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Google: Structured Data is an Extremely Light Signal

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Google’s John Mueller offered insightful comments in a Twitter conversation about structured data and how Google uses it. His comment touched on the importance of structured data as a Google signal.

Twitter Discussion on Structured Data

The Twitter discussion grew out of a seeming contradiction in a statement made in a recent article, Google Doesn’t Read Unsupported Structured Data.

There was no contradiction and the details are besides the point. Mueller clarified the seeming contradiction and then went on to discuss how Google uses structured data.

What followed are the tweets that matter.

Extra Structured Data

Google’s Mueller began by clarifying what kind of structured data (SD) was considered as extra. In this case, he called attention to structured data types and information that is obvious.

The first issue was about using the WebPage structured data type instead of a more specific data type:

“The thing is a lot of “extra” SD is super obvious. “This is a webpage”, well, that’s shocking, seeing we’re crawling webpages.

Lots of other SD is already clear from the page text (Is it a Ford car or a Ford president? No need for SD unless you’re really creative in writing).”

The WebPage structured data type is considered to be very general and according to Mueller, it’s “super obvious.”

Schema.org says this about the WebPage structured data type:

“Every web page is implicitly assumed to be declared to be of type WebPage…”

That seems to mean that you don’t need to use structured data to tell Google that a webpage is a webpage, it’s implied.

So that actually frees you up to use a more specific structured data type.

This is actually a fairly common error. Probably because almost everything you can document with a more specific structured data type can be declared in the more general WebPage structured data.

Structured data for Google can be split into two kinds:

  1. Rich Results Structured Data
  2. Non-rich Results Structured Data

Rich results structured data can qualify for a search results listing that is enhanced, i.e. a rich result. Non-rich results do not qualify.

But it’s probably best to be more specific. For example, these are rich results structured data types that can be used on a webpage:

  • Article
  • NewsArticle
  • HowTo

So if you’re already using a specific structured data like Article, there is no reason to use the WebPage structured data because it’s superfluous.

There are other structured data types that are non-rich results structured data that won’t show rich results but are more specifically about webpages:

  • AboutPage
  • CheckoutPage
  • CollectionPage

While those exist, they won’t qualify for any kind of rich results. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use the AboutPage structured data to communicate to a search engine what that page is about, although it’s highly likely Google can already tell from the content that it’s an “about page.”

Communicating what a page is about is generally a good idea and if you feel it might help to make something clear, then go ahead and use it.

But if the structured data type is not listed on Google’s developer pages as one that could qualify for a rich result, don’t expect to see that kind of result from it, set your expectations lower.

A rich result is like those featured snippets that show at the top of the page or stars shown in the search results for reviews.

Structured data types that are not listed in Google’s developer pages are highly likely to not quality for a rich result. Those are non-rich results structured data.

Non-rich Results Structured Data

John Mueller next discussed non-rich results structured data and said that it can be helpful but in a limited way.

He used the acronym RR to refer to Rich Results and SD to refer to Structured Data.

This is what he tweeted:

“What about the non-RR SD that’s not absolutely clear from the page? It can be helpful, but it’s also limited in the extra value it provides.”

Structured Data Signal

He finished the above tweet with a statement that seems to say that structured data is a light signal.

Mueller’s tweet:

“How do you rank something purely from SD hints? It’s an extremely light signal. If you’re worried, make the content more obvious.”

So… structured data is an extremely light signal? By signal, did he mean a ranking signal? Or a signal related to what the content was about?

John Mueller didn’t elaborate on those details.

Structured Data and Rich Results Types

Mueller reaffirmed the value of structured data, particularly where it might be difficult to accurately understand specific details.

John tweeted:

“I do see long-term value in SD for RR types where parsing the page is hard. Event dates? Venue phone numbers? Ratings & scale? Article date? It’s possible, but hard + unique per page/site, and embarrassing when we highlight it incorrectly.”

Structured data is useful for communicating information where it’s critical to get it right, like phone numbers, ratings and dates.

But Mueller also said that structured data is “extremely light” as a signal, a statement that might need clarification as to what kind of signal he was referring to.

Searchenginejournal.com

NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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