Within the industry of SEO, there are dozens of optimisation techniques utilised by digital marketing agencies, SEO specialists and companies to get websites to rank higher in search engines. Everyone understands the need to produce high-value, well-written content that has been optimised for the most relevant and effective keywords (you can learn more about this by reading our blog on on-page optimisation here). But an area of SEO that some may be less familiar with, or perhaps even slightly intimidated to approach, is Schema Markup. This blog article will answer the question of what is Schema Markup in SEO and why SEO marketers value it so highly.
What is Schema Markup?
In SEO, Schema Markup or structured data is the name given to a code snippet that you place within the HTML of pages on your website. It is used in order to further explain to search engines what a page is, the type of content it has and the overall purpose of the page. The better an understanding of a page a search engine like Google has, the more likely it is to rank higher.
Think of it as a conversation between two people, where one is trying to explain a new topic to the other; the more information you give the other person, the easier they'll understand what you're trying to say! There is a massive vocabulary of these markup tags (or microdata) on a website known as Schema.org, that can be used for a wide variety of different purposes. Adding Schema markup to your pages is valued so highly by SEOs because it can:
- Help to improve the way your page displays in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) by strengthening the rich snippets that are sometimes displayed beneath your page.
- Help improve the overall ranking of a page by helping search engines better understand the content and context of the pages they are crawling.
What is a Rich Snippet?
A rich snippet is a result returned by a search engine that offers extra information than expected. This can take a range of different forms, from 1-5 star review for a listed product, to a FAQ section underneath the result answering questions related to your search result. Rich snippets will or won't be shown for your pages depending on the quality of the content on your page, as well as the type of content provided on the page.
When you add structured data to a page, you increase the chances of seeing rich snippets for your pages and enhance your current rich snippet's quality. Because rich snippets stand out from regular results in the SERPs and the fact that they offer more information to the user, they are far more likely to be clicked. They are seen as being a treasured addition to a website's digital arsenal for these reasons.
What is Schema.org?
Schema.org is a collaboration between search engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo, to provide you with the information that search engines need to understand the content on your page better. You can find examples of Schema markup for hundreds and hundreds of purposes on this site depending on what your page might need.
Examples of Schema Markup in SEO
When discussing Schema markup and structured data, it is difficult to quantify just how many different options there are. When looking to provide extra information to Google on what your page is, the chances are that if you can think of something, there is probably Schema Markup for it. Below we will discuss three common types of Schema that you will have likely run into when browsing the web (though there are many more than the ones listed below):
Organisation Schema is a type of markup language that, when implemented correctly, should bring a user everything they need to know about your business. Below, we will use Amazon as an example:
As you can see, this snippet provides the reader with a treasure trove of information that would otherwise not be present. As well as a link to Amazon's website, you can see a summary of who they are taken from Wikipedia, where Amazon is based, influential figures like the founders and CEOs, logos and even stock prices!
Person Schema acts similarly to Organisation Schema, bringing you everything you need to know about a specific person or figure. We'll stick with the Amazon theme and look at Jeff Bezos' rich snippet as an example:
As you can see, with Person Schema adequately implemented, you can provide additional information such as images, dates and locations of birth, family information, educational backgrounds and links to social profiles such as Twitter and Instagram.
Creative Work Schema
Another popular style of Schema that sees a lot of use is Creative Work Schema. This type of Schema contains markups that cover many different creative content styles, such as films, books, video games, music and more. Below is an example of a result that has the "Movie" markup:
You can see that it contains lots of useful additions that add greater context to the result, such as an average review score, links to the full cast and crew, the director's name, and the original release date.
Useful Tools for Schema
Hopefully, you will have gained some idea of the breadth of Schema markup and some of the many ways it can be implemented to benefit your website- but how exactly do you implement it, and what kinds of tools can help you to do so?
As previously alluded to, Schema.org is the go-to resource for learning more about the many Schema types that exist. It categorises and defines hundreds upon hundreds of the different schema markup types, explaining what sorts of pages you would look to use them on and what the actual code will look like in HTML.
Structured Data Testing Tool
Google's Structured Data Testing Tool is another useful resource you have at your disposal, allowing you to test any snippets of code you have prepared for errors before you add them into your pages. You can also input any URL into the tool, to check if there is any existing Schema on the page, and whether or not there are any errors with it. Using this tool, you can also perform some competitor analysis; to see what types of structured data your rivals are using and if there are any missed opportunities you can capitalise on.
Structured Data Markup Helper
With the Structured Data Markup Helper, you have a tool that can help you generate the Schema, which is especially useful for those with limited exposure to coding. Using the markup helper is reasonably straightforward:
- First of all, you will need to open the Structured Data Markup Helper and choose whether to add structured data to an email or a webpage. For the purpose of this guide, we'll be going with the webpage option.
- Next, you need to determine what data type you are going to use and what you want to markup- you will be given ten choices: Articles, Book Reviews, Events, Local Businesses, Movies, Products, Restaurants, Software Applications, TV Episodes and TV Episodes with Ratings. We'll choose the article option here.
- Next step is to input the URL of the page you will be adding the markup to. If you are working on a page that hasn't been published yet, you can input the HTML instead. Once you've done this, click "start tagging" to move on ahead.
- Now you will need to identify the pieces of information on the web page that need marking up. The tool will help you identify the elements you should target depending on the data type you chose, by listing common data items in the right pane. By selecting these, the data will be added to the "My Data Items" pane. Once you've tagged all relevant data, you can create the HTML; click the "create HTML" option in the top right corner to proceed.
- Once you have done this, you should see the HTML display pane and have everything you need to add markup to your page. You should now be able to download the HTML created with the helper. If the CMS you are using allows you to paste in the HTML, use the "download" button, and paste it in.
- Once the HTML has been added to your chosen page, you can use the aforementioned Structured Data Testing Tool to check it for errors.
As shown in this article, Schema Markup and structured data can be a hugely valuable asset to your optimisation strategy, so long as you take the time to learn how it works and when to use it. With the hundreds of markup options listed on Schema.org, you should be able to find something to stand out from the competition and get your rankings to skyrocket! For more information on the field of SEO, you can visit our SEO services page here, and you can always get in touch with us if you're interested in working on a new SEO project.