When looking at the search results on Google do you ever notice that not all results are equal? Do you ever notice some links have fully fleshed out details such as ratings, prices, or video links while others do not? Ever wonder how these details got listed and how you can list your own? All of these observations are part of schema markups and an integral part of getting an edge in SEO against your competition.
What Are Schema Markups?
At its core, schema markups are a quick summary of the website or page being shown in search results. These summaries are recognized by search algorithms as code listed on your website detailing not only what is listed on your website but what it means. This code is provided via microdata, HTML provided directions that add specifications and clarification on preexisting page content. When shown in a search result these schema summaries can also be referred to as structured data.
The Importance of Schema Markups
You may be thinking “Schema markups sound great and professional but if my website is already showing up in search results do I really need to worry about them?” Well, it may seem like you are already well taken care of in terms of SEO, especially depending on your industry competition, but you probably are missing out on providing consumers and potential consumers with a better digital research experience. Structured data can help you stand out even more and give your company better brand recognition. While schema markups don’t directly correlate to your SEO ranking, it most certainly helps enhance the search result experience both for the consumer and the search algorithms.
The biggest value to embracing schema markups is providing better clarification to web crawlers. Web crawlers are an integral part of SEO and the overall operations of any search engine. In order for a search engine to provide precise and beneficial results, programs called web crawlers are constantly reviewing all information listed on websites. This is why it is so essential to provide as detailed and informative information as possible when it comes to succeeding in SEO. When you implement schema markups to your web pages you are telling these web crawlers exactly what the purpose of the page is and which information is most vital. This way the key elements of the page are highlighted in the snippet shown below the URL link in search result. Without implementing schema markups web crawlers will still produce a summary it just might not be as accurate as it should. Just like any human would, without specific instruction the web crawlers try to fill in the gaps and produce as best a description as they can. Sometimes this is sufficient but if you’re looking to stand out you really need to go the extra mile to provide that clear detail.
What do Scheme Markups Look Like in a Search Result?
Schema markups show up in many different ways. It really depends what you specify in the microdata and what is most beneficial to you as a business. Some of the most common examples are star ratings, event dates, and descriptions. Usually they are displayed above or below the snippet in the search result (ratings are above the snippet but below the URL link, whereas event dates and descriptions are below the snippet). The structured data is also distinguished by grey text and bold title elements.
Recipes are some of the greatest examples of schema markup, structured data, as websites who post them take advantage of their capabilities more often than other industries. If you were to look up “apple pie recipe” you would get a lot of different results for apple pie recipes. Which one do you pick? Unless you have a preferred source for your recipes you probably don’t have much of a reason to pick one over the other. You might also notice that all of these search results have auxiliary data listed above the snippet listing ratings, reviews, time the recipe takes, and calories. All of these are unique details that you don’t usually see in a search result. Granted, things like calories and cooking time aren’t relevant to most search results but that’s kind of the point of schema markups. Adding specific details can really help improve the value of your page listing.
Going back to the apple pie recipe example, you can now be more informed as a user making for a more valuable experience. Instead of going down the list of links, clicking on them, and reading through them you can get a quick overview of what each recipe is like. Without clicking on anything you now know which recipes people like, how long they take, and their caloric content. All of these could be variables in your decision process of which recipe to pick, narrowing down a recipe in a shorter period of time with less effort.
Now you might be thinking “But if I’m giving away key information in the snippet I’ll be losing clicks, isn’t search traffic the goal of SEO?” You’re right that less people will be clicking on your link, which is part of why schema markups don’t really play into your ranking but the quality of your page views will improve. If you have schema markups listing relevant information on your page listings the kinds of people who will end up clicking on your page will be more likely to value your content. Using the apple pie recipe example again, if someone found one of your recipes and liked it because the structured data helped influence them, they are probably more likely to stay on your website longer and return for new recipes in the future. You might not be getting every possible click that comes your way, but you will be building up your brand recognition and perception, something that will play out to be more beneficial in the long run.
Different Ways to Apply Schema Markups to your Website
So, let’s say you’re not a cooking recipe website, more than likely you are not, what kinds of ways can schema markups add value to your website/business? With all the open possibilities, schema can be applied to any type of website. Are you an event space? Post your upcoming event dates. How about a restaurant? List your location, style of food, hours, reservation options, etc. Do you have an online store? Ratings and reviews would be some obvious choices. Honestly, there are so many possibilities to utilize schema that its hard to list them all in an article. There are many sources that are helpful to implementing schema, such as schema.org, wpschema.com, rdfa.info and jsonld.com, that break down their information by industry. If you are looking for schema inspiration those are great sources for further details and information.
Out of all of the resources, when it comes to schema implementation and comprehension, the most definitive is schema.org. Schema.org is an open source project founded by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Yandex in order to expand knowledge and implementation of schema throughout the internet. Its not often that you see major internet titans working together but the universal appeal of schema is enough to do just that. While schema.org is a central point for schema learning and technique improving, its main value is its showcase of schema examples that are great learning tools for anyone looking to start implementing their own schema markups.
While looking through schema.org you can often be overwhelmed with the amount of information provided. Its important to know what your goals are with schema utilization. This way you can focus on what you need rather than schema as a whole.
When you know which areas you would like to explore, one of schema.org’s greatest features is its way to view multiple different methods of schema implementation with ease. Pages on schema.org feature examples of schema implementation in multiple different methods. This allows you to see how to put together your own code and how to find a method that works for you. Some methods are more code heavy than others. This allows you to find a method that can fit your needs and coding skill level.
It doesn’t take long looking into schema to realize there isn’t just one way to implement it. Depending on your skill, budget, and current resources there are a plethora of different options to explore. RDFa is a method that operates within HTML 5 (it is also operational in other XML documents such as SVG, HTML 4, and XHTML5). For someone with a more skilled coding background this is a great option, although there is a RDFa Lite option for beginners.
It doesn’t take long looking into schema to realize there isn’t just one way to implement it. Depending on your skill, budget, and current resources there are a plethora of different options to explore. JSON-LD is a method highlighted in schema.org and more in depth on jsonld.com. Jsonld.com prides itself on sharing its code and encourages its use. For someone with more casual coding abilities it’s a great method that can be easily utilized and comprehended. One of the biggest advantages to JSON-LD is that it isn’t tied down to an HTML format. Its simplicity allows for it to be implemented on its own or in tandem with another system. When it comes to Google’s rules and recommendations they actually suggest JSON-LD as the preferred method for implementing structured data.
If you are someone who uses WordPress as their primary CMS system, there are plenty of options to easy implement schema markups into your websites. Schema Pro is one of the more premier options that utilizes the JSON-LD method to easily make schema adjustments to your websites. Schema Pro is a paid service but its streamlined abilities and easy to navigate systems make for a more accessible and efficient experience if you spend most of your web development time in WordPress.
Some Guidelines to Follow When Using Schema
To refer back to Google’s structured data guidelines, there are some things that are good to keep in mind when implementing schema tactics. One of the biggest is making sure that any data that is highlighted in the structured data is actually included on the web page itself. Google wants to make sure that they are providing representative and accurate information as the structured data shows up on their site, not yours. Just because the structured data is something you provided and is in association it your site doesn’t mean it doesn’t reflect on Google itself. Users will see these schema additions first in Google’s search results and may not event end up clicking on your page, so they want to make sure its in accordance to their standards. For this reason, they also do not allow structured data that is related to illegal products and actions. It is also valuable to provide as much schema information as is descriptive of your website as Google prioritizes these pages. This goes back to the fact that schema markups help web crawlers read your website and more content rich schema will result in Google’s preference for them over other structured data listings. Its not guaranteed that your schema markups will show up as structured data but by following these rules you will have a better chance of standing out in your Google search results.
Schema markups have a lot to offer. They are relevant to pretty much any industry you can think of. Over the last few years, more and more websites have been taking advantage of them, but they are still not as common as you would expect. If you are looking for a simple way to stand out in search results schema is a great way to get a quick lead on competitors. With the growing interest in schema, it is beneficial to prepare for a future where these additions to your web pages could be utilized to an even greater ability. Google highlights in their structured data guidelines that it might not use all of the schema that you provide it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t find a use for it in the future.