One of the latest developments in search engine optimization is called schema markup. This new form of optimization is one of the most powerful but underutilized forms of search engine optimization available today. Once you understand the concept and method of schema markup, you can start improving your website on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
My goal in this article is to show you exactly how to get started using schema markup on your website.
What is schema markup?
Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you place on your website so that search engines can return more informative results for users. If you've ever used extensive snippets, you'll understand exactly what schema markup is all about.
Here is an example of a local business whose event schedule page has markup in it. The SERP entry looks like this:
The schema markup instructed the SERP to display a schedule of upcoming hotel events. This is extremely helpful for the user.
Here are some facts about schema markup:
Scheme tells search engines what data means
Your website's content will be indexed and returned in search results. Obviously. With schema markup, some of this content is indexed and returned in other ways.
As? Because the markup tells the search engine what that content means. For example, suppose the word "Neil Patel" appears in an article. The search engine sees this and creates a SERP entry with "Neil Patel".
However, if I put the correct schema markup around the "Neil Patel" name, I just told this search engine that "Neil Patel" was the author of the article, not just a few random words. The search engine will then provide results that will provide better information to the user who searched for "Neil Patel".
Schema.org explains it this way:
Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Typically, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information contained in the tag. For example,
Instructs the browser to display the text string "Avatar" in a Heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag does not contain any information about what this text string means – "avatar" can refer to the hugely successful 3D movie or some kind of profile picture – and this can make it difficult to find engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.
Schema markup uses a unique semantic vocabulary in microdata format
You don't need to learn new coding skills. Web pages with markup continue to use HTML. The only difference is to tag HTML microdata with vocabulary from schema.org.
Schema.org, the schema markup website, is a joint effort by the Google, Bing, and Yahoo teams
It's not too often that competitors come together to help each other, but Schema.org is exactly that kind of cross-industry collaboration. So what you have is an agreed set of code marks that tell major search engines what to do with the data on your website.
Schema markup was invented for users
When a website has schema markup, the SERPs allow users to see what a website is about, where they are, what they are doing, how much material costs, and many other things. Some people have made it their business to refer to the schema markup as "your virtual business card".
This is a user-centric improvement. There are search engines that can help users get the information they need. The schema markup does just that.
Why is schema important?
The schema markup helps your website rank better for all types of content types. There are data markups for a lot of different types of data, including:
- Regional companies
- TV episodes and reviews
- Book reviews
- Software applications
- Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
There are hundreds of types of markup – from toy stores to medical dosage plans. If your website has data, there is a good chance it has an element range and type associated with it.
Websites that use schema markup rank higher in the SERPs than companies without markup. One study found that websites with markup averaged four positions higher in the SERPs than websites without schema markup. While it's not entirely clear that this higher score was due to the markup alone, there is obviously some correlation.
Currently, a third of Google search results contain large snippets, including schema markup. However, according to recent research, less than a third of websites use schema markup.
In other words, there are millions of websites that lack a huge source of SEO potential. Using schema markup automatically puts you ahead of most of your competition.
Using schema markup for SEO
Now let's talk about using the schema markup. Their goal is to rank better, look better, and do better in the SERPs and in front of users.
Schema markup will help you with this. Follow these steps with your website in hand.
1. Go to Google's Structured Data Markup Helper
2. Select the data type
There are several options listed. This list is incomplete. For the following example, I'll use "Articles" because it's one of the most common types of content.
3. Paste the URL you want to mark
If you only have HTML, you can paste this in instead. Then click on "Start Tagging".
The page loads into the markup tool and gives you the workspace for the next phase of markup – marking elements. You will see your website in the left area and the data elements in the right area.
4. Select the items you want to mark
Since this content is an article, I'll highlight the name of the article to add the "Name" markup. When I'm done highlighting, I'll choose "Name" from the tooltip.
When I select "Name" the tool adds it to "Data Items" in the right pane.
5. Add more markup elements
Using the list of data items as a guide, highlight the other items in your article to add to the markup list. You probably can't mark every item in the list. Just add what you can.
6. Create the HTML code
When you're done, click Create HTML.
On the following page you will see the HTML code of your page with the corresponding microdata inserted in the places you selected.
7. Add schema markup to your site
Next, go to your CMS (or source code if you're not using a CMS) and add the highlighted snippets in the appropriate places. Find the yellow marks in the scroll bar to find the schema markup code.
A simple alternative is to download the auto-generated HTML file and copy / paste it into your CMS or source code.
When you click Finish, you will see a series of Next Steps.
8. Test your scheme
Use the structured data testing tool to see what your page will look like with the markup added.
Instead of analyzing a published webpage, I will analyze the code that the tool generated for me and that I downloaded.
As soon as the code is inserted, I click on "Preview". The test tool shows me how the article will look in the Google search results:
Also, I can review every markup element added.
If necessary, I can edit the HTML directly in the test tool to update the schema and preview the results again.
Tips on Using Schema Markup for SEO
The purpose of this article was to get you started in the world of schema markup. It's a big world.
The next tips will show you how to dive even deeper and get even better results with the scheme.
Find the most commonly used schemes
Schema.org provides a list of the most common types of schema markup. You can visit the Scheme Organization page to view this list. Take a look at the types that are best for your business.
Use any schemes you need
As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of types of markup. For the full list, see The Type Hierarchy. This main list contains most of the available markup types.
The more markups, the better
Schema.org's instructions clearly state, "The more content you tag, the better." Once you begin to understand the multitude of element types, you'll see how much you can tag on your webpage.
However, be aware of the disclaimer: "You should only mark content that is visible to people visiting the website, and not the content in hidden divs or other hidden page elements."
Final thoughts on schema markups
As easy as it is to implement schema markup, it is surprising how few companies and websites have benefited from it.
Schema markup is one of those SEO techniques that will likely stay with us for a long time. Now is the time to learn and implement the relevant microdata to improve your search results. If you do this right now, you'll be ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition.
How do you use schema markup for your company's website?