If you’re new to search engine optimization, you might have barely heard of Schema markup.
Essentially, it’s a standardized form of structured data markup that works across most of the major search engines, including Yahoo!, Bing, and Google. Since it works across multiple engines you’ll find that it’s a great way to draw in potential customers by allowing them more information.
This standardized format is extremely useful, if you know how to use structured data markup in the first place. It’s a pretty basic concept, so let’s dive right in.
What is Structured Data Markup?
If you’re new to this whole concept, then you might be astounded at just how far search engines have come in the last few years. Instead of simply reading what your site says, structured data allows for a search engine to also see what it’s about.
Most of us are already familiar with meta tags, the customizable description which appears in the info block underneath your web page once it’s been ranked by Google and other search engines. If you’re an avid web surfer, you’ve noticed that lately you can often see who has written an article, ratings of businesses, phone numbers, and other information are often tacked onto that little box of information.
This is done through structured data markup, and the results are generally called “rich snippets.”
It’s important, whether you’re running a blog or a website for a small local business since it allows your potential readers and customers to see more information while within the search engine. As long as everything is in order, you’re able to better target your potential audience with creative use of the concept.
How Does Schema Markup Fit Into All of This?
Schema markup is a collaborative effort between the big search engines.
You read that right, it’s important enough for the end user that some of the most competitive companies on the planet got together, shook hands, and made sure that things were standardized.
Whereas before you’d have to structure your HTML for each website, using Schema you’ll have the same information appear on most of the major search engines available.
You can see the commands at the Schema website. If you’re familiar with HTML already then you’ll have it down in no time.
Of course, not all of us are handy at coding, which is where Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper comes in handy.
It’s extremely simple to use and I’ll cover it in more detail in just a moment. First we need to look at what structured data can and can’t do for you.
Structured Data Markup and SEO
Data is pretty much inconclusive on whether or not Schema markup is going to increase your rankings on search engines, especially for those who run a business which is primarily conducted online like an e-commerce store or ad agency.
In fact, structured data really is geared more at the search engine users than it is webmasters.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Using it has some pretty clear advantages:
- You can increase the click through rate on your site, since people will know exactly what they’ll find on the other end of the link.
- It can pretty conclusively help if you run a local business, since it makes the location easily readable to the search engine.
- Data markup can make sure you get the right clicks for your business more frequently, bringing customers exactly where you want them to go.
- It just looks more professional in the search engine, increasing the trust of readers and customers.
Here’s the thing: most people who put the proper amount of effort into structured data markup are naturally going to make sure that their content is good to great. This makes it hard to prove whether or not it actually helps with your rankings or not.
Using it is one of those little details which impress consumers, however so take advantage of it. If you use Google’s Helper it’s extremely simple, no coding experience necessary.
Using the Google Structured Data Markup Helper
All you need to do to get started is open up the Structured Data Markup Helper.
From there you’ll select the general type of website you’re running from one of the following categories:
- Book reviews
- Local Business
- Software Applications
- TV Episodes
- TV Episodes with Ratings
Then you enter your URL in the lower box.
Once you’ve done that, things get remarkably simple, all you need to do is highlight the different parts of your page which you want labeled and enter the metadata you want to display.
From there, the Helper will give you an HTML code which can easily be installed on your page. Don’t mix it with other, more specific structured data markup coding as this can confuse the parsers and leave you with a mess. You really shouldn’t need to anyways, since all major search engines will read Schema correctly.
Potential Applications for Schema Markup
While many people might be happy with just an author name at the top, other people can benefit from much more extensive usage of data markup and the rich snippets it produces.
The following are just quick ideas for different types of sites, as each person is sure to be able to find their own “sweet spot” in the amount of data which is given.
E-commerce websites can receive a huge amount of benefit from utilizing Schema. People often search for products directly through Google and other engines, and if you maximize the amount of information on your product pages you can get a surprising amount of information readable right from the outset.
This includes prices, thumbnail pictures of the item, and a good meta description of the product in question. You’ll be able to achieve a higher click-through if all of the information is the open, and probably higher conversion rates too since the customer already knows what they’re looking at before they click.
More eyes on the page means more wallets being opened.
Schema works great with event sites. Seriously, check out their page for event coding, it’s pretty much one hundred percent comprehensive and lets you get extremely specific.
You can also make sure that the time and date is displayed right on the rich snippets if you use it correctly, making sure that your potential customers know exactly what’s up as soon as they get reading.
Schema includes a staggering amount of personal information. Whether you’re an amateur blogger or a professional in a niche field you’ll want to fill out as much information as possible on your “About Me” page.
This will help you manage your reputation, make sure people know who you are, and raise your profile within your niche by making you easily accessible since search engines now have a way to read your information properly.
Best Practices with Schema
Your best bet, if you’re going to use this type of structured data markup, is to fill out as much information as possible as often as possible.
This isn’t a quick SEO trick like getting a bunch of backlinks or making sure that you’ve got a ton of high-quality content. Instead, it’s something which you should incorporate to make sure that your content is in the proper context when it comes to the search engine’s crawlers.
The best part is that it works across so many engines and it’s so easy to implement into an existing page. It just takes a little bit of time.
The Short of It
Implementing Schema might not jam you up to the top of Google in a hurry, but it makes your site friendlier for those who are searching.
Keywords aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the more context that you can jam into the page the better you’ll fare in the future. Contextual searches are becoming more and more advanced, which makes search engine optimization more complex.
I’m pretty sure that as time goes on, Schema is going to become more and more important.
In short, you’ll gain the following benefits:
- Higher click through rates since you look more professional
- A higher perception of trust from new users who see the rich snippets in the search box
- Better chances of being found due to the increasing usage of contextual searching
- Higher visibility for your personal pages
- A possible leg up for future algorithm updates on search engines
Google has even taken the trouble to make it extremely simple for those who aren’t coders, which is a definite bonus for those of us who prefer to run things from the background.
If all of this information is still confusing you, then slow down and breathe.
Just remember that Schema is probably a vital part of the future of search engines and getting in on the ground floor, with only .3% of current websites using it, is going to give you a serious advantage as the world marches into the future.
So, get to work. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, all it takes is a little bit of your time.