When you’re using JSON-LD, microdata or Structured Data on Shopify, it’s important to test to make sure that your data is appearing correctly.
If your data is incorrect, Google won’t be able to read the data and you’ll lose out on the benefits from having it.
This is the case with the majority of Shopify themes out-of-the-box. They have structured data but it’s outdated, incomplete, and sometimes includes errors or breaks Google’s rules.
Table of Contents
- How to test
- 1. Select your page
- 2. Structured Data Testing Tool
- 3. Good report
- 4. Bad report with errors
- Testing tips: Warnings in the data
- Testing tips: Errors vs Warnings
- Testing tips: Product review fields
- Testing tips: Duplicate data
How to test your structured data
Since structured data can be really technical and jargon-filled, it can be confusing to test and interpret the tests.
This guide will walk you though testing your structured data. Make sure to read it all the way through including the testing tips at the end, there are years worth of experience contained within this guide.
One tip is important enough that I’m going to lead with it:
Google’s Testing Tool is a developer-level tool and uses developer terms like Error and Warning. The meaning of these terms dates back to the early days of computers and mean different things than the common usage. Knowing the difference between Errors and Warnings will save you a lot of headache and worry.
1. Select your pages
Before you start testing your Shopify store, it’s best to pick a few pages to evaluate.
You can check every page on your store but most of the time by picking a handful of specific pages you can find any major issues.
For each page below, open a new tab or copy the full url into a document.
- Your homepage
- Product page, especially one with variants and reviews
- Blog post (if you use them)
- Any other special pages like cooking recipes, contact us, or blog posts with videos
2. Structured Data Testing Tool
Once you’ve collected your pages you’re going to use a tool from Google called Structured Data Testing Tool.
One at a time, enter each page url you’ve collected.
This site will download your page and search for any structured data on it. Once it finds things, it will create a report of everything it finds on the right side of the screen. On the left will be the page’s HTML as Google saw it.
The best part of this tool is that you can navigate through the report on the right and drill down into each structured data object and see exactly what data has been set. You can also click on an item and see where in the page’s HTML it was coded at which is invaluable to finding out what code is responsible. You might need to know HTML to understand it but any Shopify developer or even a general web developer should be able to interpret the HTML code.
3. Good report
Above is an example of the report for a homepage. As you can see there are two objects: Website and Organization. When you navigate into each one the data should appear and you can quickly confirm everything is correct.
Notice how there are two Organizations. I’ll get into that later but having multiple copies of a set of data is okay and Google Search has some really smart behavior when it finds this.
Here’s an example for a product. It has different data including the product price, description, and availability.
Notice that once you drill in deeper there are multiple Offers shown. Each of these are your variants.
4. Bad report with errors
The easy way to spot a bad or incorrect JSON-LD is to look for the Errors in red. In this report I removed the product variants price which is a required field.
Errors will prevent that set of data from being used. If the error is on a Product like in the example above, then this product won’t be included in your site’s Rich Results. An error in the Article object will prevent that blog post from appearing.
An error in one set of data won’t impact the other sets of data though as each set is separate. This means you can have errors in your Shopify’s theme while an app like JSON-LD for SEO is providing a second set of error-free data which gets picked up for Rich Results.
Fixing errors in your JSON-LD can be difficult and complex depending on the error. JSON-LD uses Schema.org, which while a very-heavily documented site, it’s very much a programmer’s API documentation resource.
If you have a developer on staff who understands JSON-LD and microdata they might be able to do the research and fix things. Or you can hire a developer to do it themselves.
Or you can save yourself the time and hassle and install a Shopify app like JSON-LD for SEO.
Sometimes you’ll see a general error, like a Syntax Error. This is usually caused by some code that has such poorly formatted structured data that Google gives up on it. Even though it appears outside the other errors in the testing tool, it acts as a set of data that Google will ignore. Meaning if you have valid data elsewhere, the good data will still be used.
What follows are a few testing tips about common areas I’ve seen since over the years. I’ll expand and add to them over time.
Warnings in the data are okay
You might see Warnings in your structured data report. They appear in orange and include a warning message.
It’s important to read the warning message Google provides to see what caused the warning. Some warnings are harmless, some are advising you about future changes to the data you need to make soon.
The big cause of warnings is Google’s December 2018 update when Google started adding Warnings around optional data you’re missing. If you have that data, you should add it. If you don’t or if it’s something like the critic review field described below, they are safe to ignore.
Warnings won’t affect your SEO or search results negatively.
Errors vs Warnings: Is Google warning me about a problem?
How Google is using the terms Errors and Warnings is different than the common usage of them.
Google is a computer science company. The terms errors and warnings come from computer science tools called compilers.
An error is something that caused the compiler to stop working. In common language this is the same as a problem or a crash. That’s how it works with structured data, an error is a problem in a set of data that will block it from working.
A warning is a suggestion about the code that the compiler noticed. In common language this is the same as a suggestion or recommendation. It’s not a warning like a parent warning a child to not cross the street.
That’s why Google started showing warnings on structured data that was missing optional data. They were recommending adding it if you had it. In fact, their warning messages say this exactly:
The aggregateRating field is recommended. Please provide a value if available.
That’s why you don’t need to worry about warnings.
In mid-2019 Google added their own definition for structured data warnings:
Warning: A rich result with a warning issue is eligible to appear in Google Search as a rich result. Warning issues are either suggestions for missing or invalid optional values, or errors in non-critical fields. Providing more optional field data can often enable a better experience for the user.
Product aggregateRating vs review fields
review fields can often cause confusion because they sound like the same thing but they are in-fact, completely different.
There are multiple ways of using a set of product structured data.
For Shopify stores it’s used as in "this is a product this store has for sale".
Another way non-stores use it is "this is the details about a product I’ve written about on this page".
For a Shopify store, when customers leave reviews you want to collect all of the reviews for that product so the product can be rated. This is what the
aggregateRating field is for.
It says how many people (customers) have left reviews and what the average rating they’ve given the product.
Some websites write review articles on products. This is where a critic writes their opinions of a product and give it rating based on what they think. These websites will also use the product structured data but instead they use the
review field which has the details of their one review.
These critic reviews aren’t used by Shopify stores on products, but since the product structured data can work both ways Google (unhelpfully) will add a warning on these two different types of reviews asking you to have both.
But the only one you want to use is
review and its warning.
Multiple, duplicate copies of one type of structured data
When you test your Shopify store you might notice multiple copies of a set of structured data, just like the two Organizations in the screenshot at the beginning of this article.
Having multiple sets of data is okay.
Google uses a smart strategy that looks at the quality of the data included in each set to decide which set to use. I have the full details of my research into how Google handles duplicate structured data but the basic answer is that they use the one with the most data, with the least number of warnings, and that is error-free.
You might get multiple copies of structured data from having multiple SEO apps installed, your theme providing structured data, or sloppy coding from an app or theme (especially on collection pages or related product sections where there should be no product data).
JSON-LD for SEO uses special ID fields to help isolate the data and to help you distinguish it from other apps. For example, its set of product data ends with
#product. This article has the full list of IDs used.
There’s one caveat: depending on the data you might need to remove or update duplicates if you use Google Merchant Center. But if you don’t use that system, you can safely ignore them.
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