Structured Data Markup for COVID-19 Special Announcements

Pablo Rosado - April 6, 2020

Since COVID-19 has affected many organizations and businesses, Google and Bing have developed methods that can be used to let them know if your organization has any special announcement that relates to COVID-19. However, please note that all of their guidance has been provided rapidly, and is still undergoing changes. Therefore, additional changes and updates may be required, and the new functionality may encounter bugs.

The two methods for indicating a special announcement include:

#1 Schema.org Structured Data Markup Implementation: This is the recommended method, as it:

  • Works for both Google and Bing
  • Allows you the most flexibility and a more proven framework for providing information to Google and Bing.
  • You may be able to tie pre-existing updates that you push to your website (such as alerts that are visible on the front-end of your website) into this markup as well, making the process more automated.

#2 A Form Submission via Google Search Console: This is a secondary option as it:

  • Only works for Google
  • It is in Beta, so it may change over time
  • Lacks clarity on the process for how the form completions will be pushed to Google, like how often they will be processed.

What Will This Look Like in Search Results

Google has stated that they may display this special announcement underneath a search result for the website to inform users of the announcement, as in the example below.

Bing has not provided any visual examples of how this will look in search results. However, Bing did state that “A label showing your special announcements related to the COVID-19 pandemic with a link to your site for more details may be used on web results for your official website and in local listings shown on the SERP or map experiences. This provides an easy link for your customers and community to find your latest information.”

Recommended Implementation Method – Schema.org Structured Data Markup

The first (and recommended) method is to use a new Special Announcement markup that was made just for COVID-19. Like other markup types, this requires site owners to add specific code onto any and all webpages that contain the same forward facing announcement for a user. So, if you have an alert that is displayed on all pages, the markup should be on all pages. If you have an announcement that is only on one page, the markup for that announcement should only be on that page.

Details and developer documentation on the Special Announcement markup with code examples can be found here:

While there are many different attributes that can be used for this markup, the only required attributes for Google are:

  • DatePosted: The date that the COVID-19 announcement was published.
  • Name: The short title of the COVID-19 announcement. Example: “New COVID-19 Testing Facility” or “Closed Until Further Noticed”,
  • Text: This is summary of the COVID-19 announcement. The text may contain HTML content such as links and lists. Valid HTML tags include: <h1> through <h6>, <br>, <ol>, <ul>, <li>, <a>, <p>, <div>, <b>, <strong>, <i>, and <em>

Note that you are allowed to replace the Text attribute with one of the attributes listed below. The value of these attributes must point to a page that has more information. You can also use more than one of the listed attributes and keep the Text attribute instead of replacing it:

  • diseasePreventionInfo
  • diseaseSpreadStatistics
  • gettingTestedInfo
  • newsUpdatesAndGuidelines
  • publicTransportClosuresInfo
  • quarantineGuidelines
  • schoolClosuresInfo
  • travelBans

More Information on Google’s required and recommended attributes can be found here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/special-announcements

Secondary Option – A Form via Google Search Console

If adding structured data markup to your site is not a possible option, Google has created a submission form in Google Search Console to allow you to send your announcement to Google’s search engine.

Example of Google Search Console COVID-19  Form

If your domain is verified in Google Search Console, you can use the following submission form: https://search.google.com/search-console/special-announcement

While there are multiple fields you can fill out, there are 3 fields that are required:

  1. Announcement Type (there are six options to choose from, listed below):
    • COVID-19 Testing Facility
    • School Closure
    • Shelter-in-place
    • Disease spread Statics
    • Travel Ban
    • Other/General
  2. Title of Announcement
  3. Summary of Announcement

Ultimately, Google and Bing are adapting as quickly as they can to provide organizations with additional capabilities related to announcements for COVID-19. While the information above encompasses Google and Bing’s latest information on the subject as of the time this post is published, this is an ever-evolving landscape and more changes are sure to come. If you have any questions on how MoreVisibility can help, please reach out to [email protected]

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