When it comes to search engine optimization there are many moving parts and many different points of attack a business owner can explore. From the technical aspects of your website structure, to the content, to outside forces like 3rd party references or referrals of your site or even the hosting server you choose.
As of recent, from local small businesses to large national corporations, COVID-19 sparked a revival of one website optimization tactic used by many SEO managers – schema markup.
Schema is one of those next level aspects we tend to tackle for our clients when all of the foundational basics are tied up. But, what is schema, exactly – and how can you use it to strengthen your website’s visibility in the search engine results pages? We’re going to tackle those questions and more in this article.
- What is schema markup?
- How is it being advocated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy?
- Does schema impact your SEO results?
- Industry examples who benefit from schema markup
What is schema markup?
Schema.org markup — also called schema markup and simply schema — is an important search engine optimization (SEO) technique. This method has recently been getting more attention due to its recommended use by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are schema recommendations that fit each industry, as indicated by our examples.
It is an organized system of microdata (tags) you can insert within the code of your website to help provide more structured information about your site in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and improve search engine readability. By creating a common vocabulary of structured data within schema.org, developers and webmasters are able to get the most out of their efforts through a single, unified lexicon.
Beyond helping you with your search engine presence, this tool also provides valuable information to users looking at your search results.
Schema.org is a collaborative project was created through an alliance of Google®, Yahoo®, Microsoft®, and Yandex®. It uses the coding method to add structural organization to webpages and emails of more than 10 million websites. The vocabulary is expanded via community input, submitted to GitHub and an official mailing list, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inclusion of schema markup within your code is helpful to how your page appears in the SERPs because it provides better rich snippets underneath the title of your page. Examples of markup are the publication date and star rating associated with the content. (For specific industry examples, see below.)
How schema markup is typically used?
All different types of information can be labeled with structured data, but this method is most often applied to these types of entities:
- Creative work
For more detailed information about any of the above categories, you can use additional properties within the markup vocabulary. You can define an “event” as a “theaterEvent” or a “businessEvent.” Similarly, you can use “isbn,” “author,” “name” (title), and “illustrator” as properties for the “creativeWork” subcategory “book.”
The Schema revival sparked through a federal COVID-19 response.
A recent move by the Trump administration started a trend to increase the use of schema both within the private and public sectors.
On Wednesday, April 15, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced it would be working with schema.org to provide better prominence for information related to the coronavirus within the search engines. Specifically, the White House department recommended use of two data tags that were created in March, “eventAttendanceMode” and “SpecialAnnouncement.” (SpecialAnnouncement was first supported by Google on March 31, while it was initially supported by Bing on March 23)
The White House advocated use of these markup terms for private companies, academic institutions, and local and state governments, as well as recommending their use by CIOs at federal agencies. Plus, the office collaborated with the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program to promote use of structured data for COVID-19 information released by private and federal institutions.
Along with the two primary tags noted by the White House, there were other tags being developed to label additional information related to the pandemic, through collaboration of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and National Science Foundation (via its Open Knowledge projects).
The impact of schema revival effort is broader than COVID-19. Beyond popularizing schema markup itself, it appears digital professionals across industry continue to turn to increased adoption of structured data methods. (Other examples of structured data are JSON-LD and RDFa — and each of those can be used in conjunction with schema markup.)
Schema is much like filing papers or writing an essay
Schema is similar to filing papers. At work every day, your supervisor hands you a bunch of papers – notes from meetings and other paperwork. Your role is to get all the papers into a filing cabinet in an organized fashion. When you first start the job, it is quite challenging because you have to look through each paper carefully. Using the details, you are able to figure out where each one belongs; but it takes time.
After you have been at the job for a few months, a manager joins the company. One of her first decisions is to institute a policy then the salient details of any document that is newly created is included in a label at the top.
While there is some grumbling among people about this new requirement, the organization saves time overall and ensures a reduction in errors. The sorting responsibilities just became very straightforward: you know instantly where everything should be filed.
Schema markup is also similar to the Chicago or MLA style a teacher might have wanted when students would write a paper for school. Without the formatting, teachers would get some papers with huge letters and fonts that were hard to read. Some would even be missing the name of the student.
What is the impact of schema on SEO performance?
In a broad sense, structured data will improve search engine optimization because it logically leads to a stronger click-through rate. And, click-through rates are one of many signals used by search engines in their ranking algorithm. So, as it we can say with certainty, it will have a positive, indirect effect, it is unclear whether schema itself has a direct impact on a website’s ranking. And, we know, from experience, too much schema – on every page of your site – will directly have a negative effect on site performance and rank strategies.
Back2Basics, LLC recommends selecting a few of your key content pages to introduce rich snippets via schema and see how your audience responds over a 90-180 day period of time. Again, because it’s universally recognized across globally used data consortium, it means a website owner can find positive SEO results across multiple platforms – Bing®, Google®, Yahoo®, and Yandex®.
Can you use schema to benefit your business?
Below are examples of schema that can be used for various types of businesses across several industry and verticals.
Professional services and trades
You can learn about schema for professional services and trades through the schema.org service page. Key properties you can use include these:
- provider – This property, typically a local business or organization, lists who is providing the service.
- areaServed – Designation of the area where the service can be accessed, defined through a Wikipedia or Wikidata link.
- serviceOutput – Describes the end result of the service.
- additionalType – More specifically narrows down the type of service, as with the Wikipedia carpentry page for a carpentry service.
A real estate agent can become familiar with the specific schema for their industry by checking out the Schema.org real estate agent page. Elements that are important to use include the following:
- realEstateAgent – Name of the real estate agent who is involved.
- telephone – Phone number of the applicable agent.
- areaServed – The geographical area where you can access an item or service.
- priceRange – The price range for the agency.
Certain properties can be useful for attorneys, as indicated on the legal service schema page. Some important legal service elements include:
- legalService — Lets Google know that you are a legal service.
- address — The physical address of the entity.
- event — Defines an event you host, where you present, or that you attend.
- video — Helps establish the information that is within a video you post.
Leveraging schema markup for your business
Schema markup is clearly a powerful way to classify information through the search engines. How might it benefit your business?
At Back2Basics, we can help strategize and implement structured data for your organization. We have 5.0 stars on Google because we create a balanced expectation between budgets, time management, and expertise. Sign up for your free initial goal-setting evaluation.