I've received a lot of questions about Google's structured data update from last week.
Today I want to address what Errors and Warnings are and how Google treats them.
(They are Capitalized like Proper Nouns because they are Important Things)
Errors are problems with the data or format of the structured data. When an item has an Error, Google will not use any of that item's data.
Errors don't affect other items on the page though. So if you have two sets of product data and one set of business data, and one product has an Error then the business data and other set of product data would still work. In other words, since there was at least one set of error-free data, the Google machine is happy.
When you find Errors in your structured data, you should either fix them or make sure you have an error-free version of that data. I see this a lot where a Shopify theme or app has an Error in the product data but it's okay because JSON-LD for SEO has an error-free copy of that product data also shown.
Warnings are milder than Errors and don't impact your SEO.
In the past they'd occur when you had minor problems with your structured data but Google could still figure out what you meant. The most common one with Shopify stores is having the currency with the price like $100. At one point I saw that Warning on every. single. Shopify. store.
I kid you not.
(Then there was another set of bugs in the themes and other SEO apps where if you had a single quote ' in your product title or description, they'd mishandle the data and cause an Error)
With Google's update, they added a lot more Warnings but this time they are showing Warnings on recommended data. This data is what Google's own spec calls optional and not required.
This increase in the number of warnings is both 1) expected and 2) might be a bug.
Over the past years I've noticed how Google behaves when this optional behavior is present or missing. I've even been warning some non-JSON-LD for SEO customers that I could see Google starting to make them a required part of the Rich Results and that's one reason why they should use my app.
This update feels like the first confirmation of Google moving that way.
I also think the increase in the number of warnings is the result of a bug in the official Testing Tool.
One Warning in particular is recommending a field that doesn't make sense and isn't supported on that type of data. This is the
review field on a Product.
I'll cover that in a follow-up article as Google has clarified some of their guidelines around review types.
But back to the Testing Tool.
The tool has had bugs in the past, especially when Google changes the rules. I anticipate some of these Warnings are the result of bugs in the tool and I'll see them fix themselves eventually in a tool update.
And even if they aren't, remember that Warnings don't impact your SEO. Only Errors.
Especially with this Google update, more and more Shopify themes don't quality for Google's Rich Results so they lose out on highly visible SEO enhancements.
JSON-LD for SEO provides high-quality data that will let your store qualify for Rich Results. Often times faster than the industry averages.
P.S. If you want to learn more on this, I've documented how Google works with structured data and how a lot of even SEO companies don't "get it".