If you’re somewhat involved in SEO, you will have likely heard of phrases such as schema and structured data. You also may have heard that by leveraging your schema or other forms of structured data, you can help improve your site’s rankings and visibility through featured snippets, knowledge graphs and other search features.
But what exactly is schema? Is it an essential for your website? And how does it help increase your organic performance?
In 2018, John Mueller stated that while structured data will not give you a ranking boost, Google understands that schema is important for a website as it can help them understand your content more, potentially leading to higher rankings.
Therefore, schema implantation is recommended for any website, especially now content is one of the most significant factors of SEO. If you’ve created quality content that complies with the Quality Guidelines, it may not rank if Google does not understand what exactly is on the webpage.
To understand what schema and structured data can do for your business, follow our guide below.
Schema and Structured Data – what’s the difference?
Schema, also known as schema.org, is a project formed in 2011 across multiple search engines. It consists of different mark-ups made up of tags that you can add to your site’s HTML to help search engines understand your webpage and the way that page is displayed, thus resulting in better representation in the SERPs.
Essentially, it is these tags that tell search engines whether your information is about a specific place, person, movie, book, etc. These tags are classed as structured data.
When it comes to structured data, it is essentially a way of adding a standard set of values to the text on your webpage that will help search engines understand your content. It’s a bit like talking them through your website section by section so they can make sense of every part of it.
These set values are part of a hierarchy:
Itemscope – this simply paves the way for a new item on the webpage.
Itemtype – there are many different itemtypes, not just movies, people and places as we mentioned earlier. The broadest type is ‘Thing’, which has four different properties: name, description, URL, image. There are then more specific properties within these broader types, known as Itemprops, the final instalment in the hierarchy.
Here’s an example from the Schema.org webpage to break this down a little more.
So you have a webpage about the movie Avatar which includes details about a ‘Person’, which is a specific ‘Thing’. Say that person is James Cameron (director of Avatar), so that’s a specific type of ‘Person’. You can even broaden this even more, by saying that the film he directed is Sci-Fi, a specific type of ‘Movie’.
So, by adding these into your schema markup with the correct tags, the search engine is now aware that this page features a link to the Avatar trailer, a Sci-Fi film directed by James Cameron. See here for how this would look in HTML code, or for a quick reference, here’s their image of this code:
And the difference?
To summarise, structured data puts names with values within your HTML code to help ensure that search engines thoroughly understand your content and index the webpage correctly. Schema on the other hand is the overall project that provides the set of standard values and definitions for the tags.
How do you leverage schema to improve organic search performance?
There are a variety of ways to use schema that can help boost your visibility and presentation in the SERPs. This can be done by adding different features that can help promote your site and company as a whole.
The way that these results are presented were previously labelled as ‘rich snippets,’ but now they are ‘rich results’, and can take many different forms such as carousels, additional data, star ratings under the meta title, etc.
Here are a few examples of different types of schema that can help boost your visibility.
Schema can work wonders for local SEO, as it allows search engines to understand location-related information for your business, such as addresses, phone numbers, HQ location, events and more.
The problem with location schema is that not many people realise that it can work for local SEO as they have verified GMB listings and therefore believe that they do not need to do anything more. But the reality is that using schema can help provide essential information into your business’ knowledge panel.
Here are some ways you can do this:
You can apply Postal Address schema, which adds your local address for your business. Click here to see how.
There is also the Local Business schema mark-up which is ideal for brick and mortar businesses. This schema allows you to add opening hours and types of payments that your company offers.
The Organization mark-up allows you to specify your logo, social links and contact information.
As an example, the screenshot below shows The Lab Spa using schema markup for their business.
Reviews and Ratings
By using Ratings schema mark-up, star ratings and reviews that your business has received on its website will show in the SERPs. This can be added to certain content types, including:
This schema can be particularly useful for restaurants hotels and bars, as shown here:
This is incredibly beneficial for spreading the word about an event that you have organised. When your events show in the search results, you’re able to direct users to the listing most relevant to them while also taking up more space in the SERPs – streamlining traffic to your site. As you can see below, the dates and locations of your event (so in this case, performances of Les Miserables) will be listed underneath the meta description and will take you straight to the landing page when clicked.
You can find the vocabulary for this schema mark-up here.
The Product schema mark-up allows businesses to show more information about the products they offer directly in the SERPs. So, underneath the meta title and the green URL in search results, users can see the product’s price, ratings and if it’s in stock, as seen below.
This particular schema can be beneficial for small businesses who are competing against well-known brands and organisations, such as eBay, Ikea, Amazon, or other large companies that operate within your industry. If your offerings are more price competitive, the searcher will likely come to you.
This mark-up allows users to understand a website’s hierarchy by implementing a series of links in the SERP. It’s a useful schema to apply when the ranking page doesn’t appeal to the user as you can present a few other pages that you have on offer. To expand on the image below, the blue links under the meta description are known as ‘child pages’ or ‘breadcrumbs’. These results clearly emphasise the ‘Enhance Your Site’s Attributes’ page, but in case that doesn’t interest you, two more pages, (such as the, ‘Establish Your Business’ page), display below as an alternative option for the user. In doing this, you will increase your chances of users arriving at your website from an array of different search queries.
The schema mark-ups listed above are just a small selection of possible options available to you and your website. While schema and structured data are not quick fixes for the architecture of a site, it can certainly enhance your chances of gaining featured snippets while improving your organic listings. This way, your website is more likely to be noticed over your competitors, improving your click-through-rate and organic traffic. With so many different Schema and structured data mark-ups available, they can truly be a benefit to any business looking to improve their organic search visibility.