What is Schema.org?
Schema.org is a collaboration by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Russian search engine Yandex to create a common language between major search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo that identifies the type of information provided to search engines via websites.
If you’re not sure why structured data mark-up is so important for your site, read what Google’s Gary Illyes had to say at PubCon 2017 in November:
“Structured data. This is one of those things that I want you to pay lots of attention to this year.” “It is almost like we started building lots of new features that rely on structured data, kind of like we started caring more and more and more about structured data. That is an important hint for you if you want your sites to appear in search features, implement structured data.”
“more importantly, add structure data to your pages because during indexing, we will be able to better understand what your site is about. And don’t just think about the structured data that we documented on developers.google.com. Think about any schema.org schema that you could use on your pages. It will help us understand your pages better, and indirectly, it leads to better ranks in some sense, because we can rank easier.”
Schema markup is a form of coding embedded into HTML in ways that allows Google and other search engines to translate website content to a language that search engines can understand.
HTML tells a browser how to display a web page and what to do with the content on a web page, but it doesn’t actually tell the browser what the content actually is. Structured data mark-up on the other hand, explicitly tells the browser exactly what the content is in a clear, digestible way so that search engines can better match searchers with the content they are looking for. For example with schematic mark-up, Google can see that your opening hours are not just a bunch of random numbers, they actually inform visitors about your opening times.
Schema can also tell the search engines that a particular piece of information is a recipe, the price of the product, a telephone number or a review, and how they relate to each other and other properties on the web. This will affect the way the search engines display your data in the search results.
Schema allows businesses to enhance the appearance of their website by enabling their site’s visual elements such as their logo and brand colours to to appear directly in the search results and in Knowledge Graph cards. This can be particularly powerful for a company’s branding objectives.
Schema can help the search engines understand a company on a deeper level and clarify exactly what the business does. The full list of items that schema markups can define can be found on schema’s website.
To provide Google with key details about your business so they can show up in search results, you can specify:
- Contact Information: Address, Phone Numbers, Email Address
- Business Hours
- Business Details (type, description, logo, website)
- Social profile info
- People (Founder, Owner, Sales Contact, Support, Specialties)
By adding schema markup to your website, you are confirming your business details to Google, and creating credibility through 3rd party confirmation. By adding structured data mark-up to the page you can add semantics (meaning) to your webpage that will clarify the context in which a particular keyword is used so that the search engines can display content in a way that is meaningful and relevant for a searcher. This would lead to more accurate and relevant results and help users find your information a lot quicker.
For example, if a page on your site uses homonyms which are words with dual meanings, schema mark-up clarifies the context in which the particular word is used so that it is shown for the most relevant searches. This will help to reduce bounce rate because it means a particular company is only being shown for relevant search results.
Additional information about your site may be displayed in the form of rich snippets (discussed below), knowledge graph cards and rich cards which may help searchers decide whether your site is what they are looking for. This will help increase your visibility to your target audience, and reduce bounce rates.
Studies that show that benefits of schema to businesses:
- 30% Increase in Click through Rates on Search Results with a Rich Snippet (Search Engine Land 2011)
- Search Results in Position 2 with a Star Rating Rich Snippet Captures 76% of Clicks over position 1 result (Blue Nile Research 2015)
Both Google and Bing read structured data mark-up and use it in different ways for a range of different types of information with much overlap. Click here for more information on how Google and Bing deal with structured data.
If you have a local business website, schema can be used to clarify exactly what your business is about, what you sell and how to contact you so that you can differentiate your business from your competitors and be shown for more relevant queries.
You can also use schema to define your business details such as logos, social media accounts, blogs, phone number address, phone number, fax number, business email, accepted payment types, reviews, customer testimonials, events, phone numbers, testimonials, local events, products, articles, images, videos, opening hours or multiple business locations.
What this does is This ensures that there is no doubt as to the meaning of a particular piece of content on the site. Obvious examples of the importance of using schematic mark-up include the Google Knowledge Graph or Bing Snapshot.
Adding schema to your web pages will help the search engines interpret this information and display them accordingly in the search results. When you implement schematic mark-up on your website, you’re effectively helping semantic search engines to understand exactly what your site is about and what they should do with the content on it.
Local Business Knowledge Graph Cards
In 2015, Google introduced a Knowledge Graph card for local businesses that allows potential customers to engage with businesses right in the search results.
For example, with a knowledge graph card, local businesses can allow potential customers to book appointments or make purchases right from the search results.
Advantages of Schematic Mark-up
Structured data mark-up helps you organize the data on your site in a way that allows its content to be easily understood by search engines. This makes it easier for them to serve accurate and relevant information to searchers. Structured data has been known to indirectly improve site visibility on the search engines.
Define Your Business For Search Engines
Schema mark-up allows you to define what type of business you are, exactly how you differ from your competitors and the local area you provide those services. For example, if you offer non-surgical rhinoplasty rather facelifts, that you offer boudoir photography in additon to family friendly photography, etc. than you can provide additional information such as your specialty.
The top three Google features we recommend local businesses use to increase search visibility performance are:
Using schema can also make your business stand out in the search results by adding additional information such as geo coordinates, business hours, special events, etc. This can lead to higher clickthrough rate from the search results, which is a major Google ranking signal.
If you host events such as networking events, schema mark-up allows you to promote those events and highlight their location directly in search results so that you can show up for relevant “events near me” searches.
Most online businesses have not yet adopted semantic mark-up even though, according to a Searchmetrics report, domains with schema.org integrations had significantly higher SEO visibility scores than those domains that did not include them.
It is important to keep in mind that using semantic mark-up will not necessarily have a direct impact on your search engine rankings. In fact, a search engine rankings study by Backlinko found that implementing schema on a website didn’t correlate with higher search rankings. However, just like social media optimization, semantic mark-up could have a powerful, indirect impact on your website in the following ways:
- Deliver more targeted traffic.
- Many local businesses do not use schema, so it is a great opportunity to take advantage of this powerful feature, especially if your competition hasn’t done so.
- Allow you to better distinguish your web content in search engine results.
- Increase click-through rates (CTR) to your site from the SERPs which is a ranking factor.
- Improve the chances of information from your website being highlighted in search engine results pages via rich snippets which has been known to have a dramatic effect on CTR.
- Reduce your bounce rates because more users pre-qualify themselves from your snippet content before they click on the search result.
As of the summer of 2014, according to a Searchmetrics report, less than 1% of U.S. domains had semantic mark-up implemented. More importantly, the report found that domains with schema.org integrations had higher SEO visibility scores than those domains that did not include them.
Many sites can benefit from Schematic mark-up. You can use mark-up If:
- You have an eCommerce site – tag your products
- You have info on Events – tag the events
- Your site has reviews – tag the reviews and aggregate review info
- Your site contains articles.
- Your site contains breadcrumb navigation
When properly implemented, structured data can enhance your SERP listing with an eye-catching display known as a “rich snippet”.
Rich snippets are a type of on-page semantic mark-up that allows webmasters to provide more information about their product or service on the search results page. This allows webmasters to advertise their offerings in a more visually appealing way. Examples include product-based rich snippets which provide information regarding a product’s price, image, availability, ratings or review count. You can add rich snippets to video, products, music info, businesses, etc.
Here’s an example of review rich snippets. Notice how they really pop out of the page.
As you can see in the above example, rich snippets have the effect of making listings stand out from similar results on the search results page. In fact, some websites have attributed a 30% increase in CTR to rich snippets after implementing structured data markup.
These results provides searchers with a concise summary of what’s on the page and why it’s relevant to their query, as well as customer ratings which are now key to purchasing decisions. They also tend to have a higher click through rate because people are naturally drawn to the listing because of the extra information.