As Google continues to change how it displays search results, understanding what schema is and how it can help boost your visibility in search results can be a vital tool for your business to possess in it's organic search arsenal. The basis for using schema markup is that it allows your website to rank better for a host of different types of content including local businesses, reviews and events among many others.
Adoption of schema markup for your website is likely to result in a welcome boost for where your website ranks within Google's various Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Yes, search engines are becoming increasingly better at understanding content on webpages, but they could still do with a hand (in the form of schema) to determine the context behind your content so they can offer users the best results.
While uptake of schema markup is still catching on, we'd be willing to bet that implementation will provide a significant competitive advantage over your rivals within organic search results.
In this blog, we'll provide you with a guide to what Schema is, how your business can use schema markup to boost the ranking of your website, the process of implementing schema, and why Schema markup helps.
What is schema markup?
So what is schema exactly? Well, essentially, schema markup is a semantic vocabulary of microdata that you can add to your HTML leading to an improvement in the way search engines read and represent your page in SERPs. In layman's terms, schema is a means of telling search engines what exactly the data on your web page means, as opposed to simply what it says; it’s code that helps search engines such as Google to understand your content better so it knows whether it’s the best result for a user.
Schema came about as a result of a rare piece of cross-conglomerate collaboration as major search engines sought to create a more user-friendly way for consumers to use their products while gaining the information they're looking for quickly and efficiently. The result was a single set of agreed-upon code markers, telling search engines what they should be doing with the data you present on your website.
“But what about structured data?” I hear you ask! Well, schema is the language created by search engines, which includes markup for structured data that they understand. Structured data is the actual data you provide the search engines with. When you give search engines this information, they’ll know what to serve up to users to give them the experience of their lives! (that may be a bit enthusiastic, but they certainly want users to find what they need with ease). That’s not all, they’ll be able to display your content in a more visual and helpful way. So, you could say it’s a win, win, win situation; search engines understand your content better, users get a better search experience, and your content can dominate the SERPs!
Different types of schema markups
There’s a type of schema markup for pretty much everything. Whether you’re sharing delicious recipes or looking to hire someone for your company, there’s a schema markup for that. Some of the most common types of data mark-ups seen by users include:
With such a variety of data markups available for businesses to make use of, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that they can represent what is essentially a digital business card. Later, we’ll talk about a few of these types of schema markups so you can understand them better and see them in practice!
How to use schema markup for SEO
Schema markup is astonishingly useful for a variety of content including articles, movies, TV shows, restaurants and events amongst hundreds of others. Now, if we were to demonstrate what every schema markup is and why it's effective, you'd be here until doomsday. So, instead, we've summarised a few choice examples which demonstrate the power of schema markup for SEO.
First, we've chosen to focus on the 'Organization' schema markup. This provides a one-stop-shop for placing your company name, logo, contact information and social media profiles front and centre of search results.
In the case of Apple, the tech giants' company introduction appears in the top right-hand side of the Google search bar. Within the SERP, Apple is represented by their company name and logo (as highlighted in red), contact information in the form of customer service and technical support numbers (as highlighted in green), and social profiles are listed at the bottom of the SERP (as highlighted in blue).
Also included in the tech giants' SERP is a short company description sourced from Wikipedia, stock price, the company's founders as well as subsidiaries.
Another common, but very powerful, type of schema used is ‘Product’ schema (this is a must for e-commerce sites). This helps search engines to provide more information about your products and services on the SERP, such as availability, price, an image of the item, ratings and more. Below you can see a rich result thanks to Dyson having product schema in place.
As you can see, users are getting the full works here; they can see the product’s ratings (and the number of reviews), the item’s price, a picture of the vacuum and they can also see whether it’s currently available to purchase (driving traffic to an item which is out of stock isn’t the best way to deliver a positive experience!).
You can apply product schema to product pages or shopping aggregator pages (pages which list single products and information about various sellers who offer it). The main elements of product schema are:
- The product’s name.
- A description of the product which will help to inform users of the item.
- An image of the product (unless of course the product is a service) - how the product looks alone has the power to influence a user to make a purchase.
- Product ID.
- Ratings (positive reviews can motivate users to make a purchase).
- Brand (you’ll want to let users know where they’re buying the item from).
- Availability - this is obviously important for users to know, especially if you have an item running low on stock (though you shouldn't lie about this to scare them into buying!).
Not only does product schema provide users with more information about your product which can entice them to click, it increases the space you’re occupying on the results page and helps you to stand out from competitors. The more information you provide search engines with, the richer your results can be.
Next up is the ‘BreadcrumbList’ schema. Breadcrumbs are designed to display the hierarchy of your webpages and they’re visible in the SERPs (see below example):
If your listings display breadcrumbs then it could positively impact your Click-Through Rate (CTR) as users can easily navigate to the right part of your site and they’ll be able to see where they are at all times. For search engines, they’ll understand the importance of each page and the relationship your pages have with each other.
Your BreadcrumbList schema will need to contain a minimum of two items and you’ll have to add in the required properties, including ‘Item’ (typically you’ll insert the URL of the page), ‘Name’ (the title of the breadcrumb which the user will see) and ‘Position’ (where the breadcrumb sits in the trail).
FAQ schema is a type of markup that contains a list of questions and answers and it’s ideal for helping to improve your rankings, CTR and dominating the SERPS. Those FAQ pages and Q&As you have on other webpages? You can add FAQ schema to these so that you have a shot at appearing in Google’s ‘People also ask’ (PAA) boxes and expanding your pixel space by having Q&As show underneath your results.
Here’s how Google’s PAA boxes look on the SERP:
Google can pull through information it sees as relevant from any site here but you’ll have a better chance of appearing if you add the appropriate schema and also have good E-A-T signals (this is particularly important for medical or financial-related queries). By clicking the drop-down, users will get quick answers to their questions and more PAA boxes will appear. The information presented to the user could entice them to click onto a website providing that answer to find out more.
You can also increase your space on the SERP if your Q&As appear below your listings. As you can see in the image below, users will be able to find other useful information without even having to click on the result. Similar to the PAA, when you click on the drop-down arrow, you’ll be presented with the answer and from there, you may choose to click on the result to discover more.
Do I need to apply FAQ schema to my webpages with FAQs as well as my FAQ page? You ask - in short, yes, you should aim to apply this type of schema to any page which features Q&As because this increases your chances of having them appear on the SERP. The other thing to consider here is the fact that dedicated FAQ pages don’t always rank well, and, actually, if you can send a user directly to a product or service webpage, they may be more likely to convert there.
Review schema can apply to a review of an item, such as a book, movie or store. With this type of schema in place, you’ll be eligible for review snippets which include ratings and other information from the markup. Such reviews may also appear in your knowledge panel so it’s well worth adding the markup to give your brand some credibility.
Ratings are the evaluation of an item on a numeric scale (for example, 1-5 stars) and reviewRating information is included in the Review schema. Reviews themselves can also be rated with the ‘aggregateRating’ property.
Having positive ratings and reviews are a form of ‘social proof’. Having them appear alongside your result will really set you apart from competitors and show users that your brand and its offerings are recommended. Just bear in mind that you’ll want to monitor your reviews and respond to any negative feedback to keep your customers happy as reviews can play a big part in the decision-making process.
Local business schema
Finally, let’s look at LocalBusiness schema. This type of markup helps search engines to understand what sort of organization you are, what it is that you do and the locations you cater for. Afterall, some users may be looking specifically for products or services nearby. Below is a ‘Local Pack’ on Google which lists a few local businesses relevant to the query.
As you can see, important information such as the business’s contact details appear here, so it’s easy for users to get in touch and find who they’re looking for. If a user were to click on the 'more businesses' button below the initial SERP listing, Google will take you to a page that looks a bit like this:
This expanded SERP can be broken down into three distinct segments.
First, an expanded list of local businesses that match the users search query, within this segment basic, short-form details such as the business name, address, contact number, opening hours and average rating are displayed alongside links to the business’s website or directions to their address.
Secondly, upon clicking on a business listing, more detailed information about the business will appear, within this section of the SERP, you will see additional information about the business including listing photos, questions and answers as well as individual business reviews.
Finally, the third segment of the local business mark-up simply displays the businesses location within Google Maps alongside the location of other listed businesses.
Other features can display within the local business mark-up depending on what sort of business it is. For example, restaurants may allow users to view their menu or encourage users to complete an action such as reserve a table.
Essentially, this type of schema will help you to target local audiences and drive the right type of traffic to your site. You’ll be able to highlight your business’s name, location, contact details, opening times and more to give users the best experience (whilst encouraging them to convert).
How to implement schema markup
All of this information is great, but you’re now probably wondering how to add structured data on your site.
Firstly, you can check if your site already has a schema implemented using this Structured Data Testing Tool which will show you if any schema types have been used and detected. After running a URL through the tool, you’ll see something like the below:
From here you can decide what’s lacking and can be improved.
In terms of testing your markup, these two tools are particularly handy:
- Rich Results Test - this allows you to see which Google rich results can be created for your pages.
- Schema Markup Validator - this enables you to test different types of schema.org markup so you can make sure the code you’ve created will work.
You can also see whether there are any issues with structured data applied to your pages on Google Search Console.
As you can see, Google Search Console has flagged some warnings here. In this case, the schema is still valid and working but the warnings are more like opportunities to make improvements. For instance, if it says you’re missing the field ‘price’, you can add the price of the product or service to the schema and this warning should disappear. If there are any errors flagged, you should aim to fix this by running your schema through a validation tool to uncover what’s wrong.
Implementing a schema markup isn't a walk in the park, especially if it's not something you've turned your hand to in the past. Luckily, there are several tools available online to help you craft the perfect Schema markup for your website.
Implementing schema into CMS’s
Below are some popular CMS’s and how they enable you add schema to your webpages:
- Wordpress - Wordpress offers several plugins for making the process of adding schema smoother, including Yoast which handles the different technical configurations within SEO such as schema markup. You’ll simply need to install the plugin and enter your business’s information.
- Wix - Wix has an advanced SEO tab where you can paste in the new markup - it will also allow you to test it and edit it so you know it’s all gone to plan.
- Squarespace - With Squarespace, you can add schema markup directly to the code of pages (just click the page you want to add it to, insert the code, test it out and save it).
- Shopify - Shopify has plugins such as Schema Plus which allows you to copy the right code into it.
Whichever CMS you use, you will still need to use a schema markup generator tool to get the right codes and you should always test them out using Google’s Rich Results Test to ensure they’ll work.
What are the challenges of implementing schema?
If you haven’t already been using schema, there could be a few reasons behind this, including:
- You may not have the in-house resources necessary.
- You may not have known how to mark items up or understood the code used - invalid codes can cause issues such as a manual action from Google (which is a penalty due to breaching Google’s webmaster quality guidelines) so it’s best not to test anything out unless you’re confident.
- It may not be supported by your CMS.
- You might not have realised the benefits of schema until this glorious day.
If you’re looking to up your schema game but you’re not sure where to start (or simply want to save yourself the hassle), you can always turn to a digital marketing agency who can support you.
Does structured data help SEO?
As useful as schema markup will prove to be for any website implementing it, many don't deem it to be a ranking factor in itself. We would argue differently. and, as schema helps Google to better understand your website better, it should be deemed as being an indirect ranking factor.
Search results with more extensive rich snippets, such as the ones you'd be implementing with schema,can help to strengthen your SEO in the following ways:
- It makes search listings more user friendly - users browsing the SERPs will get a much better experience with schema in place. Not only will they get the information they need faster (such as product reviews or quick answers from knowledge panels), they can easily navigate to the relevant page (thanks to breadcrumb navigation and breadcrumb schema).
- You can get your content indexed quicker - as structured data can help search engines to find your content more easily and understand your content better, you may find that your content will get indexed quicker.
- You’ll have more control - you’ll be the one informing search engines about your content so you’ll have more influence over how they understand your brand and your site’s content.
- You’ll see a better click-through rate - schema enables you to have rich results displayed on the SERPs which will help grab users’ eyes. If you have gleaming product reviews, a user will be interested in your listing before even entering your site.
- You’ll likely see more conversions - With better rankings and click-through rates comes a higher chance of converting users and increasing your ROI.
Furthermore, research suggests that websites using Schema markup rank better in SERPS than companies without it. In fact, Google shared a case study of the ecommerce store Rakuten who saw “traffic to all Rakuten Recipe pages from search engines soar 2.7 times”. With all of this in mind, yes, structured data can help SEO and if your business isn’t currently making the most of it, now is the time to do so. Schema markup is a great general practice to adopt on your website, especially with a surprisingly low number of businesses and their websites taking advantage of it. If you're looking to gain an edge over your competition in terms of search visibility, schema markup will help you to stay ahead of the game.