"name": "How to tile a kitchen backsplash",
"image": {
"@type": "ImageObject",
"url": "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg",
"height": "406",
"width": "305"
},

It’s a little tricky at first because the documentation doesn’t explain it in depth.

The documentation simply states:

Removed the following structured data fields from documentation, since they are unused by Google Search and Rich Result Test doesn’t flag warnings for them:
HowTo: description.”

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See what I meant when I said that the documentation was a bit sparse?

Change to the QAPage Structured Data

The author property has been removed as a requirement when using the suggestedAnswer property, under the mainEntity property.

The suggestedAnsswer property is described as:

“One possible answer, but not accepted as a top answer (acceptedAnswer). There can be zero or more of these per Question.”

The purpose of the now removed author property was to name the author of the question.

The guidance from Google is written out like this:

mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.author

Kind of opaque, right?

Here is what the changed structured data used to look like:

"suggestedAnswer": [
{ "@type": "Answer", "text": "Are you looking for ounces or fluid ounces? If you are looking for fluid ounces there are 15.34 fluid ounces in a pound of water.", "dateCreated": "2016-11-02T21:11Z", "upvoteCount": 42, "url": "https://example.com/question1#suggestedAnswer1",
"author": {
"@type": "Person",
"name": "AnotherUser"
}

This is what it looks like now:

"suggestedAnswer": [
{ "@type": "Answer", "text": "Are you looking for ounces or fluid ounces? If you are looking for fluid ounces there are 15.34 fluid ounces in a pound of water.", "upvoteCount": 42, "url": "https://example.com/question1#suggestedAnswer1"
},

See the difference?

Everything after the URL part that pertains to the “author” property is gone.

These additional properties that are a part of the mainEntity property have also been removed

  • mainEntity.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.author
  • mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.dateCreated
  • mainEntity.author

SpecialAnnouncement Structured Data

The SpecialAnnouncement structured data is a Covid-19 structured data that is in Beta, meaning that it’s not super official yet.  In fact, the SpecialAnnouncement structured data itself is still under development at Schema.org.

Google offered these examples of situations where the SpecialAnnouncement structured data is appropriate:

  • “Announcement of a shelter-in-place directive
  • Closure notice (for example, closing a school or public transportation)
  • Announcement of government benefits (for example, unemployment support, paid leave, or one-time payments)
  • Quarantine guidelines
  • Travel restrictions
  • Notification of a new drive-through testing center
  • Announcement of an event transitioning from offline to online, or cancellation
  • Announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions
  • Disease spread statistics and maps”

The following properties have been removed for SpecialAnnouncement and are no longer required:

  • provider
  • audience
  • serviceType
  • address
  • category

Here’s an example of the “serviceType” and “provider” properties that are no longer required:

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Before:

"governmentBenefitsInfo": { "@type": "GovernmentService", "name": "Paycheck Protection Program", "url": "https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program-ppp",
"provider": {
"@type": "GovernmentOrganization",
"name": "US Small Business Administration"
},
"serviceType": "https://schema.org/BusinessSupport",
"audience": {
"@type": "Audience",
"name": "Small businesses"
}

After:

“governmentBenefitsInfo”: {
“@type”: “GovernmentService”,
“name”: “Paycheck Protection Program”
}

It’s a big difference without the structured data properties that are missing but it’s also simpler.

If in doubt or confused, I suggest reviewing the before and after versions of the structured data. You can find the before version at Archive.org

Citations

Google’s QA Page Structured Data Developer Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/qapage

Google’s HowTo Structured Data Type Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/how-to

Google’s SpecialAnnouncements Structured Data Help Page
https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/structured-data/special-announcements

Google’s Changelog for Updates to their Documentation
https://developers.google.com/speed/docs/insights/release_notes

Searchenginejournal.com

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