Last year, John Mueller shied away from conversations surrounding structured data. From the sounds of his interviews, structured data didn't have any impact on SEO whatsoever.
But that's where things get a little confusing. Google's "Understanding how structured data works" document hints that structured data helps Google understand page context and crawl sites more efficiently — which should "theoretically" improve ranking signals.
Does structured data impact rankings? According to Search Engine Journal, it seems to have a pretty significant impact.
Both JSON-LD and microdata (hint: Google definitely prefers JSON-LD) help your website get into the snippet section (e.g., knowledge graphs, rich cards, carousels, etc.), but outside of those sections, we can't give a definitive answer on its impact on ranking signals. Google hasn't provided any definitive answers.
But you can't get featured on rich snippets without structured data. So, it certainly can improve your CTR and other valuable KPIs.
Studies show that simply appearing on rich snippets can improve CTR by up to 30%.
There's real value in structured data. But for years, no one has been perfectly sure how to generate structured data that wins with Google. Well, until now.
Google lists three ways to generate structured data:
With Google Tag Manager
With server-side rendering
Using Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager lets you manage your structured data without actually diving into any code, so this is by far the simplest option.
Google lists six steps for generating structured data with Tag Manager
Install the container (check 'Install Google Tag Manager' section of the container admin menu to see how)
Publish the container in Google Tag Manager to add the tag to your website
Test it out
This is how most of you have already been generating structured data.
Here's the big pro tip from Google on this: check your results with the Rich Results Test.
All you have to do is enter your URL and Google will tell you if the page is "eligible for rich results." If you see "failure," you probably have a syntax error. Google has a guide on getting that fixed up.
Using server-side rendering
If you're using server-side rendering, Google recommends including the desired structured data in the rendered output. Again, check the results on the Rich Results Test.
Get started using structured data
If your website isn't using generated structured data, you should get on it. Without structured data, you're not going to get in those juicy rich snippets, and you're missing out on some of Google's best features.
When it comes to technical SEO, structured data should be a crucial component of your game plan. Yes, page speed, rendering, indexation, and all of those other wonderful technical components are also important.
But now we know that Google craves structured data, and it has provided a step-by-step guide to create generated data that makes the Google bots happy.