How Schema Markup Helps Boost Your SEO

SEO
schema diagram

If you’ve dipped your toe — or perhaps have taken a deep dive — into the search engine optimization (SEO) waters, then you’ve likely come across a term that is usually accompanied by complex website code and plenty of technical jargon: schema markup.

The good news is that understanding what schema markup is, why you should care, and how to take advantage of this effective — but massively overlooked — piece of the SEO puzzle is simple and straightforward. Let’s start with the basics.

What is Schema Markup?

Schema markup is a way for businesses (and all other website owners) to provide search engines with information about what their website is about, so that additional snippets of information show up in search results. This makes it more that searchers — i.e. potential customers — will click their link vs. a competitor.

For example, the website Allrecipes.com uses schema markup for its web page featuring the recipe for “Apple Pie by Grandma Ople.” As shown in the screen capture below, searchers can see that the recipe has earned a 4.8 aggregate rating from 9,944 reviews, that it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to bake, and that is is 512 calories. They also see a mouth-watering picture (that Grandma Ople should cook!), and there are some additional links below the meta description that may be of interest.

Schema data markup results on the SERPS

Without schema markup, all that searchers would see is the link and the meta description.

Clearly, the version with schema marketing version is more informative and compelling!

Many Different Schema Markup Types

The example above highlighted three schema markup types: aggregate rating (4.8 stars out of 5 from 6,512 reviewers), cooking time (1 hour and 30 minutes), and calorie count (512 calories). There are hundreds of other schema markup types that businesses can use to help their website stand out — and apart — in search engine results. Here are some other popular schema markup types:

  • ‍Events
  • ‍Offers
  • ‍Products
  • ‍Creative works (e.g. books, movies, music, TV, etc.).
  • ‍Software apps

A full list of schema markup types is available on Schema.org. This website was collectively founded in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex, and its mission is to create, maintain, and promote schemas (a.k.a. schema markup types and vocabularies) for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond. 

Other Benefits of Scheme Markup

We’ve already highlighted the primary benefit of schema markup: it provides searchers with relevant information that (ideally) entices them to click a search result link. However, there are two other benefits as well that are certainly worth noting: rankings and rarity.

Schema Markup and SEO Rankings

With respect to rankings, one study found that the websites with schema markup climbed an average of four positions vs. those without schema markup. This is a significant boost, and is especially valuable for businesses that are just on the cusp of page 1 and page 2 of the search engine results. Studies have found that at least 75 percent — but often more — clicks go to the first page of business results, and more than 50% go to the top three positions.

With this in mind, there is some debate in the SEO community of whether schema markup language has a major, minor, or negligent impact on SEO results. For example, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller has said: “In general, using structured data markup [i.e. schema markup] doesn’t directly affect your site’s ranking, so if you add this markup to your pages, and that’s something that kind of helps us to better understand your page’s content, but it’s not something that will see any drastic changes in rankings in the search results.”

Our opinion here at Noble Webworks is this: we have no doubt that Mr. Mueller is telling the truth. But we also know (and Mr. Mueller would surely agree!) that Google is notorious for being extremely secretive about its ranking algorithm, and this clearly appears to be one of those cases. As such, we strongly recommend that our clients use schema markup language as a fundamental part of their SEO strategy. Even if this doesn’t translate into “drastic changes in rankings in the search results,” it will still have a positive impact — particularly for the other benefit we’re now going to look at: rarity.

Schema Markup and Competitive Advantage 

Research has found that less than 1% of businesses are taking advantage of schema markup, despite the fact that it is completely free. Of course, this isn’t bad news: because it means that if you use schema markup, then there’s an extremely good chance that you’ll enjoy a lasting competitive advantage vs. most — and perhaps all — of your local marketplace competitors! 

How to Add Schema Markup to a Website

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to add schema markup to a website: the (relatively) hard way, and the nice and easy way.

Schema Markup the Hard Way

If you aren’t an experienced web developer — and since you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance that it’s not in your wheelhouse and you wouldn’t put this skill on your resume — then the hard way is to change the microdata. This is an HTML specification that lets you share metadata (in this case, schema markup information) with search engines.

While adding microdata is effective, as noted above, it’s not easy — or fun. That’s because microdata can, and often does, trigger various layout issues that need to be corrected by changing the CSS and HTML code. If this happens, it’s kind of like making a bed with a bedsheet that has no slack: as soon as you fit one corner, another one snaps off — and vice versa.

A somewhat less complicated way to add schema markup to a website is by using JSON-LD, which is a markup data-linking format that creates scripts that run in the background. As such, there’s (thankfully!) no need to change the CSS or HTML. While this approach is easier and faster than using microdata, it’s still an uphill struggle for most people who don’t have experience or comfort with coding. Here is an example of using JSON-LD to tell search engines about the customer service phone number for the website belonging to the “Unlimited Ball Bearing Corp.”

JSON-LD Markup example

Schema Markup the Easy Way

John Mueller and the other good people at Google have created the Structured Data Markup Helper. As the title suggests, this is an online tool primarily used by webmasters — but anyone can use it, including business owners — to easily and quickly add schema markup to their website, and provide this valuable information to search engines (not just Google).

Structured Data Markup Helper: 5 Steps

There are 5 steps to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper:

  1. Select the type of data that you want to markup (e.g. events, local business information, products, etc.).
  2. ‍Highlight the section of the web page to which you want to apply schema markup language. For example, you may want to highlight the headline, a video, a product review, or anything else that is relevant. Each time you select a piece of content, it will be added to a list.
  3. ‍When you finish adding all of the schema markup data for a specific web page (URL), simply click “Create HTML.” This automatically will create the new code.
  4. ‍Go to your website’s content management system (e.g. Wordpress), and copy/paste the new code into the appropriate areas. You can (and should!) also test the new page to see what it will look like once you publish the web page.
  5. Go to your website’s content management system (e.g. Wordpress), and copy/paste the new code into the appropriate areas. You can (and should!) also test the new page to see what it will look like once you publish the web page.

Schema Markup the Easiest Way: Contact Noble Webworks

If you’re confident and comfortable using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper tool, then you can take full control over your schema markup data updates, and reap the rewards of using this valuable — but little-used — strategy. 

However, if you’re busy running your business — or you’d rather not go anywhere near your website code, which is perfectly understandable and often wise — then here’s the easiest way to benefit from schema markup: contact Noble Webworks!

We will analyze all of the relevant schema data markup types that are currently on your website, and also identify areas where adding a few snippets can lead to a bigger, stronger, and more effective SEO footprint. Contact us today to learn more!

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