Google tightens structured data policy, demands marked-up content be visible to users

When Google released revised guidelines for structured data use on Jan. 15, 2015, the company's previous stance that "Google will ignore content that isn't visible to human users" was considerably modified.

Instead, the revised guidelines stated merely that structured data should accurately reflect the content of a given page.

"High-quality structured data must not create a misleading or deceptive experience for search users. It should be an up-to-date and accurate reflection of the topic and content already found on the page, such as text, images, and videos."

Apparently the words "webmaster guidelines" and "nuance" don't belong close to one another, an on March 13, 2015 Google revised the title of the section that spoke about the use machine-readable metadata to include (and, indeed, lead with) "Non-visible data", and re-invoked it's stricture against the markup of non-visible content:

"Typically Google will not display content that isn't visible to the end user. In other words, you generally shouldn't mark up content that is not visible to users. [...] The meta tag should not be used to hide content that is not visible to users in any form, since it might create misleading or deceptive search experience."

There's still some nuance still present in the qualifiers employed - "typically Google will not display...", "you generally shouldn't mark up", "in any form" - but the message is clear:  provide structured data for visible content only.

Exceptions are allowed, but they currently remain so explicitly called out as to underline the point about visible content (in speaking of review best/worst ratings, for example, the guidelines say - as they always have in this latest round - "in general Google will not display content that isn't visible to the end user, but when the best and/or worst ratings aren't present on the page, using meta with bestRating or worstRating is allowed.").

Many webmasters had hoped that the loosening of the guidelines on "invisible markup" meant that Google was going to be more flexible in this regard, and in particular more accepting of JSON-LD-provided data that didn't exist as visible content on a page.  While these revised guidelines don't rule out the provision of such non-visible data, they do indicate that this sort of data provision remains an exception requiring an explicit dispensation from Google.

#structureddata   #google   #visiblecontent   #jsonld  
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