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Pages with Schema markup rank four positions higher in search results, according to a study by Searchmetrics.
That’s an incredibly juicy proposition.
I’ve been making a point in my journey as a writer for Econsultancy to investigate the many and varied terms in digital that I don’t understand.
This article will be a beginner’s guide covering various aspects of Schema, from a basic explanation as to what it means, to why you should be using and some stats to back up the claims.
What is Schema markup?
Schema markup gives webmasters all kinds of options to make their site’s listing on a search engine results page (SERP) look all snazzy and relevant to your business or service.
It’s the difference between this…
Schema is basically a type of ‘rich snippet’, a HTML markup that adds extra detail to the text underneath the URL in a search result.
As you can see from above, if you’ve searched for ‘tiramisu recipe’ you are far more likely to click on the result that includes an image, a starred rating, a calorie count and various other bits of information that a webmaster can provide to make a result look more appealing.
Rich snippets are a way for you to tell search engines directly who you are, what you do and and to give precise information as to the product, service or content you’re providing.
It’s also a signpost that helps clear up any confusion, Schema can tell search engines that when you’re writing about ‘gravity’ it’s related to the natural phenomenon rather than the Oscar winning film.
Schema is also the preferred method of markup for Google, Bing and other search engines.
Should I be using Schema markup?
Absolutely. If you want your listings to stand out from the rest it’s imperative to do this. Chances are you’ve already set up Google authorship and seen some improvement in your rankings, or at the very least an improvement in the visual appeal of having your smiling trustworthy face next to your content. Why not add loads more detail too?
It’s not just for SEO reasons, it’s also for the benefit of the searcher. If they have more detail at their disposal then they’ll be able to make a more informed choice. The bigger picture is to make the internet a better place, with the most trustworthy and relevant results given the highest ranking on results pages.
According to Searchmetrics, only 0.3% of domains were found to include schema.org integrations.
This is one of the best largely pointless pie charts I’ve ever seen.
Less than 1% of all webpages are taking advantage of pimping up their snippets. That’s an extraordinarily empty playing field, and if that wasn’t enough to convince you: pages with schema.org integrations rank better by an average of four positions compared to pages without schema.org integrations.
Despite the low number of sites carrying Schema integration, Google already delivers schema-derived markups in nearly 37% of search results. So, markups based on structured data are used very rarely by webmasters, but are massively common in Google SERPs.
How to use Schema
Schema.org is the project’s website where you can see the vocabulary needed to markup your page accordingly. It helps if you have some fundamental knowledge of basic HTML.
Schema.org describes the principles very clearly here…
Your web pages have an underlying meaning that people understand when they read the web pages, but search engines have a limited understanding of what is being discussed on those pages. By adding additional tags to the HTML of your web pages - tags that say "hey search engine, this information describes this specific movie, or place, or person, or video" - you can help search engines and other applications better understand your content and display it in a useful, relevant way.
This is also called ‘microdata’.
First you need to work out what ‘item type’ your page can be described as: whether the content is a creative work such as a recipe, a movie, a review, a piece of music or an event, organisation, person, place or product.
To use Schema.org’s example of the movie Avatar, if your original HTML read like this:
<span>Director: James Cameron (born August 16, 1954)</span>
If you were to then include itemscope itemtype=http://schema.org/Movie after the initial HTML <div so it looked like this:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Movie">
<span>Director: James Cameron (born August 16, 1954)</span>
Search engines would know that you were discussing the movie and not an online profile picture.
Then you can add details to the snippet in relation to that item type. So if it’s a recipe you can then add nutritional information, cooking times and ingredients. If it’s a product or service you can include images, pricing information and an aggregated customer rating.
The HTML is all available on the Schema.org website, so you can explore and learn about how to mark up your own rich snippets in various ways.
If you want some hands on guidance for markup, you can also use Google Structured Data Markup Helper.
Here you simply pick your item type then copy and paste a URL. It’s then just a process of highlighting the various elements of your webpage and tagging them appropriately.
Google will provide you with a revised HTML which you can then copy and paste over your existing copy.
Don't forget to test that it's worked afterwards by using Google's Structured Data Testing Tool found in the same location
The use of Schema markup to clearly signpost the content of your page will help search engines better understand your page.
If search engines can read your page clearly then this information will be passed on to searcher within the snippet. This will also lead to your page ranking higher in a SERP. Everyone’s a winner.
Further reading for beginners
During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too.
The following related articles should help clear up a few things…