Evaluating if your Shopify store’s structured data is good enough

Knowing the right questions to ask can make a complex and complicated topic easier to digest and understand.

Adding structured data to your Shopify store sounds easy enough, but it’s an iceberg problem:

You might dodge the top 10% only to be shipwrecked by the 90% you didn’t know about.

One potential JSON-LD for SEO customer asked me a perfectly phrased question the other day:

Why should I choose this app over others where I could potentially revise and update the structured data myself?

This is a great question and it illuminated a lot beyond the simple "why pick your app over another app?" question I hear often.

After thinking about it, I came up with four more questions that any store can use to evaluate the structured data from any app or even your theme.

  1. Is there enough structured data or are there missing fields?
  2. Is the structured data high-quality or are there bugs in the data?
  3. Is it kept up to date with Google and the other standards or has it fallen behind?
  4. Is it provided in a way that hurts your store performance, and thus your SEO as a whole?

Enough data

The first question to use to evaluate structured data is:

  1. Is there enough structured data or are there missing fields?

Structured data isn’t a binary "you have it" or "you don’t have it".

You have to have specific data fields with the right data in the right places. Some SEO apps claim they have JSON-LD data but they are missing so much that Google effectively ignores them because their data is worthless.

This is common with Shopify themes too. For awhile, Shopify required all themes in their Theme Store to include some structured data but they didn’t dictate how much. The result is that most Shopify themes were released with the bare minimum structured data. Of the data that was included, it hasn’t been updated and is now so buggy that Google frequently ignores it.

Having a theme or app that checks the structured data box might not be enough.

You have to dig in what’s included.

JSON-LD for SEO has all of the fields Google Search, Google Merchant Center, Bing, Pinterest, and others require as well as many optional fields. I haven’t counted how many fields it includes but it wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 200-300 different fields by now.

It also has integrations with 20 or product reviews apps. That means it pulls in extra review data so your product reviews can be highlighted in the search results, leading to a more visually impactful Rich Result.

Data quality

In addition to having enough all of the data, they also have to be used correctly. Which is what the second question is for:

  1. Is the structured data high-quality or are there bugs in the data?

Over the years I’ve seen dozens of different data bugs in structured data.

  • Prices misformatted.
  • Wrong data types used.
  • Data put in the wrong place.
  • Sizes misrepresented (100kg of candy anyone?).
  • And even very basic coding errors where a single ‘ or " in the description crashes the data completely.

Without naming names, on the apps side I’ve seen some with persistent data bugs for over 6 months. Some still haven’t been fixed.

Themes are even worse where data bugs have existed for years with no fixes or updates in sight.

Put into other words, with data bugs not only would your store lose any Rich Results it’s achieved, but it would also not recover them until those bugs are fixed and Google has reanalyzed everything. We’re talking months or maybe even years if Google has taken a manual action taken against your domain.

Compare that to JSON-LD for SEO which hasn’t had a data bug for at least two years, if not longer.

Code and data kept up with Google and the standards

  1. Is it kept up to date with Google and the other standards or has it fallen behind?

SEO never stands still and neither does structured data. Keeping your structured data up-to-date is big concern and the only way to prevent data bugs.

Google releases 3-4 major updates per year with another half a dozen tweaks to the data and systems. Any of those could require new data, change the format of old data, and shift the rules and guidelines around what data can be used.

With JSON-LD for SEO I’m constantly watching and updating the code to take advantage of these changes and follow Google’s guidelines. That protects all of your store’s search enhancements and prevent data bugs down the line.

For example, in early December 2018 Google made a major update to their structured data guidelines.

JSON-LD for SEO was updated the same day and every customer got the new data within minutes after my update.

Then the following March, Google made another tiny update which made almost all Shopify theme data even more outdated. That update started asking for data that’s been in JSON-LD for SEO for two years.

When the structured data isn’t kept up, that could lead to poor performance or even losing any Rich Results you’ve built up and being forced to start over.

This has actually happened to shopify.com itself three in the past three years where they rolled out some broken review structured data. They still haven’t fully recovered and are only showing partial Rich Results as of now.

Remember that Google update in December I mentioned above? Even now, four months later, some apps still haven’t been updated and stores using those apps have been losing out and falling behind.

Help or hurt your store performance

  1. Is it provided in a way that hurts your store performance, and thus your SEO as a whole?

Beyond structured data, you also need to look at how any Shopify app impacts your store performance.

Some apps are so horrible performance-wise that even when they work correctly, they have such a major negative impact on your page speed that any improvement to conversions or traffic is lost.

Even worse, with Google factoring performance into rankings this means that a slow store means even lower SEO rankings.

Isn’t it ironic that installing an SEO app would actually hurt your performance enough to damage your SEO?

Alanis would not be pleased.

Almost all of app performance problems are because apps load excessive amounts of JavaScript, use huge JavaScript libraries, and run on servers that can’t handle the traffic of a even moderately busy store.

JSON-LD for SEO bypasses the performance issues entirely based on its core design.

It runs directly on Shopify servers just like the rest of your store and takes advantage of all the performance and caching tech Shopify uses.

It uses no JavaScript unless you enable the optional Magic Reviews Integrations. Even then, the JavaScript is tiny and doesn’t use any libraries at all. (For a size comparison, JSON-LD for SEO’s JavaScript is about 3600 bytes, less than the size of this article)

Best of all, once you install JSON-LD for SEO then your store and customers never connect to its servers during day-to-day operations. I could turn off all my servers during Black Friday and no one would even notice it was gone, not even Google.

It’s servers are only needed for the initial install, configuration, and update processes.

All of this means it has no impact on your store performance or such a tiny impact that you can’t measure it.

Eric Davis

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