In a recent Webmaster Central post, Google announced that the Rich Results Test (RRT) is out of beta and preparations are well underway to deprecate the Structured Data Testing Tool (SDTT). Support for the old tool has now ended, although it remains unclear as to exactly when it will be removed completely.
You might expect digital marketers to be excited about the promise of a new tool, but the move has been met with dismay by some members of the SEO community. The main criticism is that the RRT only supports a small subset of Google-approved schemas, whereas the SDTT is capable of validating all schema types (more on this below).
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between the two tools in greater depth and unpack some of the reasons why people are unhappy with the new RRT. To conclude, we’ll look at some of the alternative options should you find that the RRT doesn’t meet your needs going forwards.
In this post
- Critique of the Rich Results Test
- Comparing the Structured Data Testing Tool and the Rich Results Test
- Alternatives to the Rich Results Test
Originally launched in 2009, the Structured Data Testing Tool is a web-based platform for validating schema (a type of structured data that we add to pages so that Google understands what they are about). You can use it to test structured data either by manually checking a code snippet or entering a URL to validate your implementation of schema on a particular page
A simple tool in principle, the SDTT is something we use frequently in SEO. Whether adding LocalBusiness mark-up to a client’s location landing pages or improving how a blog appears in the search results with HowTo schema, the most important step is validating the implementation at the end.
The Rich Results Test is a new tool for testing structured data and is designed to replace the SDTT. Much like its predecessor, the RTT enables users to validate either code snippets or URLs. As you can see from the screenshot below, the most immediately obvious improvements are aesthetic:
Critique of the Rich Results Test
Over the past few weeks, Twitter has been abuzz with commentary on the deprecation of the STDD and evaluation of its replacement. Take a look at some of the main arguments made so far for context:
RRT only validates Google-approved schema types
Certain types of schema used in publishing and the media aren’t compatible with the new tool, making it less useful to businesses in these industries.
RRT forces the user to test the AMP version of a page
Most users won’t need to differentiate between AMP and non-AMP versions during their usual workflow, but, as others have pointed out, this could be a serious issue for publishers.
It’s more difficult to edit and re-test mark-up in RTT
In the SDTT, users can easily alter their code to the left of the page and then validate the changes on the right, which is useful when you encounter small syntax errors that need fixing. As this tweet shows, you can still do this in the RTT, but re-testing takes a little longer.
Positives of the RRT
The integration with Google Search Console is certainly a step in the right direction, providing more of the data you need in one place, as is the ability to differentiate between desktop and mobile.
Comparing the Structured Data Testing Tool and the Rich Results Test
The main difference between these tools lies in the forms of schema that they can validate: the RRT is only able to test approved classes of structured data that will directly influence the appearance of search results, whereas the SDDT is capable of validating all schema types.
For example, this Search Engine Journal post is marked up with NewsArticle schema; whilst the SDTT can identify this type of schema and validate its implementation, the RTT only detects the page’s breadcrumbs:
Another differentiating factor between the SDTT and the RTT is the ease with which users can edit and re-validate code. Dave Smart’s tweet shows an easy workaround for altering scripts on the fly in the new platform, but this shouldn’t be necessary with a newly developed tool. Issues like this are part of the reason why some users are looking to switch to a new tool when the SDTT is eventually removed.
That said, the Search Console integration will make our workflows much smoother – having the RTT data available as a report under the Enhancements tab helps to flag any issues that need fixing with structured data across an entire site, making it easier to keep on top of mark-up implementation for larger sites that regularly add schema to their content.
Other great new features include the ability to preview how your page would be displayed or read out to Google Assistant users: if you marked up one of your pages with Recipe schema, you could see how the recipe would look on a display speaker using the RTT so you can check that your formatting is correct.
Alternatives to the Rich Results Test
The RTT has its positives, but if it doesn’t provide all of the features you need, then there are plenty of free online alternatives that will allow you to test your structured data. And fortunately, many of these aren’t limited to validating a narrow set of schema types.
Bing Markup Validator
Microsoft’s response to the SDTT, the Bing Markup Validator is useful for quickly checking your implementation of a wide variety of different schema types. The only slight inconvenience with this tool is that you have to sign in before you can use it. Once you’re logged in and you’ve selected the site you want to test, you can find the markup validator under Diagnostics & Tools:
Structured Data Viewer
The Structured Data Viewer from classyschema.org is the most helpful alternative tool that I’ve come across. It’s free (with no sign in required), handles all types of schema, and even provides a visualisation of the relationships between the entities referred to in your script:
This tool isn’t free, but if your team already uses Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, you might as well make use of its structured data testing functionality. Click Configuration > Spider > Extraction, then tick all of the types of structured data you’d like to validate from the bottom of the following screen:
From here, just run a crawl of the site as you normally would and then click on the ‘structured data’ tab, which allows you to filter down to URLs with structured data and separate them out into valid/parsing error/validation warning buckets. At the bottom of this page, the ‘structured data details’ tab will provide the full details of each URL validated.
This post has compared the Structured Data Testing Tool and its replacement, the Rich Results Test, evaluating the pros and cons of the new tool. We’ve also looked at some alternative options should you find that the RRT doesn’t have all of the functions you need.
To learn more about structured data and how to implement different kinds of schema on your site, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Schema.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this post – or you’d like to find out how Impression could help your business stand out online – don’t hesitate to get in touch.