link elements should be used if you don’t want to display the value of the property on your page.
This is typically the case for properties that expect a value that is not human-readable, for example URIs that represent accepted payment/delivery methods (= good case for
link), or ISO 4217 codes that represent currencies (= good case for
The example with the
startDate property would ideally use the
time element instead, as this is what should be used for dates/times, and it allows to specify the machine-readable format in the
<time itemprop="startDate" datetime="2016-04-21T20:00">
For your own example, you could also use
time elements, but because of your chosen format, it might not be very elegant:
Jan <time itemprop="startDate" datetime="2016-01-13">13</time>-<time itemprop="endDate" datetime="2016-01-15">15</time>, 2016
The alternative with
meta elements could look like:
Jan 13-15, 2016
<meta itemprop="startDate" content="2016-01-13" />
<meta itemprop="endDate" content="2016-01-15" />
Which one of those to use is a semantic markup question; it doesn’t affect the extracted Microdata/Schema.org.