Last week Google made several announcements related to Schema Markup (aka structured data). There was a BIG update to the “Review” rich snippets feature, a new “Breadcrumbs” Enhancement Report in Google Search Console, as well as a new feature to help identify clips within a video. We are witnessing an increase in the number of schema.org announcements as Google’s investment in schema markup increases. Below, is our interpretation of their recommendations.
Summary of updates
- “Review” Rich Results Feature Update – “Making Review Rich Results more helpful”
- Structured Data Testing Tool:
- incorrect error
- preview button now displays stars
- New “Breadcrumbs” Enhancement Report
- Identify Clips within a Video – “Search helps you find moments in videos”
- Data Sets
- New Structured Data Feature
- Enhancement Report
Rich Results Feature Update
On September 16th, Google posted a blog on the topic of “Making Review Rich Results more helpful”. This is a significant announcement, so read carefully!
First, what is a “Review” rich result? “Review” rich results are displayed as stars in your SERP. The Google documentation for Review Rich Snippets offers additional details.
Prior to this announcement, there were many schema.org Types that called for AggregateRating which could then produce a rich result. Schema.org supports the value of “AggregateRating” for the following Schema.org types:
- CreativeWork (ie. 3DModel, ArchiveComponent, Article, Atlas, Blog, Book,Chapter, Claim, Clip, Collection, ComicStory, Comment,Conversation,Course,CreativeWorkSeason,CreativeWorkSeries,DataCatalog,Dataset,DefinedTermSet,Diet,DigitalDocument,Drawing,EducationalOccupationalCred,,t,al,Episode,ExercisePlan,Game,HowTo,HowToDirection,HowToSection,,HowToStep,HowToTip,Legislation,Manuscript,Map,MediaObject,Menu,MenuSection,Message,Movie,MusicComposition,MusicPlaylist,MusicRecording,Painting,Photograph,Play,,Poster,PublicationIssue,PublicationVolume,Question,Quotation,Review,Sculpture,SheetMusic,ShortStory,SoftwareApplication,SoftwareSourceCode,TVSeason,TVSeries,Thesis,VisualArtwork,WebPage,WebPageElement,WebSite)
- Organization (ie. Airline,Consortium,Corporation,EducationalOrganization,FundingScheme,GovernmentOrganization,LibrarySystem,LocalBusiness,MedicalOrganization,NGO,NewsMediaOrganization,PerformingGroup,Project,SportsOrganization,WorkersUnion)
However, with this announcement (on September 16th, 2019), Google only supports rich result ratings for the following schema.org types:
- Creative Work
The Intention behind the Update
It is important to understand the purpose or driver behind this algorithm update. In their blog post, Google states that the change is “to make [reviews and ratings] more helpful and meaningful” and to “addresses some of the invalid or misleading implementations webmasters have flagged to us”.
They also mention that “for many (schema.org) Types, displaying star reviews does not add much value for the user”. We believe that Google is looking for honest reviews and ratings that have been submitted by real people AND are not edited or changed to show a specific outcome.
Google has specifically called out that reviews that are “self-serving” will not be displayed. For instance, the blog says that reviews that are authored by the organization (or local business) that are about the organization (or local business) will no longer qualify. In other words, Google will not “display review rich results anymore for the schema types LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.”
What’s the impact?
First of all, realize that the schema markup you have created for your Services, LocalBusiness, Organization, BlogPosting, TechArticle is still valid! Just because Google has decided to change the way they reward rich results, doesn’t change the fact that schema markup is still a strategic element of your SEO strategy. The goal of schema markup is to help Google and other machines (search engines, chatbots, crawlers, voice search) understand the content on your website, so they can provide excellent service to their users.
TIP! Ensure you use the “name” property in your AggregateRating>ItemReviewed property. This will provide clarity on what is being reviewed. I believe they are looking at this property to understand if it is an honest or a “self-serving” review.
Organization and Local Business
If you display ratings and reviews on your site, “directly in [your] markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget” you will no longer get a rich result for that rating.
Based on this change, for now, Google is saying that they want us to gather reviews about Organizations and Local Businesses on 3rd party sites. This doesn’t mean that you should remove the reviews and ratings from your website. In fact, I would encourage you to keep them on your site, with the appropriate schema markup.
If you are showing ratings and reviews from a 3rd party site, (e.g. Google My Business, Yelp, WordPress, Capterra) include the URL in the AggregateRating schema markup to show the source. Previously, we have seen AggregateRating work on an Organization site that pointed to 3rd party ratings and reviews. As this change is implemented, it’ll be interesting to see if this option continues to produce rich results. As of Sept 23rd, 2019, we have not seen evidence that it is supporting rich results. In the FAQ that Google added (dated September 18th, 2019), Google clarifies that 3rd party widgets will not display rich results, because they believe that people can “ [control] the process of linking reviews.”
TIP! Keep your reviews and ratings up-to-date on your site to help the user understand the experience your customers have had with your business. Focus on other sites to gather reviews, to qualify for rich results in search for your brand.
Articles and BlogPosting
Schema App (and many of our customers) have been hit hard when it comes to “Article” and its subclasses (AdvertiserContentArticle, NewsArticle, Report, SatiricalArticle, ScholarlyArticle, SocialMediaPosting (BlogPosting, DiscussionForumPosting), and TechArticle) – specifically NewsArticle and BlogPosting. Our rich results disappeared from our “Ultimate Guide to Local Business Schema Markup” as of Thursday, September 19th, 2019.
We did see an update earlier this year to the schema markup documentation regarding “Articles”, where AggregateRating references were removed, but it was not documented in blogs or Aaron Bradley’s Log of structured data changes.
Before September 19th, 2019
After September 19th, 2019
Google acknowledges that a recipe review is helpful. I believe the same applies for BlogPosting and Articles.
Services are also excluded from the list. This is a big disappointment given that so many businesses offer services (not products). Many of our clients who have been using “Services” schema markup have reported the loss of their review rich snippet (after Thursday, September 19th, 2019). However, if you read the blog post from Google carefully, in the first sentence they call out that reviews and ratings “can be extremely helpful when searching for products or services (the scores and/or “stars” you sometimes see alongside search results).”
There have been conversations (reference: Search Engine Journal, 2019) about adding an “official” feature for “Service” schema markup, but we have yet to see it come to fruition.
Changes in Structured Data Testing Tool
- We are now seeing an incorrect error in the Structured Data Testing Tool for “non supported” types.
Example: We tested Schema App’s “ 16 Ways to Benefit from Schema Markup Today and in the Future” and there is a visible error “BlogPosting is not a known valid target type for the itemReviewed property.” This error is incorrect. Schema.org defines ItemReviewed as a property for AggregateRating. Although it may not qualify for the review rich result, the markup is accurate. You can view the error yourself here.
2. The Preview button now displays stars for those schema.org Types that qualify.
Example: Below is a product page on the LA Kings Store (yes, I cheer for them). View the Structured Data Testing Tool Results for this page.
The preview below displays the stars:
Note: The Schema App team has not seen any substantial changes in the Rich Results Testing Tool.
New Breadcrumbs Enhancement Report
There is a new Enhancement Report in Google Search Console. To find it, go to Google Search Console and click on “Enhancement Report”, to view your results. This is what it looks like in Schema App’s Search Console.
New Video Clip Capability (limited release)
Google mentioned “Moments” at Google IO in May 2019, where they spoke about their motivation for doing structured data. They said “Reaching users at different moments and surfaces offers great opportunity for content creators. But building and maintaining customer experience on all these surfaces and devices can bring extra work for you. This is our motivation for working on the structured data program.”
With this new capability, structured data can help to surface content from within a longer video.
Tip! The documentation says to embed the clip in your VideoObject schema markup. Referencing schema.org/VideoObject it appears you would use the property “video” and then link it to a data item schema.org/Clip. The properties they are looking for are “name”, “URL”, and startOffset. endOffset is recommended.
If this is something of interest to you, sign up for the limited release here.
Data Set Feature and new Enhancement Report
Structured Data can now be added to datasets to become eligible to appear in Dataset Searches as reported by Google Webmasters twitter on September 16th. The goal of the markup is to improve discoverability of data sets across fields like life sciences, machine laerning, civic and government data. Note that just because you add the structured data you may not appear in search, you just become eligible. Search for datasets using the Dataset Search tool. Read more about the requirements to be elible on in the Dataset Structured Data Documentation.
On the same day as the structured data feature announcement that there is a new dataset Enhancement report in Google Search Console. This will show you whether Google has discovered your structured data for the dataset and if there are any errors based on Dataset Structured Data Documentation requirements.
How to Stay on Top of these Changes?
Read the Google Webmaster Official Blog – This blog is often where they post new announcements.
Follow Google Webmaster on Twitter – The Google Webmasters Twitter feed is quick and summarizes changes documented in the blog and highlights real-time updates.
Monitor blogs posted in the search category on blog.google.