Benefits of SchemaAs the internet evolves into the Semantic Web, it may have not escaped your notice that Schema Mark-up data is increasingly being used by search engines in their results pages to display what is known as “Rich Snippets”.

This is already significantly affecting search engine results and maximising opportunities to attract more users to your site. Marked up data is likely to exert an even stronger influence over results in the coming years ahead which can only benefit you even more.

What is Schema?

Schema is a form of markup code you can use on your website that helps search engines better index and serve up far more data about you or your services in their results.

Originating from a shared project between Microsoft Bing, Yahoo, Yandex (a Russian search engine), and Google, Schema enables website owners to embed “structured data mark-up” on their websites.

In essence it is just a set of additional tags you can apply to your code that gives a lot more meaning to a search engine than they might just gather from your content.

Think of it this way:

Search engines are now able to index pieces of your content rather than whole pages of content. This informs search engine what your content actually means, not just what is says, and gives them greater context allowing them to display snippets of that data alongside your listing in their results.

Will it boost your SEO?

Yes and no.

Adding Schema structured data to your site pages will not automatically qualify you for higher rankings or more traffic. Instead by marking up your own content it will help and enable search engines to show your site much more prominently in their results.

Search results with detailed rich snippets, created using Schema, are considered much more likely to have a higher Click Through Rate (CTR) rate. Google is believed to use CTR as an influence on where your page should rank in its results.

So if you want to maximize your opportunities inside Google’s Knowledge Graph or obtain an “Enhanced Presentation” of your site in its Search Results then taking notice of Schema and implementing as part of your SEO effort is crucial.

And who wouldn’t want that, right?

When did Schema Markup come into effect?

Schema markup came into being on the 2nd June 2011. It has appeared that a majority of UK SME’s have been slow to have taken it up due to its perceived complications and cost to implement.

Typically we see Schema markup on sites with vast resources or smaller sites with access to technically adept coders. It would seem that incorporating Schema Markup can be viewed as a lengthy process and one that SME’s have avoided.

We believe Schema will be the next “big” thing many website owners will want for their SEO.

Just to avoid confusion “Schema” has been used as a term much, much longer in the database sector than in the web marketing world, but you may hear SEO’s tend to refer to Schema Markup as just “Schema”.

Types of Schema

Google states there are 3 variations of Schema markup you can use on the HTML pages on your site – we have listed each one below:

Micro Data

This is a form of semantic markup that can be deployed to describe certain elements on a page, such as a person, a review or an organisation. You can use it by adding tags to your HTML elements, example as follows:

Example of itemscope, itemtype and itemprop in Schema.org

We have used “itemscope” to declare that the content within the <div> tag is an item destined for markup.

We then added in itemtype alongside “itemscope” which defines the type of item – in this instance its type is “Person”.

We next added itemprop attributes to describe various properties of the item.

You do not have to stop at “Person”, you can also define an item (if of course relevant) to a “Local Business” – for many SME’s I believe will be an important step in the future with Google.

For more information on “Local Business” types then check out this official source You also do not have to stop there, you can also use many of these “Things” – the broadest item in Schema mark-up. You may define items as a “Place”, “Product or “Organization” to name but a few.

Check out the complete list in all its glory here

RDFa

Instead of using itemscope as per micro data, you would use ‘ typeof=”” ‘ and then set “property” for each “typeof” to describe the required items in your code. There is a slight difference in the markup you use when compared to micro data – though you still wrap the mark up around the element you want to describe.

RDFa Example for “Person” as follows:

<div vocab=”http://schema.org/” typeof=”Person”>

<span property=”name”>Darren Moloney</span>

<img src=”darren-moloney.jpg” property=”image” alt=”Picture photo of Darren Moloney”/>

<span property=”jobTitle”>Managing Director</span>

<div property=”address” typeof=”PostalAddress”>

<span property=”streetAddress”>

Gemini House
Hargreaves Road

</span>

<span property=”addressLocality”>Swindon</span>,

<span property=”addressRegion”>Wiltshire</span>

<span property=”postalCode”>SN25 5AJ</span>

</div>

<span property=”telephone”>(01793) 766040</span>

</div>

This is an interesting piece that argues in favour of using RDFa, as there initially appeared to be a slower adoption to promote RDFa by the likes of Google and this coder quite rightly wanted to change that

The site states that Google did not look overly keen to support RDFa, as they stated at the time they had observed a slower adoption for using RDFa on websites when compared to Micro Data and JSON-LD.

However if you look on the Schema website you will find examples of RDFa, if that is the route you decide to take – check out the following examples (RDFa markup is towards the bottom of each page along with JSON and Microdata):

https://schema.org/Product

or

https://schema.org/Person

JSON-LD

JSON-LD is regarded as an open standard (alongside Schema.org) when it comes to ensuring structured data is embedded inside your web pages and is the “latest” version of markup.

JSON-LD is significantly different to the way other types of markup are included inside a page’s code. Developers add it by using script tags in the head section of each HTML page, rather than wrapping it inside elements in the body of the HTML. Some say this is an easier method to add Schema markup to your page, whilst others claim that it is easier to make mistakes.

Check out the example below from Google’s very useful Structured Markup Data Helper – we’ve used a Product site here as an example:

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{ “@context” : “http://schema.org”, “@type” : “Product”, “name” : “Home Study Desk”,
“image” : “http://www.rainbowzebra.co.uk/skin/frontend/default/rainbow/images/logo.gif”, “description” : “This Home Study desk is a solidly built, traditional looking desk that is ideal for you home office. The integrated drawers maximise space saving and the brass effect handles give it a distinct look. The bottom drawer is extra deep and is suitable for A4/foolscap filing.”,
“url” : “http://www.rainbowzebra.co.uk/home-study-desk.html”,
“brand” : { “@type” : “Brand”, “name” : “Rainbow Zebra” },
“offers” : { “@type” : “Offer”, “price” : “279” }

Thanks to the team at www.rainbowzebra.co.uk for allowing us permission to use them as an example.

Google states that it prefers JSON-LD for better integration into their Knowledge Graph; however their page seems to state it is only better for things such company contact telephone numbers

Many developers seem to think it is much easier to add JSON-LD to websites as you do not have to mark up actual divs in the HTML, instead you use Javascript and Google picks up the data that way.

Even with all the confusion over the past few years it appears that JSON-LD is increasingly being recognised a lot more by Google:

http://www.seoskeptic.com/first-rich-snippets-from-json-ld-spotted-in-the-wild/

But that doesn’t discount your efforts to markup your data using RDFa and micro data! If you have elected to use one of these markup types and are quite far down that path I’d say you’re safe for a good while yet, I just can’t see Google quickly depreciating these.

Pitfalls when implementing Schema Mark-up into your website

  • Google states you should not use your robots.txt file to block pages including structured data mark-up
  • Do not mark up elements on a page that remain hidden to your website users
  • Stick to one mark up format and do not mix them up across pages, as this leaves you open to making more mistakes with your Schema
  • Not using the Structured Data Dashboard inside Google Webmaster Tools, it is free so why not use it?

Example of Structured Data Dashboard showing Errors

Testing your Schema is Correct

You can check that your markup is correctly configured by emailing your Schema to yourself using your Gmail account.

Use the Google Structured Data Markup Helper:

Google have built a nifty online tool, Google Structure Data Mark-up Helper, that can help you create the correct markup for your pages. We strongly recommend you try it out as it will save a huge amount of time when you start to deploy structured data on your website.

Google's Structured Data Helper

 

Now that you have a Better Understanding of Schema

By marking up your data you will be benefiting certainly in the months and years to come in SEO. If you are unsure of the requirements to correctly implement Schema structure data markup please send us your questions, we will be delighted to answer them.

You can find out even more about Schema here.

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