Digital marketers may have initially anticipated the introduction of a new tool with excitement. However, the replacement of the Structured Data Testing Tool (SDTT) with the Rich Results Test (RRT) was initially met with concern by some in the SEO community. The primary criticism was that the RRT only supported a limited subset of Google-approved schemas, whereas the SDTT could validate all schema types.
Responding to feedback from the SEO community, Google migrated the SDTT to schema.org in April 2021 as the Schema Markup Validator. This tool allows users to check the syntax and compliance of markup with schema.org standards but no longer checks a page’s eligibility for Google Search rich results, which can only be achieved using the RRT.
This article provides an in-depth comparison of the SDTT and the RRT, discusses the concerns surrounding the replacement tool, and explores alternative options if the RRT does not fully meet your requirements.
Structured Data Testing Tool: An Overview
Launched in 2009, the Structured Data Testing Tool (SDTT) was a web-based platform for validating schema, a type of structured data added to pages to help Google understand their content. Users could test structured data by manually checking a code snippet or entering a URL to validate schema implementation on a specific page.
Introducing the Schema Markup Validator
Following criticism from SEOs, Google migrated the SDTT to schema.org, where it continues as the Schema Markup Validator. This tool enables users to check the syntax and compliance of schema with schema.org standards. However, the key difference between the SDTT and the Schema Markup Validator is that the migrated tool no longer tests structured data markup for rich results eligibility in Google Search. Instead, to perform this test, users must use the Rich Results Test, sometimes called the rich snippet test.
Understanding Google’s Rich Results Test
The Rich Results Test (RRT) is designed to replace the SDTT as a tool for testing structured data. Like its predecessor, the RRT allows users to validate either code snippets or URLs. The most immediately apparent improvements are aesthetic, but the RRT also enables users to confirm their schema markup’s eligibility for rich results in Google Search, one of the primary reasons for adding structured data to pages.
In addition to showing eligibility for rich results in SERPs, the RRT provides a preview of how the page will appear in Google Search with its current enhancements. It is worth checking the RRT preview when validating your markup, even if some warnings appear.
Addressing Initial Concerns with the Rich Results Test
The RRT faced several criticisms in the weeks following the SDTT’s deprecation. Some of these issues have been addressed, but others remain unresolved. For example, initially, the RRT only validated Google-approved schema types, which was problematic for businesses in the publishing and media industries. Google addressed this issue in July 2020 by adding the ability to validate NewsArticle and LiveBlogPosting schema.
However, the RRT still forces users to test the AMP version of a page, which may be an issue for publishers. Additionally, editing and re-testing markup is more challenging in the RRT compared to the SDTT. Despite these concerns, the RRT offers some benefits, such as integration with Google Search Console, the ability to differentiate between desktop and mobile, and improved handling of dynamically loaded schema markup.
Recent Updates to the Rich Results Test
In the lead-up to 2023, several minor updates have enhanced the overall experience the RRT offers. For example, Google has added support for testing new types of structured data, such as the pros and cons structured data. The RRT has also been updated to provide more detail when errors are identified in the schema markup.
Comparing the Structured Data Testing Tool and the Rich Results Test
The initial distinction between these tools lay in the form of schemas they could validate. The RRT could only test approved classes of structured data that directly influenced the appearance of search results, while the SDTT could validate all schema types. Although the RRT now supports NewsArticle and LiveBlogPosting schema, it still cannot validate various schema types that do not affect rich results in Google Search, such as Action schema. Users wishing to validate the full range of schema types can use the Schema Markup Validator.
Another key difference between the SDTT and the RRT is the ease of editing and re-validating code. While users can still edit code within the RRT using a workaround, it is less efficient than the SDTT. For example, with the Schema Markup Validator, users can edit a page’s structured data on the go before switching to the RRT for a final check of rich results eligibility.
On the other hand, the integration with Google Search Console streamlines workflows and provides more data in one place. Having RRT data available under the Enhancements tab helps identify any issues with structured data implementation across an entire site, making it easier to manage markup implementation for larger sites that regularly add schema to their content. New features, such as the ability to preview how a page would be displayed or read out to Google Assistant users, further enhance the RRT’s utility.
Alternative Tools to the Rich Results Test
Although the RRT has its benefits, several free online alternatives allow you to test structured data if the RRT does not meet all your requirements. Many of these tools are not limited to validating a narrow set of schema types. In practice, you may want to combine one of these tools with the RRT to finalise schema implementation on a page and then test the appearance of rich results using the RRT’s preview functionality.
1. Schema Markup Validator
With the Schema Markup Validator, users can perform all tasks previously possible with the SDTT. This tool allows users to validate the full range of schema types and edit a page’s structured data on-the-fly, just as they could with the SDTT.
2. Bing Markup Validator
Microsoft’s Bing Markup Validator is useful for quickly checking the implementation of various schema types. The only minor inconvenience is that users must sign in before using the tool.
3. Structured Data Viewer
The Structured Data Viewer from classyschema.org is a free helpful alternative that handles all schema types and visualises the relationships between the entities referred to in your script.
4. Screaming Frog
Although not free, Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider offers structured data testing functionality for users who already utilise the tool. This option is ideal for validating schema at scale and complements the ability to view any issues with enhancements across an entire site in Google Search Console.
By understanding the key differences between the Structured Data Testing Tool, the Rich Results Test, and their alternatives, you can make informed decisions about the best tools to validate your structured data and ensure eligibility for rich results in Google Search.
Optimising Your Workflow with Structured Data Tools
Optimising your workflow is crucial to maximising the available structured data tools. This involves understanding the strengths and limitations of each tool and utilising them in a way that maximises efficiency and effectiveness.
The following steps can help you streamline your structured data validation and implementation process:
Step #1: Initial Markup Validation
Begin by using a comprehensive tool like the Schema Markup Validator or Bing Markup Validator to check the syntax and compliance of your schema with schema.org standards. These tools allow you to validate all schema types, including those not supported by the RRT.
Step #2: Refining Markup
Use the editing capabilities of the Schema Markup Validator to refine your structured data, making any necessary changes to fix errors or improve the markup’s clarity.
Step #3: Rich Results Eligibility
Once you have validated your schema using one of the broader tools, switch to the Rich Results Test to confirm that your structured data is eligible for rich results in Google Search. This step ensures that your schema implementation achieves the desired outcome regarding search result enhancements.
Step #4: Previewing Results
Utilise the preview feature in the Rich Results Test to see how your content will appear in Google Search and Google Assistant. This step helps you identify any issues with the final appearance of your search result enhancements and make any required adjustments.
Step #5: Tracking and Monitoring
Integrate your validation process with Google Search Console to track and monitor structured data implementation across your site. This integration allows you to identify any issues that need fixing, making it easier to maintain and update your structured data as required.
Step #6: Leveraging Additional Tools
When working on larger projects or validating schema at scale, consider using tools like Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider or the Structured Data Viewer for additional support. These tools can provide valuable insights, visualisations, and bulk validation capabilities that may not be available through other methods.
By following these steps and leveraging the strengths of each structured data tool, you can create an efficient and effective workflow that ensures your content is accurately marked up and optimised for rich results in Google Search. As the digital landscape evolves, staying informed about updates to structured data tools and best practices will remain essential to maintaining your competitive edge in search engine optimisation.
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