What Is Schema and Why Should I Care?
What is schema markup, and how does it affect the SEO rankings of your website? Learn everything you need to know about schema for website implementations.
You may have noticed the Google search results are changing.
A handful of years ago, all you would see would be a simple list of ten blue links. If you searched for a local business, there might be a map, too.
Now, the Google search engine result pages (known as SERPs for short) look vastly different. There are carousels of images, boxes on the side, maps, stars, and expandable question boxes to explore.
If your business cares at all about SEO, and every business should, these changing search results may scare you. They take up a lot of space at the top of the search results, pushing your regular blue links further down the page.
You may have also noticed Google often displays information from a website directly in the search results. Google shows job posts, company information, recipes, and more.
How is Google getting this information?
Part of it comes from the brilliance of Google’s algorithm. Google is constantly scouring the web and finding new ways to display that information to searchers.
The other part comes from schema markup is code these companies place on their websites to help Google find that information. The easier their information is to find, the more likely Google is to show their website in one of those special search results.
The more present you are in the search results, the more brand awareness, site traffic, and sales your website can enjoy. In other words, schema is good for SEO, and it’s good for your business.
Let’s dig into exactly what schema is, why you should care, and the powerful results it can drive for your website.
What is schema markup?
Schema markup, sometimes referred to as structured data markup, is a vocabulary search engines use to read and understand web content. Back in 2011, the world’s biggest search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex, met up to standardize this vocabulary and form Schema.org.
With schema, you use a standard set of properties, as defined by this language, to describe the content on a page on your website. Then you place the code in the HTML for that page. The code is not visible to your site visitors, but the search engines will see it when they scan your website.
Search engines are getting smarter every day, but it’s a tall order to scan a web page and understand what the images, text, and video represent, and how they all relate to each other.
Use schema, and search engines can more clearly grasp what your website is all about, since you’re speaking their language. With more context, it’s easier for them to display your website in the search results for relevant keywords, or feature you in a special search result like the ones we showed above.
There are three standard formats to schema markup: JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa. Google recommends using JSON-LD, which is why we’ll use that in our examples throughout the rest of the guide.
>> Schema in action
Here’s an example of how schema works. You’re currently recruiting to hire a QA technician. If you use schema markup, Google displays your job in relevant searches, like “QA jobs near me”.
Google is able to pull the job title, location, description, and other details for the role because those fields were included in the schema markup for the page.
Google has a special section of the search results dedicated to job openings, and job candidates are likely to go right to Google to find their next job. Thanks to schema markup, you’re able to reach more candidates.
Why care about schema?
SEO is highly competitive. Your company knows that. Anything you can do to increase your visibility in the search results is a worthwhile endeavor. Schema fits the bill.
By using schema, you make it much easier for search engines to understand the content on your website. This alone makes them more likely to display your website in relevant search results.
But, as we saw with our jobs example above, many types of schema also get transformed into “rich results” in the search results. These are those special search results that look different than a plain blue link.
They may be product ratings and reviews, a jobs carousel, or even event listings.
And that’s just getting started. There are a lot of schema your business can use to gain visibility in the search results, many of which we’ll review in a later section.
All of these search results are highly visible and noticeable. And many of them grant your business visibility that you wouldn’t enjoy otherwise. For example, your business is unlikely to rank for broad, high-volume keywords like “events near me this weekend.” Event aggregator sites are likelier to rank. If you use schema, however, Google will be more likely to display your company’s event in the featured listings.
Best of all, these rich results are pulled from any of the websites who show up on page one. That means you can be ranked in spot 10, at the very bottom of the search results, and score an additional highlight at the very top of the search results. You get two rankings for the price of one!
Considering that the top spot alone gets over 35% of clicks, that’s nothing to shrug off.
While expanded search real estate is a huge benefit all on its own, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t translate to conversions.
Here’s the great news: these rich results—enabled by schema—attract more-qualified traffic. According to Google’s research, web pages that use schema markup enjoy click-through rates that are 25% to 82% higher!
Voice search optimization
Schema provides one more benefit that becomes more important as we enter the age of voice search. One in six Americans already own a voice-activated smart speaker.
When these speakers read out answers to their owners, where do you think they get that information from? From rich results, of course!
Using schema markup on your website is a SEO best practice, for now and into the future. It helps you stay competitive as search behavior changes from text to voice.
Benefits of schema
To summarize, using schema on your website can offer you these benefits:
Increased visibility in the search results
Increased click-through rates and higher-quality organic search traffic
Competitive edge for all organic search, traditional or voice
Google’s goodwill for making your content easy to understand
To clarify a common misconception, schema is not a ranking factor. However, it does give Google more context about your site, and the more information Google has (and the easier you make it for them to find said information), the better job they tend to do at ranking your website for the things you should be ranking for.
What schema can you add to your site?
With schema, the possibilities are nearly endless. Here are the top 10 schema we recommend implementing on your website.
1. Organization Schema
At a minimum, every business should use Organization schema. This schema informs what Google displays for your Knowledge Graph result on the right rail of the search results. This Knowledge Graph may appear for any branded search terms that include your business name.
2. Local Business Schema
Local Business schema powers the Knowledge Graph for any physical locations your business operates. Identifying each of your offices or physical locations as a Local Business through schema may also influence Google’s decision to show you in the local map 3-pack.
3. Website Schema
When people search for your website, Google displays additional links below the main one for your website. These are known as “sitelinks.” You cannot tell Google which sitelinks to display, but you can heavily encourage them by using the WebSite schema markup.
4. Video Schema
Google has a strong preference for YouTube videos in their video search results, so we recommend posting your videos to YouTube and embedding them on your site.
However, if you have some video files hosted on your website, you can increase their search presence by tagging them with Video Object Schema.
5. Product Schema
It’s hard to stand out when you’re in a sea of blue links. That’s what makes the Product schema so attractive. When you enable Product schema, you get a whole extra line added to your SERP result.
Combine it with Rating schema, and you unlock those bright orange stars that really
make a search result pop.
The Product schema is essential for e-commerce websites. You can add it to all of your product pages.
6. Review Schema
Now, to unlock those juicy gold stars, you need to use the Review schema. The Rating schema should only be used on websites that collect reviews on their website, whether it’s for a local business, product or service.
Do NOT use the Review schema for reviews you’ve copied and pasted from Google, Yelp, or another website. That violates Google’s terms.
7. Event Schema
Event schema enables your company’s events to display in the Google Search results as well as Google Maps. Like with local business schema, each event must have a unique URL on your website.
8. Recipe Schema
Recipe schema encourages Google to display recipes you’ve published on your site in the search results with additional fields like star ratings or calories. Earn a featured snippet, and smart speaker owners can follow along using voice search.
9. Article Schema
Does your website implementation include a blog? Mark up your blog posts with the Article Blog Posting schema and Google may display you in a special “News” carousel.
10. Job Posting Schema
Your company wants to source the best candidates. For that to happen, they need to be able to find your latest job openings. The Job Posting schema can help with that.
5 schema best practices for website implementations
As you incorporate schema into your website, keep the following best practices in mind.
1. Use the JSON-LD format.
While Google supports structured data in all three schema formats—JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa—they recommend using JSON-LD.
When it comes to SEO, it’s in your best interests to follow Google’s recommendations. Make it easier for them to identify your schema by using JSON-LD, and they may be more likely to display you for rich results.
2. Your schema should be unique to a specific URL.
Each schema you implement should be tied back to a specific page on your website. Do not create schema if you cannot pull content from the page to support the properties.
Google itself advises against copying and pasting the same schema across multiple pages. Don’t make Google angry.
3. Use the same NAP across all your schema and web properties.
When you are adding a place to your schema, such as you would with the Organization, Local Business, or Job Posting schema, make sure the Name, Address, and Place (NAP) match the information you use across your web profiles. These include social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter as well as directory websites like Yelp or The Yellow Pages.
In the SEO world, these are referred to as citations, and having a consistent NAP across them makes it easy for Google to interconnect your various web properties.
4. Check your schema with Google’s free tools.
Google has free tools you can use to make sure you’re implementing schema correctly. This not only confirms you’ve made it as easy as pie for Google to display rich results for your schema, but it also makes sure you don’t get a nasty message from Google telling you you’ve violated schema guidelines.
Before you go live, use their Structured Data Markup Helper to test your schema. Once you’re live, you can test your live URL with their Structured Data Testing Tool to verify everything displays properly.
5. Don’t scam the schema.
Some people try to scam their way to better SEO by deliberately violating their guidelines. Common examples of this include creating schema on a page that doesn’t have content, such as 5-star customer ratings when there’s not a review in sight.
Do not do this, as Google will issue a Manual Action for your website—and that can seriously negatively affect how your website appears (or doesn’t) in the search results. Always test your schema to make sure it meets Google’s guidelines.
Schema for your website
As you can see, there is a lot to schema! The possibilities with schema are growing every day, and each schema you use just makes your site that much easier for Google to find. The easier you make Google’s job for them, the better they’ll be able to do it. Hopefully, that means displaying your website for more relevant search terms.
For help implementing schema on your Sitecore, Adobe, or Optimizely website, get in touch with Oshyn. We’ll work with you to identify all of the schemas available to you. Then we’ll map your site content and pages to the appropriate schema and add it to your existing site. We’ll even modify your existing Content Editor so you can easily add schema to new pages moving forward—without having to dig into the code.