Structured Data: How to enhance discoverability
Search engines and other web crawlers seek to understand the content of your web pages. By including structured data for the content elements of your performing arts events, productions, performers, venues and arts organizations, search engines can better discern the meaning of your information. Structured data identifies and describes each individual element on a page. In the case of a page for a performing arts show, the structured data should at bare minimum define the type (even if it is simply a generic event), a name, a start time, a location, and price of the event. A more expanded use of structured data can also identify and describe the performer, the organizer, the venue and the link where tickets can be purchased. Using sameas links to other structured data which can be very powerful. Altogether the greater the detail in your structured data, the more specific searches will return your results to users.
In structured data, as in traditional SEO, the URL for an event (or any other entity) is like its unique ID. Each event must have its own URL and this URL must only feature one event. That way, this URL can be recognized by search engines as the authoritative web page where human-readable information and machine-readable structured data about that event – and only that event – can be found. It is not effective from a search engine’s perspective to crawl and index a listing, even a detailed listing, of all events on a single page with a buy button for each event. If you want your website to rank at the top of Google Event Finder’s “information” links (above secondary listings and resellers), create one web page per event and then attach structured data to that event’s URL. (A side note: For Google’s purposes, websites must include all the required properties (the details) for an object (the event) to be eligible for enhanced display as a rich result. It is worth ensuring the structured data elements Google requires are available regardless of the website builder used.)
View or download the complete PDF file here.
There are three dominant formats for structuring your data:
- RDFa (Resource Description Framework in Attributes)
There are structured data testing tools that help you see whether your structured data generates the desired results. Google recommends to test your structured data using the Rich Results Test during development, and the Rich result status reports after deployment, to monitor the health of your pages.
Event Plugins for WordPress
Jai Djwa, a BC-based creative technologist and strategist, tested a few WordPress event plugins as part of CAPACOA’s Linked Digital Futures Initiative.
The best combination of plugins he found was:
He says he “configured the combination of plugins so that it had all the information that would be useful for the event without any errors. This combination of plugins also gave the most comprehensive schema.” Further, “Yoast is a powerful SEO tool that allows you to set keywords and cornerstone content for each page. Adding metadata through Yoast is quite powerful. Yoast doesn’t add Event schema but it does add general “WebPage” schema to Event pages. It will also add different “Article” schema as well as “Website.” As Yoast has an extremely high installation rate, chances are that any solution should work with Yoast.”
Schema Pro offers a wide variety of content schema in addition to events, such as Person and Local Business, which are useful for the arts.
Event plugins are useful, because:
- They provide a consistent template that makes it easier for both humans and bots to browse your events; and,
- Some event plugins automatically generate some structured data.
You can also go to the source directly: Schema.org has quite comprehensive listings for relevant, agreed on schema including code examples at the bottom of each page. Within schema.org there remain gaps in fully describing specific events. It is important to understand that schema.org continues to evolve and new elements are added. As such it is important for users of structured data to keep track of changes to structured data elements in schema.org. At present, here are direct links to the current status of schema for these types of events:
https://schema.org/Event and more specific types of events:
There are comprehensive schema for persons and professions, places, organizations and creative works:
Any website developer or owner can modify their content management system to generate the accurate schema as part of their advance search engine optimization efforts to generate rich snippets and become part of the answers Google provides to web users. The initial effort to create a new page template that uses individual fields for all content elements pays off quickly as the information structure can be reused time and again.
JSON-LD Schema Markup Generators
For some website platforms or CMS systems there are no plug-ins yet and you might need to generate your own JSON-LD code to implement on your web pages. A simple Google search reveals a number of schema markup generators. Simply select one that suites your needs and handles the specific object, e.g. events, or local business or person, well. Importantly, these generators simply map the content elements to schema properties and generate the JSON-LD code. Not all are as comprehensive as you might require to be fully effective.
Always test the code for completeness in the Google Rich Results Test tool during development.