What is Schema Markup? (FREE SCHEMA TEMPLATES INCLUDED)
Schema Markup Guide: Part 1 (FREE SCHEMA TEMPLATE INCLUDED)
This is the first part of a five-part series on all things schema markup, semantic SEO, and the knowledge graph.
Structured data, or schema markup, is an excellent way to help your website gain more visibility and stand out from your competition. Benefits include helping search engines better understand the content on your webpage, improving brand presence by enhancing its knowledge graph, increasing click through rates through rich results, and more!
The knowledge graph which will be covered extensively in a future blog post is a knowledge base that helps Google better understand people, places, things, and facts. You can see the knowledge graph in action in search results. Anytime you search a brand, person, or other known entity. The knowledge graph improves user experience through knowledge panels and other types of rich results.
This post won’t get into the technical aspects of developing or implementing schema markup on your website. Instead, this post will give you a 30,000-foot overview, covering what is schema markup, the benefits, and the types that are most important for your website.
Where it began: Schema Markup and the Semantic Web
The Semantic Web was popularized by Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web) in 1994. His theory started to gain widespread popularity in the early 2000s.
Berners-Lee’s vision included “a dream for the Web become capable of analyzing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘semantic web,’ which makes this possible…”
Schema markup plays an important role in making the semantic web a reality. A language built for search engines, it has become ever more crucial to improving your online visibility. With advancements in the knowledge graph, schema markup, machine learning algorithms, and natural language processing and understanding, Berners-Lee’s vision of the semantic web has become more of a reality today.
What is Schema Markup?
Time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Schema markup is a structured data vocabulary that helps search engines better understand the content and entities on your website. Schema.org originally started as a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex.
Schema markup is code that can appear in multiple forms, including JSON-LD and HTML. Schema continues to grow in popularity and is becoming more important for search engine and semantic understanding.
Advancements in Google’s algorithms have made schema markup a more critical aspect of SEO and digital marketing. The knowledge graph, BERT, and Hummingbird are excellent examples of the increased focus of search engines to answer the true intent behind users’ searches. This is why understanding the entities and the relationships between them (also referred to as semantic triples) is more important than ever.
Schema markup gives you the power to tell search engines about your brand (entity) and what relevant entities are related to your brand. This is extremely powerful as it can help Google and other search engines better understand your brand and what you do.
John Mueller (Search Liaison at Google) shared great insight into how structured data markup can help your website.
“Structured data can make it easier to understand what the page is about, which can make it easier to show where it’s relevant (improves ranking for the right terms).” – John Mueller, Google
Benefits of Schema Markup
Another great advantage of appropriately marking up your website that we have not discussed is the ability to earn “rich results.” Let’s examine a few of these results that websites are eligible for after adding schema markup to their website. We will also touch on some results that websites and SEOs have achieved through the use of schema markup.
Rich results appear in all shapes and sizes. These search “enhancements” to the user experience can play a major role in influencing if a user clicks your result or not.
JobPosting Rich Results
JobPosting rich results are the direct result of adding JobPosting schema markup to your website. These rich results are an excellent opportunity for employers who are looking to find talented employees.
For example: Say you are a veterinarian in Minneapolis, MN, looking to hire a veterinary technician with 3 years of experience. Adding JobPosting schema markup to your website will have you showing up in these rich results in no time. This helps you gain more visibility on your job opening, get a more diverse field of applicants, and find the right vet tech sooner.
Product Rich Results
Product schema can help your products and services stand out from the competition. Marking up reviews, pricing, and other relevant information is one excellent way for your brand to show up in the ever-expanding universe of product-rich results.
*Disclaimer: Google Merchant Center also plays an important role in powering product-rich results/Google Shopping. Make sure your website is signed up and has a Google Merchant Center XML feed created if you have products you would like to show up in Google Shopping.
Event Rich Results
Event-rich results are an excellent opportunity to help get more eyeballs on an event. In addition to this awesome benefit, event schema markup can trigger a knowledge panel (covered in more detail in a future post in this series) for your event.
So say for example your event is called “Medicare 101 Seminar.” Adding event schema markup makes your website eligible to appear on the right side of the search results page with a knowledge panel.
When your target audience searches for “Medicare 101 Seminar,” they will be presented with a handy knowledge panel with relevant information and links to your event. This improves the user experience greatly. Through schema markup, you’ll earn exposure to your event, possibly reach a larger target audience, and expand your brand.
Owning the real estate at the top of a search engine result page with a featured snippet-rich result like the one above can have a major impact on clicks, impressions, and all-important SEO key performance indicators. Just know that featured snippets are not direct results of structured data like other rich results, but for “list” and “how-to” type snippets. Structured data can play a role in earning the featured snippet.
Google continues to beta test new rich results features with the goal of improving the user experience.
Structured data that is eligible for rich results, including those that are in beta or limited access, can be reviewed in Google Search Central (covered in more detail in a future blog post in this series).
These were just a few examples of the rich results that can be earned by adding schema markup to your website. This by no means is an exhaustive list but provides examples to show you the reach and capabilities of structured data.
What types of rich results have you seen out in the wild? What types of rich results do you think could benefit your website the most? Think about your marketing goals and how rich results can get your business more exposure and help you achieve your marketing targets.
What types of structured data are most important?
I don’t mean to be judgy, but these are some of my favorite schemas. After extensive research, these schema markup types are some of the most important to add to any business website.
LocalBusiness schema is pretty self-explanatory. It is meant to be used to represent a local business that provides services or products to individuals within a certain geographic region.
LocalBusiness schema is the perfect schema type to tell Google about your business and the services you provide. Some important schema properties to mark up with LocalBusiness include:
Advanced tip: Including social profiles in the sameAs property of your LocalBusiness schema markup can pull them into your Google My Business listing.
FAQPage schema displays your frequently asked questions directly in the SERPs. Say you are a plumber in Portland, Oregon, and your customers frequently ask you about emergency calls after hours. You can easily add FAQPage schema to your service page and your questions and answers will be wonderfully displayed on the search results page.
This screenshot shows what happens when you mark up your FAQs in the search results.
Advanced tip: Did you know that you can add links to your FAQ schema? But don’t just try to add a normal old href link like a web page. The secret is the all-powerful single quotes (‘ ‘).
Here is the result of attempting to add the following link (<a href=”https://example.com/test/”>) to FAQ schema. After popping that schema through the Google Rich Results Testing Tool, you get the the following result.
Error. – The Rich Results tool didn’t like that. – No worries – this is an easy fix. Let’s update the link to single quotes and see what happens. (<a href=’https://example.com/test/’>)
Success. Now that is what we want to see when validating schema markup in the RRT. This means that the schema is good to add to your site.
Article schema markup is the perfect type for marking up blog posts. Enhancing the visibility of your blog through robust article schema markup is an expert-level SEO tactic that is highly recommended. For very competitive informational topics, taking the extra 1-2 hours to appropriately mark up your blog page could be the difference between it sitting on page 2-3 or showing up at the top of search results for your target search intent.
*A future blog post in this schema markup series will provide an advanced Article schema markup template.
Here are some important properties to markup when authoring your Article schema:
Organization schema is one of the most important schema to help build your expertise and authority with search engines. This schema type helps generate brand signals that can power your knowledge graph with Google. The knowledge graph covered extensively in a future blog post is a knowledge base that helps Google better understand people, places, things, and facts.
The screenshot on the right shows a knowledge graph. As you can imagine this can be valuable to building brand visibility. Having a triple in the knowledge graph helps establish your brand as a known entity and continues to build the authority and trust signals of Google.
The following schema properties are must-haves for your Organization schema:
Advanced tip: Jason Barnard, the “Brand SERP Guy,” tracks knowledge graph sources for the past 30 days. There are currently 488 sources of data being displayed in the knowledge graph. That means Google is possibly using 488 different sources to populate the knowledge graph and enhance their understanding of entities.
Organization schema is not the end all be all to earning a knowledge graph, but it is important. With that in mind, the most important thing is to keep your data accurate and consistent. Correctly marking up things like NAP and other important information goes a long way to earning a knowledge graph. By ensuring your NAP, founding information, and other relevant data are consistent on other data sources throughout the web, you are well on your way to earning your own node (or triple) in the knowledge graph.
Whew… That was a lot of information. So for the TL;DR folks, what we covered includes what is schema markup, why it is important for your business, and some of the most important schema markup types for every business.
This is barely scratching the surface of schema markup, the knowledge graph, and semantic SEO. The next post in the series will dive into knowledge graphs and how Google uses it to create better understanding and improve user experience. I am excited to be on this journey with you on exploring semantic SEO.