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Schema Markup: What, Why, and Wherefore

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Schema markup. What is it? Where did it come from? And do you need it?

To address that last question first, let’s put it this way:

Do you run an ecommerce website? You need it.

Does your content focus strictly on delivering content? Yup, you still need it.

Have a cooking website that uses a lot of videos? Oh, you better believe you need it.

You may have detected the pattern I’m going for here, so let’s explore those other questions and take a closer look at the finer details related to marking up your website with a little extra code.

What is Schema Markup?

The definition of “schema” is simply a “diagrammatic presentation.” Okay, maybe “diagrammatic” isn’t the simplest way to put that. Let’s just call it a structured framework, plan, or outline.

“Schema markup,” on the other hand, is code that you use on your website that allows the search engines to return more informative and detailed results to their users. This is possible because you’ve given the them a way to understand the framework, plan, or outline of your website.

One of the most common uses for this markup language is to generate rich snippets in your search results. They look a lot like this:

Or this:

Rich snippet of better details using schema markup.

Notice the additional bits of information on display here. The first result includes a rating from nearly 1,400 reviews. This is pretty helpful information, but then consider all the information on the second one. There, you’ll find:

  • The rating (3.6 stars)
  • The number of reviews (88)
  • The cost ($16.15)
  • Whether it’s in stock or not

Anyone searching for an iPhone charger can identify right from the results page all the information that they need to make a purchase.

Does this matter?

Of course it does. This kind of information is exactly the kind of thing that can encourage customers to click on your listing and become a customer.

Reviews, especially, play a huge role in the decision-making process, and visible prices help potential customers save time on product hunting, which can lead to increased sales.

Here’s another way to use schema markup to enhance the appearance of your results:

Showing events using schema markup.

Here, the ticket seller is using schema markup to highlight the schedule of upcoming events at the theater. If local people are looking for some evening entertainment, and have nothing specific in mind, a display of events in the search engines could grab the searcher’s interest and draw them in so they can find out more.

On a related note – one that will have to wait for its own blog to explore it more – Google is going beyond just showing a list of events for some websites. In cases like this:

In-depth additional details.

Google is actually allowing the searcher to explore details and a wide range of pages related to the original query right on the search results page. These are more like the traditional indented listings that Google still uses, and obviously the search engine isn’t going to do this for just every website, so this will have to wait for a different, in-depth explanation.

One final example of using schema markup for rich snippets:

Image schema markup example.

When you add schema markup to individual pages of your website, you can help the search engines determine the most relevant images to show with the result (which will, in turn, contribute to your conversion rate).

In this wonderful meatloaf example, did you even notice that there was a second listing?

Or did you just immediately focus on the inevitably delicious and visually appealing ketchup glaze visible in the image?

Safe to say the entry that has been helped along by the proper schema markup is going to draw more clicks.

POP QUIZ on Schema Markup!

  • Schema markup is:
    1. Submitted directly go Google
    2. Code implemented on a website
    3. Another name for the ketchup glaze that makes meatloaf even more magical
    4. Beneficial to websites because it allows search engines to display more informative results
  • Rich snippets are:
    1. Beneficial for websites
    2. Google’s way of displaying search results with additional value
    3. When you sneak a taste of the ketchup glaze that adorns meatloaf
    4. All of the above

Please feel free to debate the answers in the comments.

How Does Schema Work, and How Do We Measure Success?

Is it worth taking the time to go through your website and add these bits of code throughout all those pages?

That could take a lot of effort, which means there better be a measurable return.

Schema can pay for itself by helping Google and other search engines better understand the content you’ve worked so hard to deliver to your customers.

When Google can properly identify that content, it can populate its search results with more details and more information that helps inform the end users.

But let’s let Schema.org tell us more about how it really works:

“Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.”

So, How Do We Implement Schema Markup?

This blog was written in an effort to promote the importance of schema, why it is beneficial, the various types, the meaning of life, etc., and not to go over the nitty gritty process of schema implementation.

If you’ve got some HTML coding experience, you’re pretty much half way there, though. The only real difference is adding bits of schema.org vocabulary to HTML Microdata.

Once you are ready to start maximizing the information on your sites, though, this markup could very well change the game for you.

It’s About Knowing the Vocabulary

There is a schema for just about everything. (Don’t believe me? Check out the full list here.)

Now, just take a moment to wonder why in the world anyone ever needed so many words to make their website’s purpose clear.

But it works. And here’s why:

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex were all big players in the internet game, and all of them approached internet searches in a slightly different way.

Any website that tried to appease every single one of them on an individual basis was soon going to be buried in complex, confusing, and overlapping code.

So, in what can only be called the greatest inter-industry collaboration ever before seen in the entire world (slightly hyperbolic maybe), these huge companies came together to create an agreed-upon set of code markers that each search engine could recognize and use.

These code markers are the “vocabulary” of schema, and the search engines appreciate you speaking their language.

Some Final Thoughts

Schema markup types may seem like a tidal wave bearing down on you, and it can be overwhelming at first.

Remember, though, you don’t need to learn every code marker and obsess about getting as many of them in there as you can.

You can leave all that to your SEO specialist. We’ll look for the most used and applicable markups and find the types that can really benefit your business.

 

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