Structured vs. Unstructured Data — What’s Best for SEO?

What is Structured Data for SEO?

Structured data, aka schema markup, is a way of organizing data that helps search engines better understand and categorize your website content.

  • Names
  • Professions
  • Dates
  • Area pin codes
  • Email addresses
  • GPS location coordinates

What is Unstructured Data?

Unstructured data is an undefined piece of information that has no standard format.

  • Text documents, including PDFs, chats, and presentations
  • Social media data, like tweets, posts, and comments
  • Audio files, images, and videos

What is Semi-Structured Data?

Semi-structured data is a blend of structured and unstructured data.

  • Images with metadata like alt text and a date
  • Emails information, including both content and information like subject, receiver, and sending date
  • Zip files
  • HTML and XML web pages

What is Schema.org and How Can it Help Structure Data for SEO?

Structured data, in the broadest sense, refers to a format of storing data in an organized manner. However, in the context of SEO, structured data refers to one thing: Schema.org markup.

What is Schema.org?

An initiative to build a better semantic web, Schema.org is a community founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. The four search engines collaborated to develop schema vocabularies for structured data markup across the internet.

Formats Supported by Schema.org

JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa are the most commonly used structured data markup languages and all are available on Schema.org.

  • JSON-LD — Because it’s lightweight and simple to add, JSON-LD can be inserted into the header of your website without disrupting anything. Google also prefers this format.
  • Microdata — Google phased out this format in favor of JSON-LD due to its frequent failures. Because the structured data is integrated into the main HTML of a page using this format, it is more likely to cause a page to crash if it’s not implemented properly.
  • RDFa — In HTML5 documents, RDFa publishes data linked using HTML5. Google does not prefer this option.

What is Structured Data Used for in the Context of SEO?

Here are some of the common use cases of structured data for SEO.

Knowledge Panel

When you search for a person, place, or company on Google, you will come across a knowledge graph or knowledge panel — a comprehensive summary of data sourced from reputable sources.

Rich Snippets

Google provides rich results that go beyond the standard blue link. A carousel, an image, or other non-textual elements can be included as part of a rich result.

Rich Cards

Structured markup is used in rich cards to display SERP content in a more engaging and visual format. The focus is on delivering a better mobile user experience than rich snippets.

Interactive Search Results

Google Search also supports a more interactive and enhanced type of rich result known as enriched search results.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

An Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) is a lightning-fast and mobile-oriented version of your web page that can be substituted for the original page in mobile search results.

Structured vs. Unstructured Data: A Comparison

Structured data is predefined and can be arranged in a spreadsheet like a date, name, address, barcode, and other similar data.

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Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma

Gaurav Sharma is the Founder and CEO of Attrock, a results-driven digital marketing company. He also contributes to top publications like HuffPost, Adweek..