Reasons To Use Schema Markup For SEO
Although the relationship Schema Markup share with SEO is debatable, it is still considered as a good marketing technique to improve your website’s online presence. So whether it affects your website rankings on search engines or not, it is no doubt something you should take advantage of.
If you’re new to the game of SEO, then Schema might sound like another jargon that makes you want to think “Yay. Yet another crazy SEO term that sound absolutely impossible to learn in one sitting.”
As much as I enjoy watching you in your adorable state of confusion, allow me to dispel any misconceptions about Schema Markup. It sure does sound intelligent but it’s really one of the easiest concepts to learn in SEO. We simply have to dig up the basics and up we go!
Before Schema Markup is a more general concept called Structured Data Markup. So let’s learn this one first.
What is a Structured Data Mark Up?
I’m pretty sure we’ve tackled meta information on previous articles but as a refresher, we often use meta tags in SEO to give search engines a better idea of the purpose a certain page in our website serves. Also, it gives us the opportunity to come up with pitches that have a specific call to action.
The image below is a good example of how meta information are displayed by search engines:
Without these tags, Google will generate an automatic title and description for your webpage according to how it understands it – and sometimes, they just don’t turn out as pretty.
“Wait. I thought we were going to talk about Structured Data Markup?”
And indeed we are. The reason why I reviewed a short lesson on meta tags is because Structured Data Mark Ups are very similar to them in essence. If you’ve been attentively tracking updates in Google (or other search engines), you’d notice how more information have been recently added into meta descriptions.
Let’s take NY Health & Racquet Club as an example (for no particular reason). The website’s meta information should look like this on the SERPs:
So normally, you’d see the meta description below the meta title shown in organic search results. Much recently however, you’ll also spot the name of the article author, the phone number and address of a business (if any), or other relevant information about a website without having to click on it. This added information, usually referred to as “rich snippets,” is due to structured data markups. The process involves highlighting important and appropriate data to be featured along with other meta information in search engine results.
In other words, it tells search engines the meaning behind your content rather than just have them read it. This is done in order to improve the indexation and categorization of your website. After selecting and placing these rich snippets, the organic search result for NY Health & Racquet Club should look like this:
So How Does My Website Benefit From Having “Rich Snippets?”
As you can see, a phone number, address, operating hours, and other important details have been added to give users a more concise idea of what the website is about. There are options for “Personal Training” and “Fit Together” so you know that this specific establishment offers two types of classes. The description also includes the time and a link to class schedules so you know that they have flexible hours.
In other words, you already get a ton of information just by looking at the search result. If by any chance you were looking for a racquet club that offers personal training, then just by seeing the description, you are encouraged to click on the website. Same goes when you are looking for a club that closes late. With all these information being outwardly accessible, you get more accurate clicks. This means that people who click on your website are people who are interested in your website – and not just some random visitor.
So What Is Schema?
Schema, by dictionary definition, refers to a syllogistic figure. In SEO, it would refer to data, codes, or terms that are common to all developers and specialists. Marking up using these schemas have made it easier for search engines and webmasters to communicate structured data.
An organization, Schema.org, has been particularly founded by some of the most influential and wide-scale search engines in the entire world particularly Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex (talk about an overpowered circle!). Schema.org is a collaborative effort to standardize structured data by use of a schema vocabulary. This encourages the use of microdata which in turn benefits search engines, users, and webmasters alike.
We can have a long talk about microdata and how your website can gain a lot of advantages from it but doing so would stray us off topic. I’ll leave you with this helpful resource instead!
What’s The Difference Between Structured Data Markup And Schema Markup?
I’ve seen many articles use these two terms interchangeably. This is because, in essence, they’re basically the same thing. If anything, schemas fall under the category of structured data. It’s just that schemas are specific, organized, and universal. It’s become a common language among search engines and most developers follow how schema types are formatted as provided by the schema.org dictionary.
If you’re interested in seeing how the Schema Hierarchy looks like – its corresponding vocabularies and properties, click here!
How On Earth Can I Take Advantage of Schema Markup When I Don’t Know The First Thing About Coding or HTML?
I’m no HTML genius myself but I can still take advantage of Schema Markup. Want me to let you in on the secret?
Okay. It’s nothing too mysterious actually. The key to using Schema Markup even with little to no knowledge about coding or html lies in the tool you use. And there’s really no better one than Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. With this tool, you don’t have to go blind looking at all the different data types. It trimmed down your choices to 10.
- Local Businesses
- TV Episodes with Ratings
- Book Reviews
- Software Applications
- TV Episodes
These ten types encompass almost all kinds of businesses going around the internet – except for those that run black market goods and services. And even if you can’t find your specific product type, you can always just check number two (Local Businesses).
How To Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper
Google really is a reliable source of information – it even gave us a tool to help with our data markup tasks! You might think it’s ironic. How come Google is helping us rank Google? Although I have no specific answer to this question, the only thing you have to know is that it works. It worked for me when I was still new to using microdata, it will surely work for you as well. Think of it as learning to ride a bicycle by using ones with training wheels first!
I only have five easy steps for you to follow so pay close attention:
Step 1: Log-in to the Structured Data Markup Helper Website
Obviously, you will need access to the tool before you can start using it. This link should take you there. Before you can start using this tool, you will be prompted to log-in with your Google account. If you don’t have one, then just create one for yourself. It would be too generous for Google to have you use one of their tools without showing some patronage to their enterprise!
Once you reach the landing page of the website, it should look like this:
Step 2: Specify Data Type
On the landing page, you can see the ten types of data I mentioned earlier. And, just below the “Structured Data Markup Helper” label, there should be two boxes that show two options (Website | Email) like so:
If you’re planning to use the markup for an email HTML, choose “Email.” If you otherwise need the markup for one of your webpages, choose “Website.” When you are on the right panel, the next step is to choose the type of data you’ll be marking up. We’ll be using Tayloright as an example for this guide, so we’ll choose “Local Businesses.”
You must be thinking, “Aren’t these options too limited?” Just pick whatever is closest to the type of webpage you’ll be marking up; you’ll get the chance to elaborate further later on.
When you’re done selecting, enter your website’s URL (if it already exists) and click on “Start Tagging.” If you’re still on the process of creating a webpage, you can also paste the HTML. It would be better to do this when you have nearly completed the content to avoid problems or issues during the markup process. Otherwise, a published URL is the easiest way to do the markup.
Step 3: Highlighting Data & Selecting Data Type
After you click “Start Tagging,” it should present to you some of the most commonly used data types for your chosen category. Since I chose “Local Businesses” it showed me this:
Among the data types, only the “Name” is required to be filled out. Others are optional. You can just highlight the ones that are visually available on your page and have them tagged with the right data type.
Even if you need some data manually included, just click on the “Add missing tags” button at the bottom of the right scroll down panel. This should allow you to manually insert information (which you can take from another source) and have it tagged with the appropriate data type.
Step 4: Review & Create HTML
Review your tags and make sure that everything you need marked up for your business is already included. Check if the NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) is written correctly. See to it that you don’t need any other data types marked up aside from the ones you’ve chosen.
Next, the “Create HTML” button on the upper right corner should now be red (instead of gray) this means that you can now convert your data to HTML.
Give it a few seconds and voila! You should have your microdata generated for you. No hassle, right? Also, in case you’ve forgotten to tag a very important piece of data (even after countless reminders from us to review your selection), you can always click the “Back to tagging” option and it should let you add more data types.
Step 5: Download, Copy, & Check!
Download the HTML file; it’s the second button to the left on the upper right corner of the scroll-able panel. Or just copy and paste it in your website’s HTML after downloading, that is, if your Control Management System (CMS) allows it. Make sure the format is in microdata; Google loves microdata!
What I do however, before applying any changes to an active URL’s HTML, is to check whether the markup is working just fine. For this task, I make use of another Google tool – the Structured Data Testing Tool. If you click this link, it should get you to a website that looks like this:
Using this tool, you can see a preview of your website’s data markup. You can find inconsistencies or erroneous codes (if any) by simply plugging in the HTML code you have generated using the Structured Data Markup Helper. As much as I would want to talk more about it in this article, that would be too much Segway, so let’s save it for next time!
So this brings us to conclude our five step guide in using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. By now, I’m pretty sure that your initial reaction “This will be so darn difficult” is now replaced by “That’s it? Easy-peasy.” However, we have not yet come to the best part of this article.
I’ll be showing you a few practical applications of Schema Markup.
Why Schema Markup Is Perfect For Different Kinds of Businesses
Earlier, I cited an example for a racquet club. But of course, not all of you are running racquet clubs so I doubt that you were able to get a lot of value from that example. This brings me to think that I should present this marketing method in a general perspective and explain how it can affect businesses of all kinds.
To make it easier, let’s look at it in terms of benefits and advantages:
Schema Markup Do Not Necessarily Incur Costs
Everything you need to do Schema Markup is offered for free – I’m referring to the tools you will be using. Google has been very proactive with the implementation of Schema as a universal standard that they’ve provided most of what webmasters need to markup data on their own. So unless you hire a professional to manually create microdata for you, you don’t necessarily have to spend at all!
Everything you need is right on your fingertips – literally and metaphorically speaking.
Schema Markup Allows Important Data To Become More Visible In Organic Searches
Despite ranking a webpage, you are still competing with 9 other websites sharing the same page rank as you do. And although ranking high or first gives you thrice the advantage, it doesn’t exactly seal the deal for you. Sure, you’ll get a higher CTR but how relevant are these clicks? How many people visiting your website actually avail of your products and services in reality? Using structured data should help you avoid this problem by getting clicks that have higher relevance.
By stating important data points in your website’s schema, users get a glimpse of what’s inside your website. If they see a keyword or phrase that matches what they’re looking for, they’d go for your website. This means that each click gets more value. Because every click made has purpose and not merely an effort to browse contents of your website.
Schema Markup Simply Improves Your Website Overall
Being very transparent about important business information typically improves your website’s face value and credibility. For example, I would much prefer a website with a stated phone number and business address than those who don’t provide this kind of data. This is because knowing (or even just presuming) that there is a way for you to contact the website owner should anything go wrong with your purchases or transactions significantly increases the trust you have for a particular domain. Making use of Schema or structured data markup should help you get these bits of information up in the SERPs, increasing the likelihood of getting more relevant clicks.
And that’s it.
Our Final Thoughts
Although it doesn’t necessarily land you top rank in the manner SEO methods do, Google and other major online factions are putting collaborative effort into making Schema a universal language across all search engines. With the king of all SE’s spearheading the development and widespread use of Schema, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an integral part of every website. It would be better for yours to jump on the wagon early.
Also, it never hurts to give users more reasons to love your website. Give Schema Markup some thought – there’s more to gain than there is to lose. Happy coding!