Google Search Console (GSC) is invaluable for monitoring whether Google has indexed your pages, tracking how well they’re performing in search results, and identifying Core Web Vitals or structured data issues. The latter is growing increasingly important as Google continues to add and finesse its SERP features.
If you’ve been on the fence about adding structured data to your site or have implemented some schema and want to check whether it worked, here’s what you need to know:
- Why you should use structured data,
- Common structured data errors that can impact your site visibility, and
- How you can use GSC to find and fix schema issues.
Why Does Structured Data Matter?
Structured data, also known as schema, is a markup language that lets users tell search engine crawlers more about a page and its content. Structured data makes it easier for search engines to rank pages appropriately. Plus, since search engines are increasingly adding new features to their search results, using structured data may help you snag a rich result and gain extra visibility in SERPs.
Think of it as providing context. By implementing structured data, you’re highlighting the important information on your page and telling Googlebot and other search crawlers how they should interpret it.
While that’s a good enough reason to start using schema, it’s not just search engines that benefit from structured data. Google’s case studies show just how much structured data can increase traffic, click-through rate, average session duration, and improve the user experience.
4 Common Structured Data Mistakes
While structured data is valuable, applying it incorrectly or using it in a spammy manner can cause more harm than good — and may even result in Google penalizing your site. Here are a few common mistakes to watch out for when using structured data.
1. Using the Wrong Type of Structured Data
With several different types of structured data to choose from, it’s essential to use the right one for the right task. Make sure you’re using a type of schema that Google approves of.
Google supports three types of structured data and nearly 30 types of rich results. You may be tempted to use more properties from Schema.org; however, Google has made it clear that for best results, you need to stick to the types of structured data approved in the structured data Development guidelines. You can see all the structured data Google supports, and learn about when to implement particular types of schema here.
2. Missing Values
Before applying it to your page, make sure to give your structured data code a once-over for syntax (language grammar) errors, formatting errors, and missing values. Syntax errors can happen when working with any programming or markup language, and generating structured data is no different. Keeping your code free of mistakes is crucial to ensuring your structured data works correctly and isn’t flagged for errors.
There are many situations in which syntax errors can happen when working with structured data. For example, having a missing attribute, adding a grammatically incorrect attribute, or adding an attribute that doesn’t fit into your JSON-LD code can all cause problems. Additionally, keep an eye out for simple syntax errors like missing commas or brackets. These may seem like small mistakes, but as with any code, just one small syntax error can render an entire block of structured data code ineffective.
For rich results, run a rich results test with this tool.
3. Doesn’t Match What’s On the Page
Mistakes happen, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to use the wrong kind of markup for a page element. Whether this error occurs accidentally or as part of a black hat strategy for gaming search engines, it can lead to a manual structured data penalty from Google.
Structured data markup should accurately depict what’s on the page and nothing more. Marking a service as a product, a book as a recipe, or an article as a video are all no-nos. Make sure the schema you use aligns with your content. Also, check that the text you use for your schema is the same that appears on your page.
4. Failure to Meet Guidelines
Before diving in and applying structured data to your pages, you should read over Google’s General Structured Data Guidelines. These guidelines can give you a better understanding of how to use structured data for maximum effectiveness. It can also keep you from going off track and getting hit with a penalty.
As you prepare to implement schema, check out any guidelines related to specific data types. This will help you make the most of any structured data type.
Last but not least, it’s always good to review Google Search Essentials. Google has stated that the best way to ensure you get a rich snippet is by following its guidelines, so read them thoroughly before working on any structured data for your site.
What To Do if You Get a Schema Penalty
Most structured data errors won’t result in a Google penalty. Instead, you’ll likely get a warning to alert you to the issue. Penalties are usually reserved for sites Google believes are purposefully using structured data to deceive or manipulate Google or searchers.
A structured data penalty will result in Google removing your page’s rich snippet from SERPs and downgrading it to a regular search snippet.
If you receive a penalty, you’ll need to fix the incorrect structured data on your website and file a reconsideration request with Google. If Google determines you’ve fixed the errors, it’ll remove the manual penalty, and you may get your rich snippet back.
Keep in mind that it may take some time for Google to address your request and restore your rich snippets, so it’s best to do everything you can to prevent penalties from happening in the first place.
Again, most errors won’t lead to a penalty. Rather, you’ll see warnings in your Google Search Console Enhancements reports.
How To Decode GSC Enhancements
GSC provides web admins with a wealth of tools for digging into their sites and exposing problems, including structured data issues. The GSC enhancements section can help you find structured data errors that may hold back your site’s SEO. Under the enhancements tab on the left-hand side of the page, you’ll find reports on four different types of structured data.
Reading GSC Enhancement Reports
Clicking on an enhancement report will open up a detailed overview of valid schema implementation a well as existing errors on your site for that specific type of structured data. A bar chart will show invalid and valid structured data URLs with a particular type of structured data. Beneath the chart, you’ll find specific information about errors, including the type of error and the URLs affected.
Breadcrumb structured data helps search engines and site visitors better understand a page’s position in your site’s hierarchy. The breadcrumbs enhancement report highlights any existing errors in your breadcrumb structure data that may be confusing Googlebot. URLs with structured data errors will appear in red on the bar chart and in a list beneath the bar chart.
Use FAQ structured data to mark up your Frequently Asked Questions page or section on the page. Google may then add a drop-down menu with questions to your link in SERPs.
This report looks the same as the Breadcrumbs report, except you can also see the impressions your pages with FAQ schema receive.
Sitelinks Search Box
Sitelinks search boxes allow users to search your site right from SERPs. There’s no guarantee that Google will provide this SERP feature for your page, but you must add the structured data to be eligible for it.
This report resembles the Breadcrumbs report. You’ll see a bar chart with Invalid and Valid URLs, followed by a list of issues and problematic URLs if any exist.
Web admins can use structured data to provide Google with more information about videos embedded on pages. The video enhancement report is similar to the Sitelinks search box report. It’ll show any errors affecting your video structured data and the impressions your pages featured said schema have received.
Unparsable Structured Data Report
You’ll also have an Unparsable Structured Data Report if you have structured data errors.
Unparsable structured data means that there is an error somewhere in the syntax of your structured data code. These errors can be challenging to spot with the naked eye, but thankfully, Google’s report provides clues on what to look for.
The Unparsable Structured Data report will highlight:
- Invalid JSON document
- Incorrect value type
- Missing a comma, closing bracket, or other needed object
- Invalid number
- Empty escape sequence in string
- Bad escape sequence in string
- Invalid Unicode character
- Duplicate unique property
- Reference to nonexistent item
Click on an issue in the report to see the URLs affected and whether the fix has been validated.
If the fix has not been validated, check the structured data on the problematic URLs for errors and then click ‘Validate fix’ when you believe you have addressed all instances of the structured data error.
It’ll take about two weeks to validate the fixes. You can see whether your updates fixed the issue in the GSC. Once Google has reassessed the problematic URLs, your Unparsable Data Report will indicate that the fix was validated.
If your validation fails, it means you have not fixed all the problematic schema. Retest your schema and revalidate after ensuring each URL has been addressed.
Checking Schema With the URL Inspection Tool
You can use the URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console to see the overall breakdown of structured data on a web page. This tool provides valuable information about the indexed version of a page, including information about structured data, indexing, linked AMP, and videos.
Simply paste your URL into the search bar at the top of Google Search Console. It’ll check whether your page is indexed, if it’s mobile-friendly, and if it has structured data.
If you want to add structured data to a page, run it through URL Inspection Tool afterward to verify that Google can read it. The tool will tell you what types of structured data is has identified and whether it found any errors.
Learn More About Google Tools
Google offers many different tools that you can take advantage of to gain a better understanding of your site’s metrics and boost its SEO. Check out our Google tools resources today to learn more about the best Google tools and how to use them to support your SEO strategy.