Everything You Need to Know About Schema Markup for SEO
If you’ve had your ear to the ground lately in the digital marketing industry, you’ve heard of Schema.org. Known also as Schema markup or just Schema, this coding practice is used by at most 31.3% of websites.
What does this mean for you and your website? By adding Schema, you can place yourself ahead of the curve. You might be able to leave your competition in the dust.
For those who already know how to code HTML, adding Schema will seem like a piece of cake. Even if you’re not a coder though, we can help you understand Schema and how it relates to your website’s success.
In this guide, we’ll cover why you should use Schema markup, what it is, how to implement it, and how to follow search engine guidelines for the best results.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Schema markup for SEO.
Why You Should Use Schema Markup
Schema is useful for improving your SEO, or search engine optimization. The goal of SEO is to increase your rankings on SERPs or search engine results pages. This, in turn, can increase your organic traffic–visitors you don’t buy ads to reach–to your website.
Basically, Schema is a type of structured data (more on this below) that helps your website send the right information and signals to search engines. Those signals and that info help search engines understand your brand and your product or service. Search engines convey that information to users on SERPs.
Because Schema markup enhances the way your web pages appear in SERPs, it improves CTR or click-through rates. This means more users who see your search listings are more likely to visit your website.
Schema can help you generate more organic traffic.
Schema can help you generate more traffic by allowing your data to be shown in the following sections of the SERPs:
- featured snippets
- rich snippets
- and knowledge graphs
These are those boxes that contain information relevant to a user’s query on the SERP.
Schema can also improve your Pinterest marketing and email marketing. Depending on the search engine, it might even influence your SERP ranking.
The higher you rank in the SERPs, the more visible you are to end-users. The more visible you are to end-users, the more organic traffic you’re likely to get. The more organic traffic you get, the more likely you are to grow your customer base.
So, you see, Schema markup helps all parties involved. End-users get the information they’re seeking, search engines get a better understanding of the content on your website. And your business stands to get the benefit of increased traffic and an improved bottom line.
Schema.org: What Is It?
Now that you know what Schema can do for you, the next step is to understand exactly what it is. But before we answer the question, “What is Schema markup?”, we must first address another question:
“What is structured data?”
Essentially, think of structured data as a way of joining a name and a value. That pairing helps search engines figure out how to index and display your content.
It’s the brainchild of a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex, the top search engines. They were looking for a way to offer the most helpful content in SERPs.
By using Schema vocabulary, or definitions for what’s known as microdata tags, you can present structured data to search engines. Microdata is a particular kind of structured data that’s HTML5-friendly. HTML5 is the current standard for webpage coding.
This structured data allows search engines to pull content from your site to provide engaging, fast, and accurate answers to users’ queries. When users can engage directly with your SERP listing, it’s called rich snippets (or in the case of Pinterest, a rich pin). When those snippets are shown in prime real estate on the SERP, they’re called featured snippets.
Schema markup is compatible with RDFa and JSON-LD, so if you’re already using those, adding schema will also be easy.
How To Add Schema To Your Website
Now that you know why you should add Schema markup to your website and what exactly it is, it’s time to talk about how to implement your structured data. Before you start adding to your website’s HTML file though, you have an important step to take, and that’s deciding which Schema vocabulary you want to use.
Once you determine that, you can move on to actually adding the microdata tags to your HTML. We’ll take you through that process too, but first, let’s make sure you’re on the best path for your website and business.
Schema.org is already expansive, and it’s growing all the time as more markup is added to it. Some Schema is necessary for all sites that want to perform well with structured data, whereas other markup is geared toward specific content or businesses. Your job is to decide which markup you’ll add to make the most of your website’s communication with search engines.
There are some Schema markups you definitely want to include, no matter what. Those markups are:
- Organization Schema
- WebSite Schema
- BreadcrumbList Schema
- SiteNavigationElement Schema
Organization Schema is great for filling the knowledge graph. You’ll want to identify your logo, contact information, and links to social profiles.
WebSite Schema is great if you already have a search function on your site. It brings that search function to the SERP, so users can search your content from the results.
BreadcrumbList Schema allows SERPs to show the breadcrumbs for a particular page on your site. Breadcrumbs show the navigational steps. You’ve probably seen them before at the top of a web page.
Just like their proverbial inspiration, they allow readers to see where they’ve been. They allow search engines to understand and display a logical user flow.
SiteNavigationElement Schema presents links to the various pages of your website in SERPs. This Schema also allows search engines to increase their knowledge of your site structure.
Depending on your content and purpose, there are many other Schema you should consider using, including:
- VideoObject Schema to display your videos on SERPs
- SoftwareApplication Schema for apps you’ve developed
- Product & Offer Schemas to show product price and stocking status
- Rating Schema to show reviews on a 5-star scale
- NewsArticle or BlogPosting Schema to appear in Google News
- LocalBusiness Schema for local SEO
- Event Schema to show event schedules
- Recipe Schema to enable rich snippets with data like prep time, ingredients, and reviews
- Person Schema to improve an individual’s knowledge graph
There are many more Schema you can add, but each of the above serves a specific type of website. Choose the right one for your purposes to make the most of your structured data.
Adding Schema Markup
There are two main paths you can take to adding Schema to your website. If you’re not that familiar with HTML or coding, you can use the Structured Data Markup Helper by Google. This tool uses an intuitive approach to adding structured data, but it may not have the latest and most extensive Schema vocabulary.
For the most flexibility, you’ll want to add Schema manually. Again, if you’re not comfortable working with HTML code, this can be difficult so you might want to hire a web designer to code it for you.
That said, Schema is relatively easy to code and makes a good project for beginner designers. But because you have to tag every item within the body of your webpage, adding Schema can make coding look messy. If you’re not familiar with coding best practices for creating and maintaining easy-to-read HTML, you might end up with a gnarled mess of code.
When you’re ready to begin, and you’ve decided how to define your website–are you a restaurant, for example?–then it’s time to pick out the items you’re going to mark with your microdata tags.
This is known as your “itemscope itemtype” and you’ll add it to a tag in the body of your HTML.
For example, if you’re listing recipes on your website, you’ll want to mark:
- Nutritional information
- Prep time
- Cook time
These attributes are known as “itemprop”, or item properties, in Schema markup. You’ll use them to define which lines of code supply the information for each attribute.
Adding these tags to the element tells the search engine to get ready to look for structured data. Your code for an attribute might look like this:
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
This tells the search engine, “Look over here! I have some structured data for you. Wherever you would display the cook time attribute for recipe snippets, go ahead and show ‘Cooking Time: 20 minutes’ for this recipe.” End-users will love knowing exactly how long it’ll take to prepare this food.
What makes the end-user happy makes search engines happy. So you see, Schema isn’t difficult to implement, but it requires some precision and an understanding for the syntactical conventions.
Staying On The Straight And Narrow
Now that you know how to add Schema, we bet you’re chomping at the bit to get that coding into your HTML. The sooner the better, right?
Maybe not. There’s a bit more you need to know first–like how to follow the rules. Never forget that SEO is all about making the end-user happy. This means you can’t get away with spammy content.
For example, if you add structured data for ratings and reviews for categories of products or landing pages with lists of products or services, Google’s going to think you’re a spammer. They might even penalize your site.
Penalties can come in two forms: manual or automatic, or algorithmic. Algorithmic penalties occur without human action. Manual penalties are handed out by folks at Google.
Both types can be difficult to get lifted. The penalties for spammy structured markup can also apply to a single page on your website or the whole site. It’s not worth it to engage in spammy activity, ever.
But how do you know if your Schema falls under the spam-brella?
There are two actions you can take: Test your Schema and check your structured data report.
Google doesn’t want you to act like a spammer, so they provide some tools to help you out. You can test your Schema with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. You should run this tool every time you add new structured data to your website.
In between tests, you should monitor your Schema. You can do this via Google Webmaster Tools. Known also as Google Search Console, this feature provides a number of reports pertinent to your site’s performance and SEO. To access the structured data report:
- Click on Web Tools on the left.
- Click on Testing Tools on the left.
- In the main panel, click “Structured Data Testing Tool.
If you don’t have any Schema, clicking on this tool will return a 404.
Perhaps you came into reading this guide having heard of Schema markup. Maybe you chose to read it because you had no idea what Schema was. Perhaps you thought it was a misspelled plot in a murder mystery (it’s okay if you thought so).
Now, you know exactly what it is: a type of structured data that quickly feeds search engines information about your website. You know why you should use it. You know the steps you need to take to implement it, whether manually or with the help of Google’s tool.
You also understand the importance of avoiding spammy markup. You know how to test your markup and continue to monitor it against any spammy-ness. You know what’s at stake if you don’t.
The only thing left to do is to start using Schema markup on your own site. Start reaping the benefits of rich snippets, featured snippets, and appearing in the knowledge graph. When you engage users in SERPs, search engines love it–and that’s the goal in SEO.
If you still have questions about structured data and Schema, that’s okay too. We’d love to help you get ahead of your competition by adding Schema to your organization’s website. Feel free to drop us a line.