A few posts ago I dipped into technical SEO attributes — the tweaks that your development team can make to your website’s code that can help search engines rank it higher. Now let’s go just a little deeper and talk about schema and structured data, and how they can help you even more in search.
What is schema?
Schema is a markup language that enhances your site’s existing HTML code to draw the attention of search engines to certain elements of your content that you’d like amplified in SERPs (search engine result pages).
Schema markup helps search engines better understand the meaning of your content, so that it might appear more prominently in response to relevant queries.
Schema.org is mission control for coders or anyone else who wants to dive deep into this initiative. According to the site, some 10 million websites currently use schema. Some estimates say that only a third of all sites are using it — which opens opportunity for brands seeking an edge in search. In other words, pretty much any brand, including yours.
What schema looks like on SERPs (search engine result pages)
In practically any search you can do, you’ll see the results of schema markup properly implemented. Among the top examples:
Rich snippets — the most-used schema markup. (FWIW, your best bet to “win” a rich snippet is for your relevant content to already rank on page 1. But go for it!)
Knowledge panel — Description and important info about your company, appearing at the top right of SERPs:
Brands listed visually as results for non-branded queries — Ask a generic question and brands appear as potential solutions:
Just scratching the surface, schema markup can call attention to:
- Local businesses
- Events and venues
- TV shows
- Medical conditions
To reiterate: Structured data created with schema markup helps search engines understand your site better. When search engines better understand your site, then your site is more likely to appear in relevant queries.
How to get started with schema and structured data on your own website
The schema markup languages define your content for search engines at two levels: Types (or “classes”) and below that, properties. What’s the difference and how do they work for your site?
Think of types as categories within which your content can be categorized. There are around 800 types, and you can classify content in more than one. Types range from “person,” “place,” and “organization” to “text,” “URL,” “event,” “CreativeWork,” “product,” and even more specific like “MedicalEntity” or “datafeed.”
With properties, you get to seriously drill down. For example:
- Using “knowsAbout” with “Person,” you can imply that an individual in your organization has expertise on a certain topic.
- Applying the “screenshot” property to the “SoftwareApplication” type tells Google you’d like a particular screenshot image delivered and amplified to the relevant queries.
- If you’re marketing a haunted tour of Salem, Mass, apply the “tourBookingPage” property to the “Place” type to direct people to your reservations engine faster.
Before the idea of 800 types turns you away from schema, keep in mind that such a range gets pretty granular. You only need to work with the types that are relevant to your brand and site. The good news: There are several tools to help your webmaster/dev team bring structured data into your site’s code.
For starters, if your site is built on WordPress, the Yoast Premium SEO plugin provides a 5-step “SEO Configuration Workout” that lets you optimize schema markup for “Organization” and “Person” types, as well as your brand’s social media profiles. In minutes and without touching a colon of code.
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Getting into the schema code – you’ve got help.
These schema generators create the code you need and walk you through the installation process.
Hall Analysis JSON-LD Schema Generator. Easily optimize your schema markup for the “Local Business,” “Person,” “Product,” “Event,” “Organization,” and “Website” types. Also includes a testing tool.
Google Structured Data Markup Helper. Who better than Google to show you how to help search engine better understand your web pages? This tool can also leverage structured data on your HTML emails.
MicrodataGenerator.com. Local businesses should check out this super-simple schema generator.
Merkle Schema Markup Generator. Quickly generate code for 13 of the most common schema types. Links to two different testing tools.
And before you publish your schema-updated pages…
Run the code or URL through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. It’ll bring any errors or alerts to your immediate attention.
I know what you’re wondering: “Will using schema help my site with SERP ranking?”
The tl;dr of this article from Search Engine Journal is “don’t count on it.” However, the post also makes clear the value of using schema:
- Schema can give your search result more visual appeal, which draws clicks.
- Schema can boost the likelihood you’ll appear for relevant queries.
- Schema can increase visitor on-page time.
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