What is Schema Mark-up and why is it important for SEO?
Schema mark-up is a form of structured data that search engines use to better understand the content of your site.
Google has taken to using certain mark-ups to increase the fidelity of its listings, including rich features such as star reviews directly on the search engine results page. These rich results have been shown to improve click-through rates, which benefits SEO performance.
Understanding the terminology, microdata, structured data, and schema.org
Schema.org is the open community founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex to standardise the mark-up types. It is open and constantly evolving.
Structured data is the term used for classifying a page’s content. For example, a search engine won’t inherently know the difference between a string of numbers and a phone number, but structured data will help define it.
Microdata is one form of structured data used in HTML5. It uses HTML tag attributes to name properties and can exist within either the head or body of the HTML. In the past, this was the most popular and preferred use of structured data, but as it needs to be generated inline with your HTML, it can add unnecessary weight to a page.
Rich snippets is the term used to describe listings in Google that have utilised some form of structured data to improve the fidelity of the listing.
JSON-LD is a type of structured data embedded within a <script> tag in the page head or body. As it is not inserted into the visible text, nested data items are easier to express and easier to reference within a script. Therefore, Google recommends using JSON-LD above Microdata where possible.
RDFa stands for Resource Description Framework in attributes and uses the HTML5 format to publish linked data. Overall, Google recommends avoiding using RDFa, due to its limitations and complexity, in favour of Microdata or preferably JSON-LD.
OpenGraph is an alternative to structured data created by Facebook, and works in a similar way by adding meta tags to the <head> tag of a page. This is not recognised by most search engines, but is used by most major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What types of Schema are there and what do search engines use?
Schema.org provides a comprehensive list of structured data vocabulary. The below outlines the most commonly used Schema mark-ups:
Article schema helps determine the nature of the article with ‘NewsArticle’ or ‘BlogPosting’ being the most frequently used. The key difference between this is identifying whether the article is a news report from a publisher or an opinion piece from a business.
A breadcrumb trail shows the hierarchy between higher and lower-level pages, helping users navigate through your site. Google often uses these breadcrumb trails directly on search results pages to replace part of the URL.
Event schema helps event listings become more interactive and discoverable by listing time, date, and location. This increases your chances of appearing in local listings and adds the functionality to save events directly to a calendar or even click straight through to ticket purchases.
Product schema can mark-up the name, image, price, currency, and even availability of a product. This should be used for specific individual products rather than categories or listings and will help provide a direct journey to purchase in search results.
People schema is used to define contact and personal details of an individual, including features such as address, email, brand affiliation and additional names. This can be used both formally for employee details listed on a website or informally; for example to describe fictional characters.
Organisational schema helps search engines determine the nature of your organisation by providing key business details that may show up on search results. This is particularly important for Google’s knowledge panel. It allows you to correct information, such as company name, contact information and social profile links.
Unlike organisational schema, local business schema deals with specific locations, focusing on elements such as opening times and map locations. This will help Google provide the correct details for a specific address, and can even allow Google to place reservation buttons directly in search results.
Review schema will define ratings or short excerpts of a review, which Google may choose to list directly in results. Often this can be in the form of an aggregated star rating system displayed against the search listing.
Recipe schema will not only help search engines define that an article is in fact a recipe but also notable details such as preparation times and complexity. Google can show these directly in the search results and they are even used in image search to let users directly click through to a recipe.
This is any condition of the human body that affects how a person functions either physically or mentally. This is used to help understand diseases, injuries, disabilities, and disorders. Google has recently placed more emphasis on this when ranking information regarding these subjects, due to the sensitive nature of the topics and the need for accuracy.
Tools to help validate schema
Google’s Rich Result Test
Google provides a tool that examines if a publicly-accessible page can generate rich results, and if so, what types. This is a useful tool when aiming for a specific result type to appear in the search engine’s results, but can also be used to validate if schema has been implemented properly. This tool is set to replace Google’s previous structured data testing tool.
Google Search Console Structured Data Report
If your website is connected to Google Search Console, then it will list supported rich result types that it found under the ‘enhancement’ panel. This is often the most effective way of validating schema implementation as it will flag errors if found, such as depreciated schema types.
Schema Markup Generator
This is a free tool that can build JSON-LD code through manually inputting the data. It’s useful for less technical webmasters and helps ensure that you are inserting the correct code.
Now that you understand schema, why not explore the rest of our technical SEO hub?