It’s one thing to rank on a search engine results page and another to occupy the best position possible.
Let’s face it: searchers are more likely to gravitate to the listings that show pictures, ratings, and specific details than those that simply have blue links.
How can you display the eye-catching details and visuals that compel your audience to click on your web page rather than your competitor’s?
You need to help search engines understand your content and what your business does, and you can achieve this by using schema markup in your SEO.
According to Ahrefs, schema markup means adding certain microdata or code to your web pages to help search engines better interpret and represent them in search results.
Adding schema markup can help you achieve more prominent search results and surpass your competitors. It is a surprisingly underutilized method that doesn’t require complex coding and will give your searchers the most important information they want about your organization when they want it.
In this post, we’ll discuss what schema is, where and how to apply it, specific use cases, and the challenges that can arise as you strive to implement it.
Schema gives your web pages context. For example, what is the focus of your webpage? Are you looking to describe a product, and if so, what’s its name? Is it an individual product, or part of a collection?
Use Schema to answer questions like these and give specific information. Through the microdata, you can communicate the actual meaning of your content to machines like GoogleBot. As Schema.org states:
…Search engines have a limited understanding of what is being discussed on (your web pages). By adding additional tags to the HTML of your web pages—tags that say, ‘Hey search engine, this information describes this specific movie, or place, or person, or video’—you can help search engines and other applications better understand your content and display it in a relevant, useful way.’
In essence, schema markups tell Google how to make sense of the different parts of your content so they know what information to show users and where. This is particularly important with multimedia elements like images, video, and text. Not including schema markup is one of the most significant SEO mistakes you can make.
Once you add schema markup to your web pages, the schema creates rich snippets. The purpose of rich snippets is to give more in-depth, specific information about your site to searchers. Google can also use the more detailed information to make sure your site shows up in relevant searches.
There isn’t concrete evidence that schema can improve your search engine rankings. However, schema powers rich snippets, which make your site more attractive and visible on SERPs and increases your click-through rates. The key is to craft your rich snippets with specific, concise, and compelling language to get more clicks. You’ll gain more relevant traffic, which is highly likely to have a positive effect on your search engine rankings.
Schema also is foundational for Google’s Knowledge-Graph. When users search for something, the Knowledge Graph pulls and analyzes factual information that’s properly formatted, and displays it for the user. To give the Knowledge Graph the most accurate and complete information about your business to show your users, you should use schema markups. Industry experts anticipate that the Knowledge Graph will continue to rely on microformatted data to show searchers correct information, and schema markup is one type of this data.
Though schema is valuable from an SEO standpoint, studies show that the number of organizations that adopt it is surprisingly small. According to Search Engine Watch, less than a third of websites use schema. Adding schema to your web pages means working with data and code, and businesspeople may think implementing it is more complicated than it usually is. This gives you a huge opportunity to get a leg up over your competitors. Plugins and extensions make the process of adding schema a lot easier. Next, we’ll discuss the best situations to use schema and how to actually put it into effect.
Moz.com states that webmasters most typically use schema to mark up information like:
For each type of item, you can find properties that describe them in greater detail. For example, an “event” can be classified as anything from a “businessevent” to a “theaterevent.” You can describe a “creative work” as a “book” or whatever the medium is.
There are a few different data formats you can apply. One is microdata, which is best for beginners because it’s easier to use. Microdata is a set of tags you can add to your HTML elements to make them more machine-readable tags. The other type is RDFa, or Resource Description Framework in Attributes, which is more mature than Microdata. The third, JSON-LD, is the option Google usually recommends. Many technologists find JSON-LD easier to use than the other two options.
While it is possible to write schema markup yourself, there are plenty of plugins and markup generators that can save you a lot of time and trouble. For basic markup, two popular options are Merkle and the Schema Builder extension.
It’s a good idea to test your markup before pushing it to production. Google has two testing tools that are easy to use: the general structured testing tool and the rich results testing tool.
If you want to create new structured data pages, start off by following Google’s structured data for your page and feature type. For example, if your page is about a software app, follow the guidelines for the software app. Google gives directions on how to add data in the format you want, whether it’s JSON-LD, RDFa, or microdata. JSON-LD is the recommended format for schema.
Use the rich results testing tool to validate your code and see if your web pages can show rich results. These are the Google experiences that go beyond the standard blue link. They include carousels, images, or other non-textual elements to capture your audience’s attention and give them the right information. Befitting its name, the rich results testing tool will only show you rich results. The general structured data testing tool will show you a schema tree with more detailed information and flag certain errors.
Now that you’ve marked up the data you want, it’s time to put it into action. Three implementation methods are going straight into the HTML, using Google Tag Manager, or using a CMS and plugins. The method you should choose will depend on your website and tagging system.
When you add schema straight to the HTML, it’s formatted as a script that’s added to the <head> or <body> of your HTML. Working with Google Tag Manager is a good option when you’re already using it to manage your marketing technology stack. Paste the schema you’ve created as a custom HTML tag and set up the trigger based on a page view to a specific page or pages. Using CMSes and plugins are the most common and beginner-friendly options. Yoast is a popular plugin for platforms like WordPress.
You can use Google Search Console to find detected markup types under the Enhancements Tab, whether it’s for FAQs, logos, product pages, and more. You can click on the feature to see the reported data and gauge whether your markup is validated or whether there are warnings and errors.
The more content you’re able to mark up, the better unless it’s hidden text. That is, mark up the content that’s only visible to people who visit the web page, not content in hidden page elements.
You also need to use the URL property strategically. For example, you may have a web page about a single person, which you can mark up using the Person item type. Or you may have a collection of employees where there is a link for each employee’s profile. For pages that have a collection of items like these, you should mark up each item separately and add the URL property to the link to the corresponding page for each item.
Next, we’ll discuss specific use cases for schema, which Google Search Central further details in their feature guides.
Adding schema markup to your product pages provide detailed information about your products in rich search results, which includes Google Images. It can also help show prices, availability, and review ratings in search results. You can even add facts like shipping details and price drops.
Keep your product information accurate and up-to-date so that your customers can find the most relevant product for their needs.
How-tos usually walk users through a series of steps and can feature images, text, and videos. It’s best to use markup for how-tos when the how-to is the main focus of the pages. Right now, how-to rich results are available in all languages and countries where Google Search is available. However, it is only available on mobile devices, not desktops.
Q&A pages show your data in a question-and-answer format. If you add the schema markup properly, the question should be displayed prominently on the SERP followed by the answer as a rich result. To get Google to accept the page, there is a forum where users can submit answers to a single question, or a product support page where users can submit answers to a single question. An example of an invalid use case is a FAQ page written by the site itself with no way for users to submit alternative answers.
Schema markup for article pages can enhance its appearance in Google search results. Your page can show different kinds of results depending on the type of page it is. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) can appear in the Top Stories carousel, a carousel of rich results, and rich mobile search results. These can include images, page logos, and more. Non-AMPs with structured data can show better headline text, images, and the date the article was published. This data can help your article get more mileage.
Schema markup is essential for local business SEO. It can help you show your business’s location and its proximity to the searcher’s address, compelling them to choose your website over neighboring competitors.
Google has specific guidelines for local businesses. You can add information like your business’s location, hours, contact information, ratings, social links, your logo, and images. However, to get the best display on search possible, tell Google only the most important elements of your business.
When you mark up your event pages, it will be easier for people to discover and attend events—these days, virtual ones—through Google Search. It can yield more interactive results like your company’s logo or description of the event. It can also optimize your chances of discovery and conversion because people have an easy way to click through the search display to your site. Additionally, you can even add enhancements like an updated event status.
For many organizations, implementing schema isn’t a seamless process. Search Engine Watch says the biggest struggle nearly half of organizations had was showing the business value of doing schema, specifically with reporting the impact and results. Other struggles were maintaining the health of Schema markup when Google makes changes, and implementing schema markup at scale, like marking up webpages in bulk.
Then there is the code itself. A popular concern that marketers, developers, and business owners have voiced is the lack of helpful resources to guide them through implementing the markups. Often, the only viable options are Schema.org or searching online communities, which don’t always have the answers to specific problems your business may have. You may be better served working with external digital strategists, who can apply their expert perspectives to the unique needs of your business.
Your business has seconds to catch a user’s attention on SERPs, and you need every advantage you can get. Schema markup in your SEO efforts helps search engines show your business’s most important and engaging content, catching users’ attention and compelling them to click through to your website. To achieve better search results than your competitors, schema markups need to be a critical component in your SEO strategy.