If you’re a tech geek like myself and launch Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools before you take your first sip of coffee this post is for you. If you pay attention to website errors you’ve no doubt noticed structured data errors in the search console of Google Webmaster Tools. Under “Search Appearance” you’ll see the “Structured Data” tab. Here’s where we’ll see our errors. In this post I’ll outline how to fix structured data errors to provide Google better robust search results by declaring microformats.
What are Structured Data Errors?
Structured data errors come from Google-bot not finding certain microformat tags on your site. Microformats.org defines microformats as the following..
Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards.
Google uses microformats for richer search engine listings. In the screenshot above you’ll see additional information such as telephone number, address, reviews and more. These are microformats that Google pulls from sites that have the correct microformat or hEntry tags.
h-entry is a simple, open format for episodic or date-stamped content on the web. h-entry is often used with content intended to be syndicated, e.g. blog posts. h-entry is one of several open microformat draft standards suitable for embedding data in HTML/HTML5.
Why Fix Structured Data Errors?
If you run a blog you can see why this information would be important. It informs Google-bot not only what the title of your blog post is, but the date it was posted, how it’s tagged, who the author is and much more.
Google likes it when you play nice with their standards and awards you by prettier listings. As an white hat SEO guy I do whatever I can to get my site better listed. Improving microformats is just an extension of my obsessive optimization compulsion.
How to Fix Structured Data Errors
Google Webmaster Tools will help you locate structured data errors under the “Search Appearance” drop-down. From here you can determine if your site is experiencing these errors and at what capacity.
If you notice the following error.
..then you too can join the masses of us out there with structured data errors. So what the error above is in reference to is missing hEntry data Google-bot is looking for. It’s simply a class missing from a div or tag. In the error above Google-bot is looking for an author, a title and a date the post was created or updated.
Anatomy of a Structured Data Error
The error above is triggered by a div missing a class to explain to the bot what it is that it’s crawling. See the example below.
This is an example of some pretty standard WordPress code. It’s not not wrong or bad code it’s just missing hEntry data.
<code class="language"><h2><?php the_title(); ?</code>
Here’s the same title with hEntry data included. In this example, Google can use the microformat data here for richer SERP listings.
<code class="language-">< h2 class="entry-title">< ?php the_title(); ?></code>
Use Structured Data Markup Helper & Structured Data Testing Tool
By using tools provided by Google you’ll be able to fix these pesky issues first by starting out with the Structured Data Markup Helper. This will help you determine what type of microformats best suit your niche.
You can use the tagging tool within Google Webmaster Tools to tag random posts from you site that Google can use as a blueprint for all the elements that live on your page. Teaching Google what everything is on your page ensures your site will be better listed and can give you an edge on your competition that may not be taking advantage of this yet.
As luck would have it Google has provided us with a handy Structured Data Testing Tool to determine if your code updates have been crawled. Be patient this can take a few days depending on how often you post to your website or blog. If you’re really impatient you can “Fetch as Google” from the drop-down in Google Webmaster Tools.
By practicing the preceding advice over the past 2 weeks I’ve been able to reduce structured data errors from well over 200 issues to the last 2 errors I have today. Again be patient while waiting for these to drop off. It can take days or even weeks for your updated pages to be crawled.