COVID-19: Structured Data for Special Announcements

COVID-19 has led to an increase in urgent announcements through various websites. These websites could be representing health organizations, schools, companies, events, governments, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, healthcare providers, community groups, police and many other organizations (both big and small).

The reason for special announcements could range from, announcing a shelter-in-place directive to a travel restriction or announcement of revised hours and shopping restrictions. There could be literally countless instances of special announcements which need to be made public through a website, especially so from health and government agency sites.

By adding SpecialAnnouncement structured data, that content can be eligible to appear with a COVID-19 announcement rich result, in addition to the page’s regular snippet description.

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What is Structured Data?

Structured Data are explicit clues that we as webmasters or website owners can provide to Google, in order for it to better understand the meaning and content of the page. We can achieve this by adding simple markup in our HTML and making sure that we adhering to basic requisites and policies mentioned by Google. The benefits of using structured data includes enabling of special features and enhancements in Google search results for the page/website that uses Structured Data as well as improved search performance.

SpecialAnnouncement Structured Data

While SpecialAnnouncement is a generic structured data, the motivating scenario behind it is the Coronavirus pandemic, and the initial vocabulary is oriented to the same. The intent behind the markup is to cover the kinds of everyday practical information being posted to existing websites during an emergency situation.

SpecialAnnouncement markup combines a simple date-stamped textual information update with contextualized Web links and other structured data.

Please note that Google’s support for COVID-19 announcements is developing and there might be changes in requirements, guidelines, and how the feature appears in Google Search. It is also imperative to understand that as feedback emerges Schema.org will also improve the markup accordingly.

Below are the required properties for SpecialAnnouncement markup (according to Google) for being eligible for display as a special announcement:

  1. datePosted: The date that the COVID-19 announcement was published in ISO-8601 format.
  2. name: The short title of the COVID-19 announcement. For example: “Stanford announces COVID-19 testing facility”
  3. Either text or a specific property that points to more info: You must include either text, or one of the following properties that point to more info about the announcement, depending on the subject matter:
    1. diseasePreventionInfo
    2. diseaseSpreadStatistics
    3. gettingTestedInfo
    4. newsUpdatesAndGuidelines
    5. publicTransportClosuresInfo
    6. quarantineGuidelines
    7. schoolClosuresInfo
    8. travelBans

Note: While only one property is required, we encourage you to include as much information that’s applicable to the announcement. You can include multiple properties (for example, both quarantineGuidelines and diseasePreventionInfo, if it makes sense in the context of the announcement.

Below are the recommended properties for SpecialAnnouncement markup (according to Google):

  1. announcementLocation: The specific location that is associated with the SpecialAnnouncement. For example a specific testing facility or business with special opening hours. For a larger geographic region, like a quarantine of an entire region, we recommend that you use spatialCoverage. Here is an example:
    {
    “@context”: “https://schema.org”,
    “@type”: “SpecialAnnouncement”,
    “announcementLocation”: {
    “@type”: “CivicStructure”,
    “name”: “Palo Alto High School”
    “url”: “https://example-school.org/”,
    “address”: {
    “@type”: “PostalAddress”,
    “streetAddress”: “123 West Chestnut Drive”,
    “addressLocality”: “Palo Alto”,
    “postalCode”: “13478”,
    “addressRegion”: “CA”,
    “addressCountry”: “US”
    }
    }
    }
  2. announcementLocation.address: The detailed street address that is the focus of the announcement.
  3. announcementLocation.name: The name of the location that is the focus of the announcement. For example, the name of the testing facility.
  4. announcementLocation.url: The URL where people can learn more about the announcement location. For example, the URL for the testing facility that explains where it is, hours, and who is eligible.
  5. category: The URL that describes the category for the special announcement. Set the category to the Wikipedia page for COVID-19: https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Q81068910
  6. diseasePreventionInfo: Information about disease prevention, if applicable to the announcement.
  7. diseaseSpreadStatistics: If applicable to the announcement, the statistical information about the spread of a disease, either as WebContent, or described directly as a Dataset, or the specific Observation in the dataset. When a WebContent URL is provided, the page indicated might also contain more markup.
  8. expires: The date in which the content expires and is no longer useful or available in ISO-8601 format. Don’t include this property if you don’t know when the content will expire.
  9. gettingTestedInfo: Information about getting tested (for a MedicalCondition) in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement.
  10. newsUpdatesAndGuidelines: A page with news updates and guidelines in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement. This could be (but is not required to be) the main page containing SpecialAnnouncement markup on a site.
  11. publicTransportClosuresInfo: Information about public transport closures in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement.
  12. quarantineGuidelines: Guidelines about quarantine rules in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement.
  13. schoolClosuresInfo: Information about school closures in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement.
  14. spatialCoverage: The geographic region that is the focus of the special announcement, if applicable. For example, the announcement may be about a shelter-in-place that affects multiple regions. If the announcement affects both a region and a specific location (for example, a library closure that serves an entire region), use both spatialCoverage and announcementLocation. Here is an example:
    {
    “@context”: “https://schema.org”,
    “@type”: “SpecialAnnouncement”,
    “spatialCoverage”: [
    {
    “type”: “AdministrativeArea”,
    “name”: “San Francisco County, CA”
    },
    {
    “type”: “AdministrativeArea”,
    “name”: “Marin County, CA”
    },
    {
    “type”: “AdministrativeArea”,
    “name”: “Santa Clara County, CA”
    }
    ]
    }
  15. text: The textual 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>. For example: “Stanford Health Care’s same-day primary care program is offering drive-through testing, by appointment, for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”
  16. travelBans: Information about travel bans in the context of COVID-19, if applicable to the announcement.

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