Schema Markup: 101

Getting users to your website through organic search requires two things: getting your site to rank near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) and making the search snippet appealing so that users will click on it. Schema markup/ rich snippet helps with both of these tasks. In the recent Google I/O Structured snippet was the main SEO point, thus it indicates the importance of the same, make sure you stick to Google’s structured data guidelines for grammatical soundness. Having an uncluttered website of high quality is also a way to gain rich results.

The rest of this post will explain what schema markup is and how you can use it to help boost your website’s SEO, create rich search results, increase search traffic, and drive more engaged audiences to your website.

What is structured data?

Structured data is code. It’s a piece of code that you can put on your website. It’s code in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a specific way. For search engines, structured data takes the guesswork out of parsing data. They use the data to display information creatively. Google creates rich snippets with structured data.

What does structured data do?

Imagine you have a website with a lot of recipes. If you add structured data to a page with a recipe, your result in the search engines will change; it will be much richer. That’s the reason we call these results rich snippets. This is what a rich snippet might look like:

Structured data is code written in such a way that search engines understand it

In addition to the title, the URL and the description of the search result, Google shows how long it will take to make the absolute best ever lasagna. You can also see how many calories the lasagna contains. You need structured data to get such a rich snippet for your own site.
There are all kinds of structured data. Structured data is always a code format. There’s structured data for instance, for books, for reviews, for movies, and for products in your online store. In all cases, structured data adds stuff to the way your snippet looks in the search results.

What do you do with structured data?

With structured data, you can talk to the search engines. You can tell the search engines which ingredients are in your recipe, you can indicate the preparation time, and you can tell them how many calories the dish contains. Google will be able to instantly grasp all that information and add it to the search results.

Structured data is a tool you can use to provide Google with detailed information about a page on your website, in a language it totally understands! Google then uses this information to create informative – rich – search results. Audiences love these rich snippets!

What is Schema.org?

The big search engines have developed a project called Schema.org. On Schema.org you can find all the structured data markup supported by the search engines. Schema.org is a really large taxonomy of pieces of code.

You can use Schema.org to find the markup you need for your specific page. For instance, if you have a website selling T-shirts, you could show what colour T-shirts you sell and what sizes you offer in your snippet. If you want to find out what you need to do this, visit schema.org/Product and explore the possibilities. On schema.org, you can copy exact code examples. After copying the code, you’ll have to adapt it to your own specific situation.

Schema.org is a taxonomy of code formats that the large search engines understand. You’ll find examples of what the code looks like. There are other forms of structured data as well. For instance Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter cards (used by Twitter).

What is JSON-LD?

JSON-LD is one of the markups of Schema.org. It’s simply a way to write code; JavaScript code to be precise. On Schema.org, you’ll also find other markups, like Microdata, or RDFa. I suggest you to always use JSON-LD, because it does not break your site as easily as the other markups do. You can relatively easily add JSON-LD to your website using Google Tag Manager. Other markups don’t allow you to do this.

What’s the importance of structured data for SEO?

Structured data is important for SEO because it’ll make it easier for Google to grasp what your pages and your website are about. Google needs to understand this information to be able to show it in the search results. Using structured data is like talking to Google and telling it what your site is about. That’ll help with your rankings.

Moreover, structured data will change what your snippet – your search results – will look like. It’ll allow Google to show more specific information to your customer. This, in turn, will increase the likelihood a customer will click on your results. More clicks will eventually lead to even higher rankings!

In addition, since structured data is just picking up steam, you have a realistic chance of getting a head start on your competitors. Just think about it, if you have a barber shop and you markup your 300 five-star reviews, you are way ahead of your competitor who doesn’t mark up his reviews. Google picks up this data and shows it directly in the search results. If you are looking for a barber shop in Google, which would you pick? The one with no reviews or the one with 300 good ones?

How to use structured data?

Using structured data sounds hard. Everyone can do it, however, with the proper training. You have to get the right code, you’ll have to adapt that code and you’ll need to use Google Tag Manager to put it on your site. That’s why we’ve produced this practical training to help you implement structured data to your website.
In the training video, Joost discusses four ways of implementing structured data. He mentions writing the code yourself, using a plugin, using Google Tag Manager and Using Google Data Highlighter. In this course, we’ll teach you how to do it using Google Tag Manager and how to do it manually. In our view, Google Tag Manager is the best and easiest way to implement structured data.

More about rich snippets

Rich Snippets:

Rich snippets are the extra pieces of information shown in a search result. In addition to the regular black lines of meta description text, a search result can be enhanced with product information like prices or reviews, or extra navigational tools like breadcrumbs or site search.

The main goal of rich snippets is to inform the searcher. A well- structured rich snippet will entice the searcher to click on the link. Users can now judge directly from the search results if a result is the one they are looking for.

Let’s say you have a business delivering flowers. You have done a lot of work to rank well in the search engines for the term ‘flower delivery’, and searchers can also see your location. You rank pretty well, but your competitor has rich snippets, and you don’t. He shows his reviews directly in the search results and his flower shop is rated 4,5 out of 5 stars. His stars just naturally catch your eye. With his high rating, he might attract more clicks from searchers, just because he has a more ‘trustworthy’ profile. You know what to do.

Adding structured data does not directly result in better rankings. It does, however, make you more visible in the search results. Search engines understand your pages better and can, therefore, give you a better presentation. This, in turn, might lead to more focused traffic, extra sales, links and in the end; better results from your site.

If your listings include rich snippets, searchers are more likely to notice you because you stand out from the crowd. This might lead to a higher click-through rate (CTR). In addition, if your snippets are really good, your bounce rate may decrease. The reason for this is that it easier for searchers to determine what you have to offer directly from the results. If your listing is not up to scratch, searchers might skip you. If it is, they know your listing should promise what it says. All you have to do is deliver the result it promises.

Keep in mind that it’s up to the search engines to determine if your listings get rich results. There are no guarantees you’ll get them

Rich Cards:

Rich Cards are an extension of the rich search results we know as rich snippets. On mobile, a card is the basic presentation unit of a search result. Rich results are the search results that have extra information attached to it, this could be aggregate ratings, prices or availability. The end result is a well-structured presentation that is easy to grasp and act upon. Another type of rich result offers more direct interaction with the search result. For instance, some restaurants now offer the possibility to reserve a table directly from the search result. In the future, even more interaction will be possible, thus making for a much more user-friendly and efficient search experience.

The primary driver of this type of innovation is the enormous rise in mobile searches. Mobile has eclipsed desktop and search engines are working hard to tap into the vast possibilities this brings. One of these innovations by Google is Rich Cards, where a user finds a neatly presented and quick to use search result. Swiping through the cards makes it possible to locate the result that best fits the user’s intentions. As a site owner, you can make individual results available, or a list of items within a particular category. After that, a user can swipe through the results to find the best results within that category on your site.

Mobile rich cards offer searchers an intuitive way to browse the search results. Cards naturally catch the user’s eye, begging for a tap. Carousels group the relevant results together and make them swipeable.

Knowledge Graph Card:

The Knowledge Graph Card is the big block of information on the right-hand side on Google. As such, it is totally separate from the search results and not a snippet. The eye is often immediately drawn to the Knowledge Graph Card because it really stands out from the other search results. This makes it even more powerful than the rich snippet, although the information in rich snippets and knowledge graphs may overlap.

Structured data adds stuff to the way your snippet looks in the search results’

If you search for a specific company, the Knowledge Graph Card will show an almost complete profile, depending on how well they did their SEO work. Searching for a recently released movie will show posters, reviews and screening times for your local cinema. As you see, the graph is a powerful and fascinating tool. But what can you do to get your information in the Knowledge Graph?

The Card is powered by the Knowledge Graph and that’s Google’s way of connecting information. Google’s core business is providing people with the correct answer to all their questions. To achieve that goal, it doesn’t just present the result that closest matches a search term, but also by making broader connections between data. Google, therefore, collects and analyzes massive amounts of data on people, places, things and facts and develops ways to present the findings in an accessible way. These are often rich results, like featured snippets, images carrousels or the famous Knowledge Graph Card mentioned in the intro of this text.

To get your content in the Knowledge Graph, you need to become an authority on your subject. Find out what people search for by doing keyword research, write excellent content and make sure your site is fully optimized and mobile-friendly. Use structured data to mark up important elements of your site to make it easier for Google to understand what it is all about. Register your site with Google Search Console and My Business. Keep in mind, structured data in the form of Schema.org is becoming increasingly important.