Starting in early childhood, we’re taught to categorize information. For centuries people have agreed that this is the best way for humans to be able to store and remember large amounts of information. Categorization acts in the same way that a filing cabinet would, making it easier for us to pull information from somewhere. Even the smallest things we might not notice, like shades of colors, are in categories in our minds.

stock photo of a woman with multiple thought bubbles.It only makes sense that we would create categorization to help search engines. A type of structured data, Schema helps you with organize data on your website and makes it easier for search engines to understand your content. Schema provides you with a list of a collection of semantic vocabulary tags to add to your website to make it easier to understand.

Schema is a collaborative effort between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo to promote schemas for structured data. Even without understanding the effects of schema, bringing together competitors is a clear indication of its importance. If you’re using schema or considering it, you can feel secure knowing that all major search engines will be able to understand it because of this.

 

How does it work?

Microdata helps search engines crawling a page understand it better. Without it, search engines will only be able to get so much out of it. Schema gives the example of a page with Avatar as the heading, which can refer to a few different things. Search engines won’t know exactly what Avatar is referring to, so it makes it difficult to display relevant content.

Marking up your website gives it explicit meaning. For example, there is markup out there to classify a piece of content as relating to a movie, so you can classify your Avatar page accordingly.

Schema has a wide list of different types, or classes, to represent what your website describes. The most generic term on the list is Thing which is further broken down into more specific terms.

For example, you can start at Thing and specify it as a CreativeWork. That CreativeWork can then be narrowed down even more into a CreativeWorkSeries. One type of CreativeWorkSeries is a Periodical, which can either be a ComicSeries or a Newspaper.

Schema can be used by anyone, but it’s most commonly used for information on the following:

  • Events
  • People
  • Places
  • Reviews
  • Organizations
  • Products

You’ve most likely already seen Schema in action without even realizing it. The data search engines get from Schema help them to create rich snippets in the search engine results. Search results that show information like reviews, authors, and publication dates use schema. By doing this, you’re giving users more information than they would get otherwise.

Schema markup used for spaghetti squash recipe, including reviews, ingredients, cook time, and calorie count.

How does schema markup affect SEO?

Using a schema markup or not isn’t a ranking factor. Schema doesn’t officially have a direct influence over organic search ratings. However, using a structured markup can help you get up to a 30% increase in organic traffic. The original purpose of schema was to provide more information to create a better experience for users. Schema markups provide you with benefits that end up can help your SEO by creating a better user experience.

Search engines provide better results when they’re given more information regarding what a page is about. Schema markups help make this possible. Like in schema’s Avatar example, categorizing webpages prevents any confusion from search engines so they can give more accurate results.

Despite the advantages of schema, many websites still don’t use it. Because of this, using a schema markup can make you look better in the search results than your competitors. A rich snippet provides more information for users to see. If everyone else has only a small snippet, while you have a rich snippet loaded with important information, you’ll naturally look like the best option.

Unfortunately, even by doing everything correctly, you aren’t guaranteed to end up with a rich snippet just because you have structured data.   

Structured data could become even more important in the near future. To be able to use AMP, you’ll need to have structured data. As voice searches get more popular, structured data can also help search results be more accurate.

 

How to implement schema markup

To get started using schema markup, you have two different options.

First, you can do it manually by editing your HTML files and adding the tags. The best way to do this is by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. When you’re using the tool, it will prompt you to highlight sections of a page and select what type of data it is.Google's Structured Data Markup Helper for articles.

For example, you can highlight a name to show that the person is the author of the article. This will allow you to download an HTML file that you can check in the Structured Data Testing Tool. After checking the testing tool, it shows you how your page will appear in the search results. You can also make any changes right from the testing tool.

Code snippet from Google's Structured Data Testing Tool

An easier way of adding a schema is by automating it. This is especially easy if you’re using WordPress. There are many WordPress plugins that you can use to add structured data, but one good way of doing this is with the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast SEO has built-in schema support, so it doesn’t require you to do much work to add structured data.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to mark up everything on your website. Schema is a long list of vocabulary, so it can be overwhelming if you try to do too much. The more content you can mark up, the more helpful it will be, but you can choose what the most important parts are.

 

Conclusion

Right now, Schema is a resource that not many people are taking advantage of. You can use this to get ahead and set yourself apart. Although right now it’s an added bonus to give you more attractive search results, it could turn into a necessity for everyone going forward.

 

 

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Image Credit: Max Pixel

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