You’ve optimized all of the onpage elements – established an internal linking structure using appropriate anchor text, added relevant outlinks, targeted keywords in the URL and in the headers, crafted an appropriate title and meta description, optimized image titles and alt text…now what?
Schema markup…or structured data markup if you prefer off-brand nomenclature.
What is Schema Markup?
Schema markup is a structured data language that uses semantics to help search engines better understand and deliver content. “Structured data” refers to information that is organized for a specific purpose. “Semantics” refers to the branch of linguistics concerned with meaning.
Hence, the purpose of Schema markup is to organize and deliver meaningful information.
In 2011, the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex) sought to establish an agreed upon means of categorizing information so they could deliver a better user experience to searchers. This resulted in the launch of schema.org, the authoritative hub for structured data markup.
Rich Snippets, You Say?
Schema markup enables search engines to deliver better and more interactive results in the form of rich snippets. A rich snippet is an enhanced search result that features additional information in order to provide a more comprehensive result
Ranking in position number one for a given keyword is highly advantageous. However, rich snippets have lessened the impact of a number one ranking over the past several years.
In fact, many rich snippets are featured at the top of the SERPs, above the organic rankings altogether. This location, coupled with the fact that they’re more visually appealing, means that trying to gain rich snippets should be part of your SEO strategy.
Types of Rich Snippets
There are hundreds of types of rich snippets. Learn about which ones are relevant to your business and work towards getting them. They various types fall under the following categories:
- Sponsored Features
- Local Business Features
- Knowledge Features
- Media Features
- Vertical Enhancement of Organic Results
- Search Query Features
How To Get Rich Snippets?
Schema markup increases the likelihood that your content will get featured in a rich snippet. Rich snippets can be as valuable as a top ranking keyword, so it’s highly recommended that you start adding structured data markup to all relevant aspects of your site. The more markup, the better.
As Google continues to make web search more semantic, adding Schema markup to your web pages is increasingly important to achieve better SEO.
Types of Schema Markup
If your website’s content has anything to do with nouns, then you’re in luck. Schema markup is used to denote a person, place or thing. View the full hierarchy to get an idea of the possibilities.
Popular types of markup include Creative Works (movies, music, blogs), all types of Services, and Organization. These different types of Schema markup allow you to organize data about your business and deliver them to search engines in a language they commissioned.
If that sounds like a potential competitive advantage, it is.
Getting Started With Schema Markup
Getting started with Schema markup can seem daunting at first. Especially if you have little to no coding knowledge. With a bit of patience and practice, you’ll be marking up your website in no time.
Maybe you’ll even get a rich snippet or two.
Before getting into the how of Schema markup, it’s important to know the types of encoding used. The main search engines support three types of Schema markup formats: RDFa, Microdata, and JSON-LD.
Knowing which code format to use is a matter of preference. It largely depends on what works best for the website developer and your organization’s workflow. Google has come right out and said that JSON-LD is their preferred Schema encoding – so do with that what you will.
Schema Markup Tools
Google’s Structured Data Markup Tool
One of the easiest ways to get started using Schema markup is through Google’s very own Structured Data Markup Helper tool. It allows you to enter a URL, highlight onpage elements, and select the appropriate Schema type. Once you’ve thoroughly marked up any and all relevant onpage elements, you simply select your desired encoding format and go on your way.
Schema generators are invaluable tools when it comes to creating structured data markup code. If you have no coding experience, this is the route I suggest you take. A tool that I have been enjoying a lot lately comes from Kalicube. They offer free Schema generator for marking up Organizations and People. Schema generators are a great starting point for further customization.
Schema Markup Plugins
There are several well-reviewed WordPress plugins that can help you identify and markup different onpage elements. While I have not used any of these plugins, they seem like a useful solution for the novice who wants to add Schema to their site without too much of a headache. One caveat I will add, having an overabundance of plugins can bog down your site speed. I recommend generating the code yourself and implementing it with Google Tag Manager.
Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool
Google is frustratingly vague about their ranking factors, but they make up for it with great tools that cost nothing but the time it takes to learn how to use them. I highly recommend that you run all of your Schema markup code through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Pro tip: you can run any URL through this tool. It provides valuable insight as to whether your competition is using structured data markup and how they’re using it.
Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a tag management system used for tracking and analytics. It can also be used to fire HTML code on specific pages. The benefit of using Tag Manager to implement Schema markup is that it doesn’t slow your site speed down. An additional benefit is that it markup can be added and adjusted by a team member that isn’t the web developer. Web devs are busy folks and don’t always have the bandwidth to deal with marketing concerns.
Search Engine Land has a great resource for adding Schema using Tag Manager.
Regardless of your industry, it’s safe to assume that you operate in a competitive landscape. Rising to the top of the heap requires all the strategy and tact you can muster. Businesses are always looking for an edge – that secret sauce that helps out-rank the competition.
Unfortunately, there is no secret sauce. Better SEO begins with an educated understanding of search engine ranking factors, adhering to best practices, and using data to refine your efforts over time. Catering your approach to search engines will improve your ranking opportunities.
Adding Schema markup wherever relevant will not only communicate the nature of your content to search engines, it will also increase your chances of winding up in rich snippets. SEO takes time to work. The effort you put in now may not come back to you for a while. Don’t get discouraged. Be thorough, be patient, and take advantage of Schema markup.