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Google’s Preferred Structured Data: JSON-LD vs. Microdata

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Google's Preferred Structured Data: JSON-LD vs. Microdata

Google uses structured data to better understand what a webpage is about by classifying the topic, identifying important parts of the webpages like logos and images, and displaying webpages prominently at the top of the page.

There are multiple kinds of structured data, but only one of them is preferred by Google, so it’s important to use the right format.

Which Types Of Structured Data Does Google Support?

Google supports three kinds of structured data:

  1. JSON-LD.
  2. Microdata.
  3. RDFa.

Each of those standards is a different way of communicating structured data and is specified on the official Schema.org website.

Screenshot by author, May 2022Screenshot of Schema.org Structured Data Examples

In the image above, it can be seen that the Schema.org structured data example provides examples in three formats.

There are three tabs. Each tab corresponds to a different form of structured data: Microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD structured data.

What Is Microdata Structured Data?

Microdata is a way to add metadata within the HTML code and is a part of the HTML specification, also known as the WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) HTML standard.

Microdata is an  HTML specification for marking up a webpage within the HTML itself.

It is essentially metadata that is placed within the HTML code that is published within the <body> tags and is readable by machines like Googlebot.

Schema.org, the non-profit organization that creates the structured data specifications, published a structured data explainer called Getting Started and used Microdata in all of their examples.

So, Microdata is still a valid way to communicate structured data and is currently supported by the Schema.org standards-making body as well as by Google (except in specific cases where it is explicitly not supported).

The microdata is nested within existing HTML like this:

<body itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/WebPage">
<div itemprop="breadcrumb">
<a href="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/structured-data-google-prefers/451847/category/books.html">Books</a>
<a href="category/books-literature.html">Literature &amp; Fiction</a> >
<a href="category/books-classics">Classics</a>
</div>

In the above code, the microdata called, “itemprop” is inserted to specify the structured data Property, in this case, the breadcrumb structured data property.

This is what that code looks like without the microdata structured data:

<div>
<a href=”category/books.html”>Books</a>
<a href=”category/books-literature.html”>Literature &amp; Fiction</a>
<a href=”category/books-classics”>Classics</a>
</div>

There are other ways of doing the same thing by using the BreadcrumbList structured data type as well.

What Is RDFa Structured Data?

RDFa is an acronym for Resource Description Framework in attributes. It is an extension of HTML.

The reason it’s called an extension of HTML is that it extends HTML.

Google describes RDFa like this:

“Microformats specify both a syntax for including structured data into HTML documents and set of microformat classes each with its own specific vocabulary of allowed attributes.

RDFa, on the other hand, specifies only a syntax and allows you to use existing vocabularies of attributes or create your own.

It even lets you combine multiple vocabularies freely. If the existing vocabularies do not meet your needs, you can define your own standards and vocabularies by creating new fields.”

RDFa offers an additional way of communicating structured data to Google that is less intrusive to the code than the microdata method.

Like microdata, RDFa is currently specified as a valid form of data by Schema.org and is currently supported by Google (except when explicitly not specified).

This is what a breadcrumb structured data can look like in the RDFa format:

<body itemscope itemtype=”https://schema.org/WebPage”>

<div itemprop=”breadcrumb”>
<a href=”category/books.html”>Books</a> >
<a href=”category/books-literature.html”>Literature &amp; Fiction</a> >
<a href=”category/books-classics”>Classics</a>
</div>

What Is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is a scripting language that allows publishers to communicate important information to search engines.

JSON-LD is an acronym for JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data.

Because it’s a script, it’s relatively easier to use than Microdata and RDFa because JSON-LD is not embedded within the HTML as metadata or as an extension of the HTML itself.

JSON-LD can be placed anywhere on a webpage, even in the Head section of the webpage code which is where metadata usually goes.

JSON-LD can also be placed at the end of the code or within the content section of the code (it will not be visible to site visitors).

Another benefit of JSON-LD is that, because it’s separated from the HTML and exists within its own script, it can be easily edited and reviewed.

A breadcrumb list structured data markup can look like this:

 <script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "https://schema.org",
"@type": "BreadcrumbList",
"itemListElement": [{
"@type": "ListItem",
"position": 1,
"name": "Widgets",
"item": "https://example.com/widgets"
},{
"@type": "ListItem",
"position": 2,
"name": "Blue Widgets",
"item": "https://example.com/widgets/blue-widgets"
},{
"@type": "ListItem",
"position": 3,
"name": "Reviews"
}]
}
</script>

Troubleshooting a script that is completely separated from the HTML is so much easier than trying to code the structured data within the HTML, which is how Microdata and RDFa are done.

According to the official JSON-LD website:

“Data is messy and disconnected. JSON-LD organizes and connects it, creating a better Web.

It is a way to create a network of standards-based, machine-readable data across Web sites.”

JSON-LD scripts can be added to a webpage in a manner that can be templated within a website, making it easy to add, update, and remove.

The official Schema.org structured data specification can be found at Schema.org (surprise!).

Which Type Of Structured Data Does Google Prefer?

Even though Microdata continues to be supported by the Schema.org standards-making organization, what matters is the version that Google supports.

In a Google Office-hours hangout from March 2019, a participant asked the following question:

“What type of Schema markup is preferable for Google? Should I use Jason or… microformats? Which format is preferable?”

John Mueller answered:

“We currently prefer JSON-LD markup. I think most of the new structured data that are kind of come out for JSON-LD first. So that’s what we prefer.”

Google Prefers JSON-LD Structured Data

Google’s John Mueller made it clear that Google preferred JSON-LD structured data.

A benefit of JSON-LD structured data is that it is non-intrusive.

It’s non-intrusive because it keeps structured data separate from the HTML code.

That makes reading, troubleshooting, and updating structured data so much easier because it’s more simple to implement and maintain.

Additionally, the JSON-LD scripting language follows a set of easily learned rules and can easily be added or removed from a site.

How To Implement JSON-LD Structured Data

The official Schema.org JSON-LD structured data Schema.org website has many examples of how to write the structured data code. Just take an example and use it as a template.

Here’s an image of an example without structured data:

screenshot of content without structured dataScreenshot by author, May 2022screenshot of content without structured data

This is an example of the exact same content expressed as JSON-LD Schema.org structured data:

Screenshot of json-ld structured data from schema.orgScreenshot by author, May 2022Screenshot of json-ld structured data from schema.org

Google Prefers JSON-LD Structured Data

Google’s preferred format for structured data is JSON-LD.

Because that’s Google’s preference, it’s a good idea to make sure that all structured data used within a webpage is using JSON-LD and not the JSON-LD structure.

Watch the Google Webmaster Office-hours hangout at the 22:33 minute mark:

More Resources:


Featured Image: Helder Almeida/Shutterstock

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Firefox URL Tracking Removal – Is This A Trend To Watch?

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Firefox URL Tracking Removal - Is This A Trend To Watch?

Firefox recently announced that they are offering users a choice on whether or not to include tracking information from copied URLs, which comes on the on the heels of iOS 17 blocking user tracking via URLs. The momentum of removing tracking information from URLs appears to be gaining speed. Where is this all going and should marketers be concerned?

Is it possible that blocking URL tracking parameters in the name of privacy will become a trend industrywide?

Firefox Announcement

Firefox recently announced that beginning in the Firefox Browser version 120.0, users will be able to select whether or not they want URLs that they copied to contain tracking parameters.

When users select a link to copy and click to raise the contextual menu for it, Firefox is now giving users a choice as to whether to copy the URL with or without the URL tracking parameters that might be attached to the URL.

Screenshot Of Firefox 120 Contextual Menu

Screenshot of Firefox functionality

According to the Firefox 120 announcement:

“Firefox supports a new “Copy Link Without Site Tracking” feature in the context menu which ensures that copied links no longer contain tracking information.”

Browser Trends For Privacy

All browsers, including Google’s Chrome and Chrome variants, are adding new features that make it harder for websites to track users online through referrer information embedded in a URL when a user clicks from one site and leaves through that click to visit another site.

This trend for privacy has been ongoing for many years but it became more noticeable in 2020 when Chrome made changes to how referrer information was sent when users click links to visit other sites. Firefox and Safari followed with similar referrer behavior.

Whether the current Firefox implementation would be disruptive or if the impact is overblown is kind of besides the point.

What is the point is whether or not what Firefox and Apple did to protect privacy is a trend and if that trend will extend to more blocking of URL parameters that are stronger than what Firefox recently implemented.

I asked Kenny Hyder, CEO of online marketing agency Pixel Main, what his thoughts are about the potential disruptive aspect of what Firefox is doing and whether it’s a trend.

Kenny answered:

“It’s not disruptive from Firefox alone, which only has a 3% market share. If other popular browsers follow suit it could begin to be disruptive to a limited degree, but easily solved from a marketers prospective.

If it became more intrusive and they blocked UTM tags, it would take awhile for them all to catch on if you were to circumvent UTM tags by simply tagging things in a series of sub-directories.. ie. site.com/landing/<tag1>/<tag2> etc.

Also, most savvy marketers are already integrating future proof workarounds for these exact scenarios.

A lot can be done with pixel based integrations rather than cookie based or UTM tracking. When set up properly they can actually provide better and more accurate tracking and attribution. Hence the name of my agency, Pixel Main.”

I think most marketers are aware that privacy is the trend. The good ones have already taken steps to keep it from becoming a problem while still respecting user privacy.”

Some URL Parameters Are Already Affected

For those who are on the periphery of what’s going on with browsers and privacy, it may come as a surprise that some tracking parameters are already affected by actions meant to protect user privacy.

Jonathan Cairo, Lead Solutions Engineer at Elevar shared that there is already a limited amount of tracking related information stripped from URLs.

But he also explained that there are limits to how much information can be stripped from URLs because the resulting negative effects would cause important web browsing functionality to fail.

Jonathan explained:

“So far, we’re seeing a selective trend where some URL parameters, like ‘fbclid’ in Safari’s private browsing, are disappearing, while others, such as TikTok’s ‘ttclid’, remain.

UTM parameters are expected to stay since they focus on user segmentation rather than individual tracking, provided they are used as intended.

The idea of completely removing all URL parameters seems improbable, as it would disrupt key functionalities on numerous websites, including banking services and search capabilities.

Such a drastic move could lead users to switch to alternative browsers.

On the other hand, if only some parameters are eliminated, there’s the possibility of marketers exploiting the remaining ones for tracking purposes.

This raises the question of whether companies like Apple will take it upon themselves to prevent such use.

Regardless, even in a scenario where all parameters are lost, there are still alternative ways to convey click IDs and UTM information to websites.”

Brad Redding of Elevar agreed about the disruptive effect from going too far with removing URL tracking information:

“There is still too much basic internet functionality that relies on query parameters, such as logging in, password resets, etc, which are effectively the same as URL parameters in a full URL path.

So we believe the privacy crackdown is going to continue on known trackers by blocking their tracking scripts, cookies generated from them, and their ability to monitor user’s activity through the browser.

As this grows, the reliance on brands to own their first party data collection and bring consent preferences down to a user-level (vs session based) will be critical so they can backfill gaps in conversion data to their advertising partners outside of the browser or device.”

The Future Of Tracking, Privacy And What Marketers Should Expect

Elevar raises good points about how far browsers can go in terms of how much blocking they can do. Their response that it’s down to brands to own their first party data collection and other strategies to accomplish analytics without compromising user privacy.

Given all the laws governing privacy and Internet tracking that have been enacted around the world it looks like privacy will continue to be a trend.

However, at this point it time, the advice is to keep monitoring how far browsers are going but there is no expectation that things will get out of hand.

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How To Become an SEO Expert in 4 Steps

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General SEO

With 74.1% of SEOs charging clients upwards of $500 per month for their services, there’s a clear financial incentive to get good at SEO. But with no colleges offering degrees in the topic, it’s down to you to carve your own path in the industry.

There are many ways to do this; some take longer than others.

In this post, I’ll share how I’d go from zero to SEO pro if I had to do it all over again. 

1. Take a beginner SEO course

Understanding what search engine optimization really is and how it works is the first state of affairs. While you can do this by reading endless blog posts or watching YouTube videos, I wouldn’t recommend that approach for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to know where to start
  • It’s hard to join the dots
  • It’s hard to know who to trust

You can solve all of these problems by taking a structured course like our SEO course for beginners. It’s completely free (no signup required), consists of 14 short video lessons (2 hours total length), and covers:

  • What SEO is and why it’s important
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to optimize pages for keywords
  • How to build links (and why you need them)
  • Technical SEO best practices

Here’s the first lesson to get you started:

Lesson 1: SEO Basics: What is SEO and Why is it Important? Watch now

2. Make a website and try to rank it

It doesn’t matter how many books you read about golf, you’re never going to win a tournament without picking up a set of clubs and practicing. It’s the same with SEO. The theory is important, but there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and trying to rank a site.

If you don’t have a site already, you can get up and running fairly quickly with any major website platform. Some will set you back a few bucks, but they handle SEO basics out of the box. This saves you time sweating the small stuff.

As for what kind of site you should create, I recommend a simple hobby blog. 

Here’s a simple food blog I set up in <10 minutes: 

A blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the jobA blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the job

Once you’re set-up, you’re ready to start practicing and honing your SEO skills. Specifically, doing keyword research to find topics, writing and optimizing content about them, and (possibly) building a few backlinks.

For example, according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “neopolitan pizza dough recipe” has a monthly traffic potential of 4.4K as well as a relatively low Keyword Difficulty (KD) score:

Keyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerKeyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Even better, there’s a weak website (DR 16) in the top three positions—so this should definitely be quite an easy topic to rank for.

Page from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keywordPage from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keyword

Given that most of the top-ranking posts have at least a few backlinks, a page about this topic would also likely need at least a few backlinks to compete. Check out the resources below to learn how to build these.

3. Get an entry-level job

It’s unlikely that your hobby blog is going to pay the bills, so it’s time to use the work you’ve done so far to get a job in SEO. Here are a few benefits of doing this: 

  • Get paid to learn. This isn’t the case when you’re home alone reading blog posts and watching videos or working on your own site.
  • Get deeper hands-on experience. Agencies work with all kinds of businesses, which means you’ll get to build experience with all kinds of sites, from blogs to ecommerce. 
  • Build your reputation. Future clients or employers are more likely to take you seriously if you’ve worked for a reputable SEO agency. 

To find job opportunities, start by signing up for SEO newsletters like SEO Jobs and SEOFOMO. Both of these send weekly emails and feature remote job opportunities: 

SEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletterSEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletter

You can also go the traditional route and search job sites for entry-level positions. The kinds of jobs you’re looking for will usually have “Junior” in their titles or at least mention that it’s a junior position in their description.

Junior SEO job listing exampleJunior SEO job listing example

Beyond that, you can search for SEO agencies in your local area and check their careers pages. 

Even if there are no entry-level positions listed here, it’s still worth emailing and asking if there are any upcoming openings. Make sure to mention any SEO success you’ve had with your website and where you’re at in your journey so far.

This might seem pushy, but many agencies actually encourage this—such as Rise at Seven:

Call for alternative roles from Rise at SevenCall for alternative roles from Rise at Seven

Here’s a quick email template to get you started:

Subject: Junior SEO position?

Hey folks,

Do you have any upcoming openings for junior SEOs?

I’ve been learning SEO for [number] months, but I’m looking to take my knowledge to the next level. So far, I’ve taken Ahrefs’ Beginner SEO course and started my own blog about [topic]—which I’ve had some success with. It’s only [number] months old but already ranks for [number] keywords and gets an estimated [number] monthly search visits according to Ahrefs.

[Ahrefs screenshot]

I checked your careers page and didn’t see any junior positions there, but I was hoping you might consider me for any upcoming positions? I’m super enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to learn.

Let me know.

[Name]

You can pull all the numbers and screenshots you need by creating a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account and verifying your website.

4. Specialize and hone your skills

SEO is a broad industry. It’s impossible to be an expert at every aspect of it, so you should niche down and hone your skills in the area that interests you the most. You should have a reasonable idea of what this is from working on your own site and in an agency.

For example, link building was the area that interested me the most, so that’s where I focused on deepening my knowledge. As a result, I became what’s known as a “t-shaped SEO”—someone with broad skills across all things SEO but deep knowledge in one area.

T-shaped SEOT-shaped SEO
What a t-shaped SEO looks like

Marie Haynes is another great example of a t-shaped SEO. She specializes in Google penalty recovery. She doesn’t build links or do on-page SEO. She audits websites with traffic drops and helps their owners recover.

In terms of how to build your knowledge in your chosen area, here are a few ideas:

Here are a few SEOs I’d recommend following and their (rough) specialties:

Final thoughts

K Anders Ericsson famously theorized that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill. Can it take less? Possibly. But the point is this: becoming an SEO expert is not an overnight process.

I’d even argue that it’s a somewhat unattainable goal because no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. That’s part of the fun, though. SEO is a fast-moving industry that keeps you on your toes, but it’s a very rewarding one, too. 

Here are a few stats to prove it:

  • 74.1% of SEOs charge clients upwards of $500 per month for their services (source)
  • $49,211 median annual salary (source)
  • ~$74k average salary for self-employed SEOs (source)

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Today, ChatGPT celebrates one year since its launch in research preview.

From its humble beginnings, ChatGPT has continually pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as possible with generative AI for almost any task.

In this article, we take a journey through the past year, highlighting the significant milestones and updates that have shaped ChatGPT into the versatile and powerful tool it is today.

ChatGPT: From Research Preview To Customizable GPTs

This story unfolds over the course of nearly a year, beginning on November 30, when OpenAI announced the launch of its research preview of ChatGPT.

As users began to offer feedback, improvements began to arrive.

Before the holiday, on December 15, 2022, ChatGPT received general performance enhancements and new features for managing conversation history.

Screenshot from ChatGPT, December 2022ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

As the calendar turned to January 9, 2023, ChatGPT saw improvements in factuality, and a notable feature was added to halt response generation mid-conversation, addressing user feedback and enhancing control.

Just a few weeks later, on January 30, the model was further upgraded for enhanced factuality and mathematical capabilities, broadening its scope of expertise.

February 2023 was a landmark month. On February 9, ChatGPT Plus was introduced, bringing new features and a faster ‘Turbo’ version to Plus users.

This was followed closely on February 13 with updates to the free plan’s performance and the international availability of ChatGPT Plus, featuring a faster version for Plus users.

March 14, 2023, marked a pivotal moment with the introduction of GPT-4 to ChatGPT Plus subscribers.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

This new model featured advanced reasoning, complex instruction handling, and increased creativity.

Less than ten days later, on March 23, experimental AI plugins, including browsing and Code Interpreter capabilities, were made available to selected users.

On May 3, users gained the ability to turn off chat history and export data.

Plus users received early access to experimental web browsing and third-party plugins on May 12.

On May 24, the iOS app expanded to more countries with new features like shared links, Bing web browsing, and the option to turn off chat history on iOS.

June and July 2023 were filled with updates enhancing mobile app experiences and introducing new features.

The mobile app was updated with browsing features on June 22, and the browsing feature itself underwent temporary removal for improvements on July 3.

The Code Interpreter feature rolled out in beta to Plus users on July 6.

Plus customers enjoyed increased message limits for GPT-4 from July 19, and custom instructions became available in beta to Plus users the next day.

July 25 saw the Android version of the ChatGPT app launch in selected countries.

As summer progressed, August 3 brought several small updates enhancing the user experience.

Custom instructions were extended to free users in most regions by August 21.

The month concluded with the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise on August 28, offering advanced features and security for enterprise users.

Entering autumn, September 11 witnessed limited language support in the web interface.

Voice and image input capabilities in beta were introduced on September 25, further expanding ChatGPT’s interactive abilities.

An updated version of web browsing rolled out to Plus users on September 27.

The fourth quarter of 2023 began with integrating DALL·E 3 in beta on October 16, allowing for image generation from text prompts.

The browsing feature moved out of beta for Plus and Enterprise users on October 17.

Customizable versions of ChatGPT, called GPTs, were introduced for specific tasks on November 6 at OpenAI’s DevDay.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

On November 21, the voice feature in ChatGPT was made available to all users, rounding off a year of significant advancements and broadening the horizons of AI interaction.

And here, we have ChatGPT today, with a sidebar full of GPTs.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Looking Ahead: What’s Next For ChatGPT

The past year has been a testament to continuous innovation, but it is merely the prologue to a future rich with potential.

The upcoming year promises incremental improvements and leaps in AI capabilities, user experience, and integrative technologies that could redefine our interaction with digital assistants.

With a community of users and developers growing stronger and more diverse, the evolution of ChatGPT is poised to surpass expectations and challenge the boundaries of today’s AI landscape.

As we step into this next chapter, the possibilities are as limitless as generative AI continues to advance.


Featured image: photosince/Shutterstock



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