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Why Schema Markup & Structured Data Matter

Jun 7, 2017
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When it comes to marketing your site online you have two meta-audiences, humans and machines. Let me explain. Your website and its content is being read by people who are interested in learning more about what you do as well as “crawlers” that are reading the code and text of your site trying to interpret meaning. While many have preached the importance of content creation and distribution through the right channels, they forget that our content must also be “readable” to crawlers. This is where schema markup and structured data comes in. 

My goal in this post is to help you understand the importance of this topic without getting super technical. In order to give you are a clear understanding of some of the terms I will refer to, I want to start with some simple definitions.

  • Crawler (Web Crawler): A Web Crawler, sometimes called a spider, is an Internet bot that systematically browses the World Wide Web, typically for the purpose of Web indexing (web spidering). In short, a crawler “reads” a websites code and content and then indexes accordingly.



  • Index (Web Index): Similar to any other index, a web index or search index is a list of web pages that a search engine knows about



  • Schema Markup: This is code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. 



  • Structured data: Structured data refers to kinds of data with a high level of organization, such as information in a relational database. When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.

While some of the definitions above may still seem a little technical, bear with me, it will pay off.

Why Good Content Isn’t Enough

The phrase “Content is King” has become a cornerstone of many online marketers. But just putting out a lot of content won’t magically make your site more visible. Even if you produce a lot of great content, it can easily get lost in the billions upon billions of pages online. If your content isn’t easily crawlable it won’t get indexed. Without getting indexed you won’t get found. Making sure your site and its content can be accessed by the search engines is the first step towards getting visible.

Indexing Is Only Step One

There are a number of ways to get your site indexed. You can just publish it and wait for Google and the others to find it, which is the last way to approach it. Or you can be proactive and submit your site to be crawled. For Google, you can just visit the "submit URL” page on Google Webmaster Tools. You should also set up your site in Google Search Console, submit your sitemap and track how often your site is being crawled. 

After the search engines know about your site, they still need some help understanding who you are and what you do. Because the crawlers are computers, they don’t interpret information in the same way a user does. For instance, when a crawler comes across an image on the site, it has no idea what that image is about unless we tell it. This is where adding in extra code, in the “alt” and “title” tags can help the crawlers understand your text. 

Example: <img src=“https://yoursite.com/dog.jpg” alt=“Picture of a Dog” title=“Dog Digging”> 

Structuring Data with Schema Markup

The example above was not an example of schema markup, but instead an instance of HTML Meta Data. Meta Data is a form of structured data and is helpful to give crawlers more context. Schema Markup is much more specific and has very distinct uses. Using schema markup to add structure to your data can result in an increase of the search engines’ understanding of your site’s content, as well as enhance search visibility via rich snippets, featured snippets and Knowledge Graph results.

Schema Markup can be very overwhelming, which is why a number of marketers, site owners and SEOs try to avoid it. But with a little practice and trial and error, you can add a ton of benefit to your site. According to Schema.org, Schema is defined as two hierarchies: one for textual property values, and one for the things that they describe. You can find a list of all the classes here.

Founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex, Schema.org vocabularies are developed by an open community process, using the public-schemaorg@w3.org mailing list and through GitHub.

 Some of the most common types of Schema used are:

By adding Schema to these types of content, you can give Google and other search engines more details on your content which helps them better understand your intent and match it with more targeted users looking for what you provide. This can lead to not just more visibility, but visibility from people who are more likely to convert. 

Types of Schema All Site Owners Should Use 

 

Organization Schema Markup

The organization schema markup helps generate brand signals that can enhance your website snippet and Knowledge Graph entry that appears in the search reach. 

Make sure that you have the following: logo, social profile links and corporate contact information.

 

WebSite Schema Markup

The WebSite schema markup helps generate the "Sitelinks Search Box" feature for brand rankings. To have this feature work you also must have an existing site search on your website to enable the Sitelinks Search Box element.

 

Breadcrumbs Markup

The BreadcrumbList schema allows you to mark up the breadcrumbs on your site to generate breadcrumb rich snippets for your pages in the SERPs.

 

Site Navigation Schema Markup

The SiteNavigationElement markup can help increase search engines’ understanding of your site structure and navigation and can be used to influence organic sitelinks.

 

Video Schema Markup

This is huge. A site with embedded or hosted video content can leverage the VideoObject schema. Google primarily displays video rich snippets for YouTube videos, but this will help video rich snippets to appear for your Web pages in Google Video Search.

 

Schema Article Markup

If you’re a blogger pay attention! The NewsArticle or BlogPosting schemas are recommended (choose one or the other, depending on your site/content). Leveraging these markups accordingly can help your content to appear in Google News and in-depth articles search suggestions.

Make sure that you have the following: Headline, Image and DatePublished.

For more details on these as well as some example codes, check out this awesome post from Search Engine Land Columnist, Tony Edward.

If you want to see if your site is currently using structured data, or you want to test your markup before deploying, Google has a great free tool you can use called “Structured Data Testing Tool."

SEO is more than just ranking and driving traffic. It’s about driving traffic that engages and converts. In order to help ensure your site is shown to the right users, the search engines themselves must understand your site, its content and the context in which it’s being presented. Using structured data and schema can help you better inform the search engines about your content.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_crawler

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-started-using-schema/

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data

http://searchengineland.com/schema-markup-structured-data-seo-opportunities-site-type-231077

http://schema.org/

SEO  

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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