Schema.org, the structured data markup vocabulary, is a valuable tool for websites to communicate effectively with search engines and other tools. It helps provide context about the content on your site, making it easier for search engines to understand and display relevant information to users. A common question is whether the order in which properties are used in Schema.org markup really matters. Let’s dive into this topic and clarify things in simple terms.
Think of Schema.org markup as a recipe for search engines to understand your content. Just like a recipe for a delicious meal, the order of the ingredients doesn’t necessarily affect the final taste. Similarly, the order of properties in Schema.org markup doesn’t affect how search engines interpret your content. What matters is that you include the right properties to convey accurate information about your content.
In practical terms (and if you are doing everything manually), this means that you have the flexibility to arrange properties in a way that makes sense for your content and your users. Whether you’re tagging a recipe, a product, an event, or any other type of content, you’re free to place properties in any order that suits your needs. The primary goal is to ensure that all the relevant information is present, rather than worrying about the order. In SNIP, my structured data plugin for WordPress, the order is random.
Let’s take an example. Imagine you’re tagging an event on your website. You might use properties like “name”, “startDate”, “endDate”, “location” and “description”. The order in which you list these properties doesn’t affect how search engines understand the event details. You could list the location before the start date, and it would still make perfect sense to search engines and users alike.
However, remember that while the order of the properties isn’t critical, accuracy and completeness are. It’s important to use the right properties for the type of content you’re tagging. Using the wrong properties or omitting important ones can lead to confusion for both search engines and users.
Essentially, don’t worry too much about arranging properties in a particular order. Instead, focus on accurately representing your content with the appropriate Schema.org properties. Think of Schema.org markup as a way to present information clearly, much like organising your thoughts in a well-structured essay. As long as you have all the necessary components, their order is less critical.
When the order matters
Consider the use of Schema.org’s ListItem schema, which is often used for breadcrumb navigation or ordered lists. In this case, the position property is used to indicate the order of the item within the list. This property allows you to specify whether an item is first, second, third, etc. in the list.
But even in cases like this, where order seems to matter, it’s important to note that the order of the properties within each ListItem is still not a crucial concern. What matters is that the position property accurately reflects the position of the item in the list. Whether you place the position property before or after other properties within the ListItem doesn’t affect its functionality or the ability of search engines to understand the order.
In essence, while Schema.org provides a way to indicate order through properties such as position, the overall order of properties in your markup, both inside and outside of ListItem schemas, is still quite flexible. The primary goal remains the same: to provide complete and accurate information to improve the understanding of your content by search engines and other tools.
So while there are cases where you can use properties to suggest a particular order, don’t get too caught up in the nitty-gritty of arranging properties within your Schema.org markup. Focus on using the right properties, representing your content accurately, and letting the structured data work its magic to improve your content’s visibility online.