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Approximately 75% of all search engine clicks go to the first three listings. And even the smallest details on your website and its metadata can impact whether you earn one of those coveted spots. Though Google’s search algorithm has become more sophisticated in the past decade, it still relies on context clues for important information.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is about providing relevant content to both search engine crawlers and users. A labeling language called schema markup allows you to do this, helping increase the quality and potential rankings of your content.
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What is schema markup?
Schema markup is a type of structured data that tells search engines more about the content on your website. With this data, you can help crawlers understand the meaning of certain elements on your website. Adding schema markup can lead to rich snippets which are detailed listings in search engine results pages (SERPs).
In the example above, the schema markup told the search engine which pieces of information were customer ratings. Google decided to display that straight away on the SERP, helping the user decide whether or not to click on the link.
Rich snippets help generate more organic traffic to websites. That’s because they are more visually appealing, attention-grabbing, and offer helpful content up front. Schema markup gives you the best chance at generating one of these high-value search engine listings.
Why is schema markup important for SEO?
Schema markup improves your website for both search engine crawlers and users. The details that it provides help crawlers understand the main topic of your content. It helps them distinguish different pieces of content from one another to truly understand the page as a whole.
It is considered a form of technical SEO because it exists in the backend of your website. Although searchers can’t see the markup data, they can see the rich snippets that it creates.
Research by Milestone Inc. found that targeting rich results can potentially double your organic traffic (depending on your industry and niche). Although schema markup doesn’t directly generate rich or featured snippets, it improves your content and makes it more detailed. Having lots of content details is important for getting a rich snippet from the search engine.
The point of doing SEO is to improve your SERP rankings and get more people to visit your website. Schema markup makes your listings more user-friendly, increasing your potential click-through rate (CTR) and making your content better in the search engine’s eyes.
Types of schema markup
There are several markup types you can use on your website. Types are divided into broad categories: “thing” or “data type.”
“Thing” includes properties like creative works, events, and people:
“Data type” includes information like numbers or times:
The elements you choose will depend on the information you have. Here are some of the most common item properties that people add to their content:
- Customer reviews
- Event dates
- Health and medical information
- Local businesses
- Star ratings
- Books or movies
You can find the full list on http://schema.org and also view coding samples. According to the database, it’s helpful to mark up whatever elements you can. This provides the ultimate context to crawlers and gives you a higher chance of generating a rich snippet.
How to add schema markup to your site
Although it can seem overwhelming at first, schema markup doesn’t require extensive coding knowledge. The schema.org vocabulary is semantic HTML code created by Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This means that as long as you understand HTML, you should be able to use schema markup.
There are other data vocabularies available, but the information found at https://schema.org is the most popular. Before you start tagging a web page, determine the most accurate schema type for its content. Once you’ve done that, it’s only a matter of writing, testing, and publishing the markup on your website.
Identify the right schema type
The first thing you want to do is identify which type of schema markup best fits your content. You want to start with the most basic concept. Say you want to add a movie trailer to your website and create HTML tags for the director, cast, etc.
You’d start by going to “Thing” > “Person,” as a director is a type of person. Then, you’d scroll until you found the “director” property. This would be the most accurate schema markup for that person’s name. Next, you’d be able to narrow the property down further by choosing what production they directed:
Within the markup, your director tag might look like this:
<span>Director: Francis Ford Coppola (born April 7, 1939)</span>
Schema gives you the ability to add even more descriptors (called “elements”) to the code. These include things like <span itemprop> and <div itemscope itemtype> which give the search engine information about the URL and various properties associated with the content.
You want to follow the schema vocabulary trail until you’ve come to the most specific descriptors possible. This helps the search engine understand exactly what the content means.
Generate the schema markup
Rather than writing the schema markup yourself, you can use a generator to do it for you. There are several schema markup generators that take your specific inputs and create the right schema to add to your website.
Here are a few of the most popular generators:
- Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper
- SchemaApp JSON-LD Generator
- Schema.org Microdata Generator
- Hall Analysis Schema Markup Generator
- Merkle JSON-LD Schema Markup Generator
With these tools, you pick the type of schema you want to create. Then, you fill out a form which provides the details of the content. Once you’ve entered the information, the generator displays the code that you need to copy and paste within the <head> section of your website.
When you generate the markup, you want to make sure you’ve followed Google’s structured data guidelines:
- You should not create blank pages just for structured data.
- Any markup should be formatted as JSON-LD (recommended), microdata, or RDFa.
- The content in your schema should follow the Google webmasters quality guidelines.
- There should be no robots.txt files or noindex tags blocking your structured data.
- Schema markup should accurately describe the content on the page. In other words, it shouldn’t be misleading.
- Add as many properties to your content as possible.
- Place the schema markup on all pages of duplicate content (as opposed to just putting it on the canonical page).
- All markup should match the content on the page where you put it.
Although it takes a little bit of time, generating schema markup correctly is very important. If you don’t double-check your work, you may end up with a lot of schema that the search engine can’t use.
Use a schema markup tester
Once you’ve generated your schema markup, you need to make sure it works. The Google Structured Data Testing Tool is one of the best resources for doing this.
The process is as simple as copying and pasting your page’s URL into the tool. It then shows you a preview of your page’s search engine listing. You can also do this with the code itself. If there are any issues, you’ll see an error message explaining what needs to be fixed or what information is missing from the code.
You can also use Google’s Rich Results Test Tool to see what types of rich snippets your site can generate with its schema markup:
Other testing resources include the Semrush Site Audit Tool, the Schema.org Schema Markup Validator, and the Yandex Structured Data Validator. Checking your work is a simple but important step on your path to generating rich snippets.
If you go to the “Enhancements” tab on Google Search Console, you can check your schema markup. The report will show you whether your markup is valid or not.
Publish it on your website
After you have checked to make sure your schema markup is correct, you want to publish it on your website.
Most site owners choose to use a WordPress SEO plugin for their schema markup. These tools make it much easier to correctly implement markup tags. There are several you can use, including catch-all plugins and ones made specifically for schema implementation.
Since schema markup comes from HTML5, you can add it directly to your site’s source code. You’ll want to have some coding knowledge for this method. It requires knowing where exactly to place the schema markup and ensuring that it runs properly once installed.
Schema markup examples
Google doesn’t guarantee rich snippets for websites that use schema markup, but structuring your data does make it more likely you earn them. These are some of the more popular schema markup formats and how they look in the SERPs.
Star ratings tell users what customers think about a product that they’re considering whether or not to buy.
Drop-down menus give users easy access to additional information (usually generated with FAQ schema markup).
Event dates show relevant upcoming performances so that users can find the closest event to their location.
Breadcrumbs make it easy for users to see where they can find a page on the linked website.
Schema markup for creative works like movies, albums, and pieces of art give many important details upfront. This includes schema properties like producers, genre, publication date, etc.
The search engine pulls the details for these listings from the schema markup websites have. Without these descriptive HTML tags, Google won’t generate rich snippets. The more visually interesting and detailed your SERP listing, the higher the chance that people will click on it.
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Using schema.org markup is a great way to stand out while making tangible improvements to your website. It allows you to provide crawlers with more information but doesn’t get in the way of user experience. Once you have published your markup, you may see a boost in your CTR and overall better standings in the SERPs.
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