The Role of Schema Markup in SEO: Enhancing Your Website’s Visibility

The significance of Schema Markup as an SEO tool is only going to continue to grow as the internet becomes even more saturated with competition for traffic. As the amount of information on the web continues to increase, search engines will only have more to sift through to find what the user is looking for. It could be said that Schema Markup provides a more refined method of SEO service, in that information is categorized and as a result can be displayed more precisely in search results. With new competitor websites being created daily, all competing for a high search engine ranking, it’s more difficult than ever to get your content to stand out in search results. It’s becoming more and more of a necessity to make use of any legitimate SEO strategy available, and it is clearly explained by Google that Schema Markup can increase the chance of a rich snippet. This is something with the potential to greatly increase a website’s traffic.

Schema is a type of language that enables search engines to understand and interpret what a website or web page is about. With a better understanding of your content, search engines can classify it more effectively – therefore it is considered that adding Schema Markup can be an effective form of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Schema Markup can be applied to a wide range of website types, including, but not limited to: articles, local businesses and restaurants, TV episodes and ratings, book and movie reviews, and software applications. Due to the fact that a website’s already existing HTML code does not usually provide enough information on its own, many site owners are finding that Schema Markup has become an increasingly important SEO strategy in making their web pages stand out in search engine results. Properly implemented Schema Markup can lead to what is known as a “rich snippet”, a more detailed search result that is more likely to attract the user’s attention and lead to a higher click-through rate.

What is Schema Markup?

Schema markups define the structures of data and one can find it in action on most search engines. Schema markups are microdata that can be added to a web page. It allows search engines to understand the information in a more detailed way. This can then be manifested into richer search results, creating “enhanced snippets”. At the moment, one would only see the traditional snippets that consist of a page title and meta description. With enhanced snippets, users can expect to see information compiled within the page such as ratings, prices, events, etc. These snippets can vary depending on the information found within the page. For example, if it is an article, a snippet can provide the number of comments or the date in which it was written. If it is a product page, you can expect to see the price and whether it is in stock or not. This, in turn, makes it easier for users to find the information that they are looking for and increases the CTR to that web page. This is because users are more likely to click on search results which provide more information. With more easily accessible information, users can make more informed decisions on what they are about to click. Schema markups can be implemented by using structured data that is added directly to the HTML of web pages. This structured data is supported by major search engines including Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It is also flexible as there are different syntaxes that can be used to implement structured data; these include microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa and can be added to HTML in various different ways.

Importance of Schema Markup in SEO

Utilizing schema markup offers an amount of ways to enhance your website. It is a boon that may not directly enhance your page ranking, however indirectly this same will enhance the visibility for your website by restructuring the search results pages. An enhanced, well-defined search result will draw more clicks. This increase in click-through rate (CTR) will indirectly affect the page rankings. With some content types, schema markup can enhance your website appearance in the search results by including rich snippets. A rich snippet is a result that contains more information than the regular snippet does. This info is taken from the markup of the content. When you include structured data appropriate to your content, search engines can reward you by giving an increased ranking and impressive visibility. This will mean a higher CTR even if your ranking stays the same. The principle reason behind this is, as always, the outcome ultimately serves the needs and queries of the users. Rich snippets provide immediate information to the users. This method of exposure will likely rank you above competitors.

Benefits of Schema Markup

Improved search engine visibility In today’s world, where everyone is trying to get their websites ranked and indexed by search engine companies in order to have their website appear on the first page with search results that include the use of any relevant keywords, it is important to have your website stand out. Creating markup and adding it to your website can improve the way your page is indexed and displayed by search engines, in turn leading to an increase in your rankings and overall visibility. With your website being better optimized, implementing schema markup can give you a potential competitive edge. According to recent studies, less than one third of Google search results include rich snippets, yet an estimated 40% of keywords in the vast majority of websites are now including markup. This means that there is a wide open gap just waiting to be filled by those who are willing to add schema markup to their websites, as the markup becomes more and more integrated with search engines.

Schema markup can provide some great benefits to your website and to your overall search presence. Here are some of the most important advantages.

Improved Search Engine Visibility

An instance of improved search engine visibility with the use of schema markup is the integration of reviews into search results. By adding review markup to the HTML of a page, review information can be displayed together with a website’s listing in search results. This could make the listing much more powerful than a regular one, let alone a listing from a rival company, which could potentially result in more traffic being led to the website. Whether it be through reviews, events, people or recipes, it is a fact that marking up your data with microdata can create a more attractive and informative result in search listings. Last but not least, Rich Snippets are search result enhancements that add visual or informative elements to a search result. This could be anything from an image or review rating to event dates or video duration. Rich Snippets make search results stand out more and in turn becoming more appealing. With schema markup being recognized as the most universally supported method of creating Rich Snippets, the opportunities are wide open to those who use schema markup in hopes of achieving a more effective and attractive search result.

Having trouble making your website show up higher in search engine rankings? With schema markup, your site could have an easier time presenting itself in a more appealing way to those using search engines, which could potentially result in a higher placement in search results. By categorizing the data on your website and labeling it with schema markup, search engines will have an easier time picking up on the information and understanding it. This could result in your website becoming categorized in a more appealing way to the search engine, which could result in showing up in a more favorable category and attracting more viewers. An increase in visibility in category listings in search engines would be a huge benefit, and is very possible with the use of schema markup.

Higher Click-Through Rates (CTR)

This data shows that obtaining those rich snippets really makes a difference; and with schema markup being the only way to dictate what is shown in rich snippets, it’s a no-brainer as to whether webmasters should implement it or not. A higher CTR means more traffic, and more traffic means more customers or readers to whatever that page has to offer.

A study from Blue Nile Research in December 2011 showed some very interesting and compelling data regarding click-through rates and the influence of rich snippets. A total of 100 people were asked to search for a product review or information, and they were shown two identical search results for 8 different queries. The only difference was that one had rich snippets and the other one didn’t. The result was a change in CTR from organic search results to that site, from 20.9% with snippets, compared to 16.4% without snippets, on average an improvement of 4.5%, which represents a 27% increase in CTR from search results to those web pages with rich snippets.

When schema markup is added to a web page, it creates a rich snippet: the extra visual and identifying information in the search result. Rich snippets, which are enriched with review stars, price, or availability information, are more attention-grabbing and stand out more in search results. With more screen real-estate in SERPs being taken up by paid listings and similar-looking organic results, anything that gives a web page a competitive edge is a good thing. With the increased competition for clicks, it’s only natural that webmasters are interested in their potential CTR when using schema markup to show rich snippets.

Enhanced Rich Snippets

The use of data vocabulary can help search engines understand the context of your page’s content, which can in turn improve your website’s rich snippets. All the content types in offer the possibility of rich snippets, and Google is in favor of any markup that improves the display of search results. Google has even offered a rich snippets testing tool to help you see what your page may look like in search results and to check for any errors in your markup. With continued improvement of rich snippets and other search result displays, the use of standard data markup will only become more important in the world of SEO.

The use of schema can lead to an enhanced presentation of your website on the search engine results page. This enhanced presentation leads to rich snippets, which can improve click-through rates. Although rich snippets can be displayed in many different formats, they are essentially search result listings with additional data. Rich snippets can have a dramatic impact on click-through rates.

Better User Experience

One of the biggest advantages of using schema markup is the improved user experience that it provides. Rich snippets are the result of applying schema markup and can add visual appeal to an otherwise ordinary page in the search engine results. Rich snippets have been an ongoing trend in the major search engines for over a year now, with many studies confirming their click-through rate from normal search results. Rich snippets add preview images, rating stars, and other pieces of useful information which give users more insight into what the page contains. This is great for users and a great opportunity for webmasters, as a higher click-through rate likely results in more visitors and potential repeat visitors to a web page. An increased CTR will also contribute to improved search engine rankings, so it’s beneficial on multiple levels. Another way that rich snippets and schema markup improve user experience is indirectly related to more click-throughs and higher search rankings. Since users are able to see preview information before clicking, from an aspect of practicality, they can make more informed decisions on which search result to choose. For many topics, snippets can provide concise information about a result, ensuring that when a user does click through, they are doing so because the content directly aligned with what they were looking for. This is a win-win situation for webmasters and users.

Implementing Schema Markup

At this point in the process, we understand that schema may be beneficial for our web presence. At this point, we need to know how to implement it. Step 1 is to think about the various types of data you have on your site. According to Searchmetrics, only 36.6% of domains with schema have any markup on their pages at all. My hypothesis is that almost all sites have some form of content or concepts that could be enhanced with schema, the problem he is identifying is that people are not identifying opportunities. Thinking about the different types of rich snippets, when you give search engines a better understanding of your content, they are more likely to reward you with enhanced results. These enhanced results might include higher search results placement, bigger snippets, and even summary tables. This is not guaranteed, so don’t mark up all the content on your pages expecting better results across the board. But what we can hope for is that by marking up our best, most valuable content, we can increase the likelihood that this content will stand out in search results. So marking up every event and offering on your site might not be worth the effort, but if those event or offering pages hinge on a key piece of content such as a speaker’s credentials or an artist’s discography, marking up these specifics could lead to more traffic on those specific pages. This is about recognizing the most valuable aspects of your site’s content, the areas where an enhanced search result could result in more traffic and user interest. The next step is to add the appropriate markup to the content identified in step 1. This markup can typically be added directly to the HTML of a page, or in the case of certain content management systems (such as WordPress), there are plugins and/or tools which can assist with adding schema. If you are having new content created for your site, you can create a system of standards and expectations for new content with schema in mind. At this point it becomes difficult to gauge the immediate effects of adding schema markup to content. Search result improvements usually take some time, and there might be some waiting before search engines fully process the new markup.

Choosing the Right Schema Type

To begin implementing schema, clarify your end goal. Remember there are potentially thousands of different schemas; you want to use the one that will best markup your content so it is selected as a rich result. To help with selection use the new Schema Markup Validator Tool. It is an open source project that will allow you to input a URL and it will return what type of schema has been used on that page. If it is not the desired result, the tool will provide suggestions on what may be a more suitable markup for the page. Furthermore, when creating the schema in JSON-LD, there is a built-in method to validate the markup. According to Google, when adding a new snippet to a page, we recommend testing the page to make sure the page actually contains the data that the snippet describes. Testing ensures that your markup is easily and correctly interpreted by search engines, and that the annotated content is immediately visible to your users. If you’re updating already existing schema or adding to it, the structured data testing tool will allow you to fetch new code and test if the changes are what you want them to be. These tools will allow you to feel confident and comfortable with your choice of schema.

Adding Schema Markup to Your Website

Now your schema markup is on the page, but how do search engines know it’s there? A solution to getting all of your content indexed, including your markup, is to set up an account with Google Search Console (if you don’t have one already) and submit a sitemap. With this account, you can also find out if there are any errors in your markup that are preventing it from showing up in search results.

There are a few ways to add schema markup to your website. The first and simplest is to do it manually by updating your HTML. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is a great tool for doing this. Select the type of data that you plan to markup, and paste in the URL of the page or article that you want to markup. The tool will generate the HTML for you, and then you can download it and make the updates to your page. After updating the page, remember to use the Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that the markup has been implemented correctly. This is important because if the markup is incorrect, it may not result in the rich snippets or improved search results that you were hoping for. If HTML is not something you are comfortable with, there are other options, like installing a plugin or using a schema markup generator. However, doing it manually generally provides the best results. Finally, you can hire a developer to do this for you.

Testing and Validating Schema Markup

Having applied the schema markup to your site, how do you know if it’s been done correctly? In order to ensure that your website is displaying the rich snippets or rich data in the desired manner, you’ll need to test your implementation. There are several tools out there to help you achieve this and they’re free to use. The quickest method is to go directly to the search results which display the information and check it with Google’s Rich Data Snippet Tool. All you need to do is enter the URL of the page and it will show you the data that Google was able to extract. An alternative is to search directly in Google and type in “info:URL” into the search bar. This would need to be done in Chrome and the browser needs to be set in English (US). This will bring up the cached version of the page with the rich snippets displaying. Clicking on the “more information” link will take you to a page with an explanation of the rich snippets found on the page. This method can be used to check your own pages and also keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. Another tool that can be used to check rich snippets is the Yahoo SearchMonkey Tool. This tool will identify the different types of structured data that is embedded within your page. However, if no structured data is marked up to your site, this tool won’t display anything that’s useful. When testing product markups, you will also want to check errors and the number of items indexed by Google’s Webmaster Tools. This will display the number of warnings and errors that Google has found and also gives you an option to preview the rich data. It’s important to fix errors and warnings as they can result in rich snippets not showing and a lower ranking. The final step is setting up a maintenance plan for your structured data as it can easily be affected by changes in the web environment. With advances in technology and future schema implementations, it’s likely that methods for testing structured data will change, so staying informed is a key way to ensuring that your structured data achieves the best results.

Best Practices for Schema Markup

Visual examples provided in the Google guides, showing schema used for specific industries and information, hint at future goals they are looking to achieve. This opens up many possibilities for more traditional businesses with data not yet formatted for today’s more advanced search engine. Also, this means that in the future even more types of content will have to be correctly marked up, such as mentioned with the pending changes for news content. This is already a lot of work for webmasters so staying ahead of the game now is a smart move.

Google provides its own structured data guides. They help you present your information in a way that’s most beneficial to Google, by doing things like opening up new SERP feature possibilities and better fitting your descriptions to what users are searching for. If you make correct use of schema markup, the results can be astonishing. This can apply to a variety of businesses, but a local business could see particularly positive results. For example, a local business could tell Google about events happening nearby. This could result in new SERP features, like the one below. High quality information is now of increasing importance (see E-A-T) and it would be naive to expect that the importance of structured data is not only going to increase.

Using Structured Data Markup

Use data markup when it is the most appropriate way to describe the information. If a piece of data cannot be displayed well with the current types and properties, it may be better waiting until the standards are updated, or the information has a more suitable way of marking it up. Using markup that is not suited to the data, or misusing the markup in an attempt to get a rich snippet for example, can be detrimental as it’s an invalid use of the schema.

This means that if you’re marking up a single user review, don’t use the Review itemtype on its own. Instead, use the Review itemtype in conjunction with the more specific itemtypes such as Review of a movie or Review of a book. This also means using the most specific property you can. For instance, a book may have a publication date which would be marked up using the DCMI Metadata terms along the lines of <span itemprop=”datePublished”>…</span>. This will not conflict with the Review itemtype which also uses a datePublished property, since they are actually two separate properties with the same name. A book may also have reviews from diverse sources such as newspapers, magazines, and websites. You should mark up the source of this review with the reviewing entity itemtype.

There are several widely accepted best practices for implementing schema markup. It’s important that you match the item on the page to the most specific itemtype.

Optimizing Schema Markup for Local SEO

What is local search? For the purposes of this book, let’s think of local search in terms of any business that has a physical location and derives a portion of their income by providing a product or service in a specified geographic area. This product or service could be anything from a national chain store fixing computers, to a self-employed massage therapist who makes house calls. These businesses can benefit a great deal from local search. In many cases, local search is a small business’ best chance to get high search engine visibility because they are not competing with the entire world and his neighbor, only others in the same geographic area. A business located in a smaller town may even find that local search allows them to effectively compete with larger national outfits.

Local search is all the rage. It’s a hot topic in the search engine space, and the general buzz about it has grown into a dull roar. People want to know about local search, read about local search, and understand how they can harness the power of local search for their own websites. Let’s be honest here—local search, regardless of how one might feel about it, has become a necessary topic because it’s a potential goldmine.

Asbury Point, a bed and breakfast on the New Jersey shore, faced a common problem for small businesses. Though Debbie Golomb had a full schedule for the upcoming summer season, she knew from talking with her guests that many of them had found Asbury Point by accident. They had been searching for another bed and breakfast in the Asbury Park area and were surprised to stumble on her website. Debbie wanted to capture all this potential business, but she didn’t know how.

Keeping Schema Markup Up to Date

As seen in the image below, Google Tag Manager allows you to quickly and easily implement small changes to your web page. These changes would be done through data layer variables and would be very easy to maintain. Remember that with any changes to the markup, you should always use the structured data testing tool to make sure that there is no longer any invalid markup.

With modern website CMSs, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to make changes to specific elements. This is why it’s important to plan out how schema markup will be added to a site and make sure you are leveraging the full potential of your markup. It’s always easier to have control over markup if it is coded directly into the HTML of a page, but for individuals using a CMS, you can make use of tools such as Google Tag Manager.

An example of this is when Google decides to change the display of its search results. Due to the change, there will be a necessity for webmasters to change their schema markup. Any additions or subtractions of elements in the markup can result in a dramatic effect on the search results, an effect which could decrease the visibility of the website from which the markup originated. It’s for this reason that it is important to keep schema markup up to date.

It has always been crucial to have a website and to keep it optimized for search engine accessibility. Over recent years, schema markup has been a popular tool for SEOs, search engine businesses, and developers. Modern search has changed dramatically with the advent of new technologies, continuing to innovate on providing the best results for users. Because of this constant change, it means that the data on the web is constantly evolving and old data can become irrelevant.

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