Have you heard the phrases “schema markup” and “structured data” and wondered what exactly they mean, and what impact they have on search engine optimization? In this article, we’ll bring you up to speed…
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- What is structured data?
- What is schema markup?
- What’s the difference between the two?
- Why is schema markup important for SEO?
- Important types of schema markup
- How to generate schema markup
- How to add structured data to your website
- And more…
Let’s dive in…
What Is Structured Data?
Structured data is the practice of organizing any kind of information on a webpage. For example, if you have a film review website but none of your reviews are organized, this is unstructured data. If your reviews are categorized by actors, decade, ratings, or genre, this is structured data.
It’s important to use structured data so both search engine algorithms and humans can understand your content better. Search engines like Google and Bing can more effectively rank your content for relevant search queries when they have an easy time understanding where to find specific information on your website.
What Is Schema Markup?
Schema markup is one form of microdata that creates rich snippets, which are enhanced descriptions that appear in search results. If you’ve ever searched in Google for a mac n’ cheese recipe or looked for the audience rating of a movie, you’re familiar with how schema markup is used by search engines.
Schema markup is a universally accepted language search engine companies use to simplify how web content is displayed in search results. Instead of Yahoo, Bing, Google, and others displaying the results for common queries differently, they display them in a unified format.
What’s the Difference Between Schema and Structured Data?
Structured data is any type of information that’s organized, and schema markup is the label that communicates what kind of information that is. In other words, if structured data is the visual representation of information on a webpage, schema markup is the language by which that information is communicated to search engines.
Why Is Schema Markup Important for SEO?
Schema markup is not a ranking factor, so it won’t help your website rank any higher on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). So, why does it matter?
As Google develops to better match user intent in search, schema markup is part of this progression. Using schema markup relevant to the purpose of your website will make your pages eligible to appear in certain results.
For example, if you add the FAQPage schema to a FAQ page, it’s more likely to show up in the People Also Ask section of the search results. In other words, it increases your website’s visibility, and increased visibility means better click-through rates.
Here are some other reasons why schema markup is important for SEO:
- It provides rich results. Structured data that includes schema makes it easier for Google to parse meaning from the important information on your website.
- It’s used in the Google Knowledge Graph. This, too, provides an enhanced user experience, pulling relevant information from webpages and displaying it in sidebars and at the top of the SERPs as featured snippets. This helps build your brand and your authority on a subject.
- It’s used in semantic search. Google is constantly assessing the nature and scope of content on a webpage. If a user searches for “balsamic vinaigrette,” Google will display results based on what it thinks the user wants. Using the appropriate schema markup tells Google if your website sells premade vinaigrette, has a recipe for it, or is a restaurant with balsamic vinaigrette on the menu.
- It helps boost your E-A-T. Whenever you write an article and the Article schema markup points to you as the author, it establishes your authority and trustworthiness with Google. Learn more about E-A-T on our blog.
- Schema supports voice search results. If you’re looking for a recipe to make or want to know when a popular song was released, your voice assistant of choice will pull from rich results. SERP-rich results are made possible by schema.
Types of Schema Markup
Structured data tells Google what it will find on your website and schema markup tells Google how results from your page should be classified. This means there are a number of different schema markups for different types of content. You can find a full list of these on schema.org, but the most common types of schema markups include:
Schema.org definition: A particular physical business or branch of an organization. Examples of LocalBusiness include a restaurant, a particular branch of a restaurant chain, a branch of a bank, a medical practice, a club, a bowling alley, etc.
Noteworthy properties: openingHours, paymentAccepted, areaServed, location, telephone, amenityFeature, logo
Learn more: https://schema.org/LocalBusiness
Schema.org definition: An organization such as a school, NGO, corporation, club, etc.
Noteworthy properties: address, areaServed, award, brand, founder, foundingDate, knowsLanguage, logo, member, parentOrganization, sponsor, alternateName
Learn more: https://schema.org/Organization
Schema.org definition: A FAQPage is a WebPage presenting one or more “Frequently asked questions” (see also QAPage).
Noteworthy properties: speakable (appropriate for text-to-speech), significantLink, audience, author, citation, keywords, video, image
Learn more: https://schema.org/FAQPage
Schema.org definition: An article, such as a news article or piece of investigative report. Newspapers and magazines have articles of many different types and this is intended to cover them all.
Noteworthy properties: articleBody, pagination, speakable, wordCount, alternativeHeadline, audience, author, comment, copyrightYear, countrofOrigin, dateModified, keywords, video
Learn more: https://schema.org/Article
Schema.org definition: Any offered product or service. For example: a pair of shoes; a concert ticket; the rental of a car; a haircut; or an episode of a TV show streamed online.
Noteworthy properties: brand, category, color, countryOfAssembly, countryOfOrigin, hasMerchantReturnPolicy, height, isSimilarTo, itemCondition, logo, manufacturer, material, model, pattern, size, ski, width
Learn more: https://schema.org/Product
Schema.org definition: A person (alive, dead, undead, or fictional).
Noteworthy properties: affiliation, alumniOf, award, birthDate, familyName, givenName, hasOccupation, honorificSuffix, jobTitle, knowsAbout, nationality, worksFor
Learn more: https://schema.org/Person
Schema.org definition: A restaurant.
Noteworthy properties: acceptsReservations, hasMenu, servesCuisine, starRating, openingHours, currenciesAccepted, priceRange, address, areaServed, award
Learn more: https://schema.org/Restaurant
Schema.org definition: A movie.
Noteworthy properties: actor, countryOfOrigin, director, duration, musicBy, productionCompany, subtitleLanguage, trailer, about, abstract, audience, award, character, contentRating
Learn more: https://schema.org/Movie
Schema.org definition: An event happening at a certain time and location, such as a concert, lecture, or festival. Ticketing information may be added via the offers property. Repeated events may be structured as separate Event objects.
Noteworthy properties: about, attendee, audience, doorTime, duration, endDate, eventAttendanceMode, eventSchedule, eventStatus, funder, inLanguage, location, maximumAttendeeCapacity
Learn more: https://schema.org/Event
For small businesses, the most relevant schema markups are LocalBusiness, Organization, and FAQPage, but if you have a blog, you’ll want to use Article or Blog. If you run a restaurant, you’ll want to use Restaurant schema markup; if you have bios on your website, you may want to use Person, and so on. As long as a schema markup type is applicable to the page where you implement it, there’s really no right or wrong when it comes to which types to use.
How to Use Structured Data on the Web
There are three different types of structured data, and it’s a good idea to be familiar with each of them. While one type is recommended by Google (and because of this, it’s also the one we recommend to our clients), if you use a WordPress plugin to generate structured data, it may use one of the other types.
This is the method recommended by Google. Unlike microdata and RDFa (more on those below), JSON-LD doesn’t require web creators to tag different elements in their HTML. Instead, JSON-LD is added as a script block, which can be accomplished manually through WordPress and other publishing platforms or by using plugins.
Instead of a script placed into the <head> or <body> tag of a page, microdata is interspersed throughout the HTML. Basically, wherever you have important data, you flag it for Google by inserting a tag. You’ll start by naming the type of schema you’re using, then assign relevant information to the schema.
RDFa is short for Resource Description Framework in Attributes. This is an extension of HTML5 that is a W3C recommendation for aiding website owners in marking up structured data. RDFa is similar to microdata in that it uses specialized tags to “call out” the relevant information for a designated schema whenever it appears in the HTML code.
How to Generate Your Own Schema Markup for SEO
While you can hand-code your schema if you feel so inclined, there’s no reason to. We use this schema markup generator to generate structured data code. Here’s how to use it:
1. Select the Schema.org Markup You Want to Create
The dropdown menu has most of the schema.org markups that are relevant for small business websites.
2. Fill Out the Fields
Once you select the schema, relevant fields will pop up underneath. Fill out as many as you can. On the right side of the page, you’ll see the script block populate this data as you type it in.
3. Test the Script
You can test the script by clicking on the circle icon with the G in it. Choose Rich Results Test, which shows what your page will look like in rich snippets, or the Structured Data Testing Tool.
4. Copy the Script
Click on the blue icon with two overlapping rectangles to copy the script. Or, you can simply highlight it manually and copy it that way.
5. Paste the Script Onto Your Site
Structured data goes in the <head> or <body> section of a webpage. We’ll go into detail about what this means below.
If you have a WordPress website, there are also plugins that can help you generate structured data. Most simply have you enter the values for different fields, then the code is generated and visible to search engines.
Where to Add Structured Data to Your Website
Now that you’ve generated your schema markup, what do you do with it? Well, as we mentioned above, it goes in the <head> or the <body>. How you accomplish this depends on the publishing platform you’re using, and the WordPress theme if you use WordPress. We recommend looking at the relevant documentation for your content management system (CMS) or asking your developer for help.
While the specifics of inserting this script into the header or body are different, these general rules are the same no matter the platform or WordPress theme you use:
- LocalBusiness and Organization structured data should be added to your homepage.
- FAQPage should be added to the actual page with the question and answer.
- Per John Mueller of Google, structured data code can be added to the head or the body of the page—Google treats both the same.
Test Your Structured Data
If you’re not using the markup generator we linked to above, which has a built-in testing tool, we recommend using this schema markup validator tool. Google also has its own structured data testing tools to help you make sure your markup is valid before you deploy it.
If you do happen to deploy structured data that is not valid, you’ll get a notification in Google Webmaster Tools that you have structured data errors. We recommend checking for these notifications periodically, as sometimes the emails Google sends out can get lost in the shuffle.
Tips for Using Structured Data for SEO
Here are a few final tips for how to use structured data for small business SEO:
- Look for the most commonly used schemas in your industry and use those. Or, peruse the full list of different schema markups at schema.org and select all of the types that are relevant to your business. Remember, too, that you can use different markups on different pages—you don’t need to implement every markup on every page of your site.
- Use as many markups as you can—but only those that make sense. Don’t try to shoehorn your site into schema markups that aren’t relevant, and don’t use structured data to add content to a page that’s not visible to your users. This is never a good idea for SEO.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a small business owner, or you’re in charge of SEO or managing a website for a small business, it’s useful to understand the basics of structured data and why it’s important for SEO. With all of the online tools and plugins available these days, you don’t need a computer science degree to generate structured data for your website. Once you select the right schema for your business, it’s simply a matter of filling in the blanks and letting your chosen schema markup generator do the rest.
Where most small business owners feel uncertain is not generating structured data, but actually implementing it on their websites. Even here, a quick Google search should help you find instructions for the CMS you use. While you might feel shaky the first few times you copy and paste the block of script from your structured data generator to your website, after a while, it will start coming easily to you—we promise!
Need Help with SEO?
Are you still feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start? Our SEO team at Main Street ROI can implement structured data for your entire website, or we can walk you through the steps of doing it yourself. We give small businesses like yours the tools they need to be successful with their SEO efforts, no matter their budget.