How responding quickly to a Google change might have saved your Rich Snippets

This past Monday I got an email that started off a chain of events this week.

Subject: JSON-LD for SEO errors

In that email a new customer, Chris (hi Chris), mentioned that he was seeing an error when testing his structured data.

I get a lot of these reports due to themes having messed up data but in this case, he was right. Google was reporting an error on my app. And it’s an error that I’ve never seen before.

is not a known valid target type for the identifier property.

Due to the location of the error, it would also prevent him from getting Product Rich Snippets with JSON-LD for SEO which is the major benefit of the app.

So I quickly started debugging what was going on.

I compared the data and format to the Schema.org specifications, it was good.

I compared it to known working sites, they were good.

Even searches for that phrase turned up nothing.

At first I thought it was a bug Google introduced into their testing tool. Every few months something in it will break and it takes a day or two before it’s recovered.

I was about to email Chris about it to see if he had any more information when another email appears, mentioning the same error.

Sure enough, their product pages were also showing the error. Interestingly though, not every page had it.

With two customers reporting it, I knew something was going on.

I got out my development tools and tested the products on my test store, sure enough a few products there had the error occurring.

I tried tweaking the data four different ways to see how to resolve it.

The only way I found that would have worked, would have also broken my integration with Judge.me.

Since I didn’t want to do that and since it seemed to be occurring on only a few stores, I decided to sleep on it.

Good thing I did too.

The next morning I thought, "If this change breaks how Judge.me’s official integration works, then maybe they know something about it"

Lo and behold, when I checked their official integration documentation, they were now recommending a small tweak to that field.

I made that change to JSON-LD for SEO and all of the errors from Google disappeared.

Next I did a manual rollout to the handful of stores I saw it on, every one of them had it fixed.

So I packaged up the new format and updated every customer’s snippet.

This was only a minor change to the structured data format but this shows what can happen in such a short time.

Since it added an error to the product data, if I didn’t catch it then the majority of stores would lose their Rich Snippets or they’d lose some product data in them.

No where was this change announced by Google. It just happened.

But since I’m checking dozens of stores every day and because I have deep knowledge into how the structured data all fits together, I was able catch it early before any damage was done.

Now it’s just yet another example of a Google change that I was able to protect my customers from.

(Sadly, there are going to be a bunch of other stores who get affected by this. I saw the microdata from a few popular Shopify themes also have the error so if they aren’t corrected soon, they’ll lose their Rich Snippets too).

Now would be a good time to make sure that you have JSON-LD for SEO installed. Especially if you’re relying on your theme’s microdata which could have just become invalid.

Eric Davis

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