How impactful is schema? That question is asked all the time and all over the place: in LinkedIn posts, Reddit threads, and at professional conferences. I hear, “Where can I find good examples of websites that use schema markup?” and, “Help! I can’t find websites that thoughtfully markup their pages!” Well, I have an answer for you. Take off your floaties: we’re going to deep dive into a schema.
Schemas are incredibly valuable, but even the Schema Dot Org site is terrible for someone who isn’t well versed. Most of what I learned originally was completely self-taught and basic at best. Now, I work with schemas every day and my skills have only improved by trial and error, and by working with other industry professionals who were also conducting their own tests.
Here’s the good news: Schemas work. All the time. Every time.
“They are terribly underrated…”
Here’s the bad news: They are almost endless in updates, they are terribly underrated for their effectiveness (hence why you can’t find good ones), and there aren’t countless resources to help you along the way.
If you’re using a WP website, try this basic plugin to help you:
I use this one for all of my basic sites. Again, schema goes way beyond this plugin but this will get you started.
There are 2 major defining markup types: Local and Organizational. Local is for local targeting. Organizational is for National or International trade. There is no such thing as World Wide anymore.
There are 2 basic coding methods of Schema: JSON-LD and Microdata. JSON-LD is what Google and Search Engines read, but does not show to the website viewer as they look at the individual page. Microdata markups are displayed on the screen on each webpage. There are different ideas of which is better, but Google and Yahoo have both said they are verified in the same way.
“I’m not a web designer, I don’t even pretend to be.”
I personally like JSON-LD. It seems to be easier to apply, easier for a “fill in the blank” type of data entry, and I don’t have to worry about messing with any design features on the web pages. I’m not a web designer, I don’t even pretend to be, so I leave that part alone.
The main thing you need to know about schema is that you are telling Search Engines EXACTLY what you are offering. No guesswork. Let’s look at some Schema background.
Schema was a huge venture between Google, Yahoo and Bing to streamline all information about a site. Kind of like a template of how to collect data in a structured way. No more trying to guess about addresses, or products, or the difference between commonly used phrases or terms.
In flies “Structured Data”. Structured Data is nothing more than the template that everyone agreed to, and how it is presented for indexing.
For example: Search in a Search Engine for “Anaconda”. Do you mean the reptile? Or the book? Or the movie?
Google may display the reptile results first because the users in the past “clicked through” to those sites. Therefore, Google makes the decision that all users searching for “Anaconda” will be served top results for reptiles. Bing, however, may display the movie first because it happened to get searched more during the last 3 months. Who knows?
Here’s where schema comes in. If your site is about Anaconda the book, your site will show up way higher on results if you have schema present, even in Google searches.
If the user happens to get too many results from Google about the reptile, the user may elect to change their search query to “Anaconda book”…voila… you are way more relevant than the 10,000 other web pages talking about the book.
That is just one example, and for everyone out there that knows “all there is to know about schema”; relax. I’m talking about a basic understanding here.
Here is another tool that will help you. Once you install the plugin, or you present schema manually, you need to check your structured data.
On this page, you can simply put in the full URL of the site you are marking up. By the way, “marking up” just means “clarifying”. You are clarifying what you are talking about on the page in a structured way.
“If Google can read it, so can all of the other search engines.”
On the left of the page, after the scan is complete, you will see your site’s coding. On the right, you will see the Structured Data that Google can read. Don’t worry: if Google can read it, so can all of the other search engines. There is no need to do a different schema markup for individual search engines.
The page will also show you missing data, errors, and warnings. Simply go into the WP console, click on your Schema Markup tool I spoke of earlier, and make the corrections.
Here are some other benefits and warnings.
- If you are a local business, you absolutely positively MUST have your schema markup completed. You will drastically improve your local ranking.
Inside of the schema markup tool, you will see a spot to enter your physical address. This is entered by longitude and latitude. Here is a tool to find your lat/long coords:
Once entered, especially if you have a Google My Business profile, Google will know your business address and serve it to local people on local searches. An example of this would be: “Pizza near me”.
If a schema markup is done on the local pizza shop website, the users GPS coords are close the coords on the site, the site coords match the verified Google My Business profile, and the site is optimized for anything dealing with “Pizza”, chances are incredibly good that you will show up near the top.
Keep in mind, you will be competing with every other major “Pizza” place, also. You better believe Dominoes and Pizza Hut have their schema markup on full tilt.
- Schemas are not magic. If your onsite SEO is trash… schema won’t hurt you, but it won’t zip you to the top.
The SEO Puzzle
Think about SEO as a puzzle. Yes, it’s analogy time. If you have decent SEO strategies on your website, you have a $10.00, 1000 piece puzzle that is nice to look at. The pieces all fit, there is a solid picture with no holes in it. It has nice edges and the colors are clear.
If you have awesome SEO, you have something completely different. It’s still a puzzle, but now you have a $1000.00 puzzle. The pieces don’t just fit, they fit so well the spaces between the pieces seem to fade and become hard to see under the colors of a masterpiece picture. There are no holes in the picture, and to your surprise, there are no edges to this puzzle! You could keep building it in any direction you want to go! This puzzle is so great, all of your friends that see this puzzle wonder how you found a picture so grand and how in the world you got so much color into one spectacular place. They all start to take photos and share the most incredible puzzle they’ve ever seen with their friends.
Now pretend the puzzle is your site, the pieces are information, and the friends are search engines.
All of the pieces need to be present, separated, aligned, categorized and flow in one definable way. That means, your site needs everything! You can’t do just a little bit. You need schema. Just like you need Alt tags and text, like you need H1-H6 tags. You need to have analytics. You need to be watching heat maps. You need high res photos, and good quality blogs. Keyword research is a must. Backlinks with diverse anchors. You need to have a sitemap. The site needs to be mobile friendly. I could go on and on.
The point is, a well ranking website has it all. All of them can be improved. None of them are bulletproof. None of us own Google or Yahoo or Bing. And Search Engines can change the rules at any given time with no warning.
If you do everything, you become diversified in your search for Ranking success.
The last tid-bit of advice I can give is simple, but incredibly powerful.
Schema markups are one of the least used of all SEO strategies. Mostly because it’s not highly publicized, it’s considered high level SEO, and most clients don’t know about it, so lots of “SEO Experts” have no need to even bring up the subject.
“SEO Experts…’they all suck.'”
“SEO Experts” are a dime a dozen these days. Everyone claims to be an expert and everyone knows “how to do it better” than everyone else. Ask any SEO Expert you meet what he thinks about every other SEO Expert and, with a handful of exceptions, the answer is always the same: “They all suck”.
The truth is, there are some great SEO folks out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with some of the best. The one thing the greats all have in common? They all use schema.